6 reasons to do your usability tests remote from now on 

Usability testing from a distance: it’s a hot topic. The corona virus makes us move all tests from the physical to the online space. As it turns out that’s very possible, it’s even more efficient! Valerie Zuijdgeest, UX Researcher at We are you, elaborates on her experiences and explains why we can no longer ignore online testing. 

usability testing essential part of digital innovation

User tests are an essential part of our development and optimization processes. It’s the only way to find out if your (new) website is working intuitively. By including your user, you increase your chances of success. Gathering insights, you rely less on assumptions and ensure you are building the right thing. Your digital product or services is more relevant, your client is more satisfied, and the overall customer experience improved. For us as UX researchers it was never an option to omit the usability tests in times of social distancing. After research we selected Lookback, Usability Hub and Miro as supporting tools for our digital tests. Our experiences exceeded our expectations. 

the biggest difference 

We notice two big differences that bring both benefits and challenges.

First of all, traditional user tests are conducted from two separate spaces: a testing room (for the test subject and the tester) and a observation room for the client. In an online user test everyone is ‘in’ the same virtual space. The client can observe live. The test subject and the tester are the only ones that can hear each other.

Second difference is that with traditional user testing, all parties (tester, client, additional observers) can make their own notes in their own tool or even on fysical post-itt notes or notebooks. In a virtual test, all notes are made in one digital tool. These notes are automatically timestamped and combined into one big script, and can be categorized with tags.

A usability test (also user test or user research) is a qualitative research method that lets respondents go through a series of pre-defined tasks from a scenario using (a prototype of) an online environment.


The first experiences are very positive. Particularly the efficiency is striking.

1. Test subjects don’t have to come to a physical location, which makes the threshold lower to participate. Geographically spreading the test subject pool is easier, which leads to a better representation of the target audience.

2. It can be technically challenging to facilitate a physical test in two separate spaces, with video connection and an audio and visual stream that is good enough. With a remote test this is much easier to facilitate. Also a second facilitator is no longer required for the second room, which limits the staff demand and saves in expenses.

3. The test location of the test subject is closer to the context in which the digital product will actually be used. Test subjects work with their own familiar devices. This leads to better quality results.

4. Digital notes save a lot of time in analysis. The timestamps make it easy to find situations in the video recording. This makes it much easier to support the findings in the report.

5. The results are presented in the same tooling as they are collected and processed. This too saves time.

6. Of course it’s also a great advantage that tests can be conducted safer, without physical contact.

Valerie Zuijdgeest, UX researcher
De online testomgeving

aspects to consider

The virtual test requires a little more preparation, but it doesn’t compare to the benefits. There are really only two downsides to this type of testing.

1. The dependency of the technology. Respondents need to have a good internet connection. Some highly protected working environments block the Lookback functionality. It needs an alternative solution.

2. The contact with the client is less direct. The client can observe with a weblink. This can be considered more free of obligations than is helpful for the process. Defining a clear observation assignment for the client can help overcome this.
"Online user tests turned out to be valuable additions to the research spectrum. We will definitely continue to perform these in the future."

- Valerie Zuijdgeest, UX researcher 

towards the future

Remote testing with user is here to stay! Its very efficient and people are now fairly accustomed to video conferencing. But more than anything, the quality of the test results is higher. You approximate the actual user context on their own device. Testing from a distance doesn’t have to be distant. In many ways is more personal.

We will however – should the circumstances allow for it – welcome the clients back into our observation rooms. The involvement from and collaboration with the client outweighs the technical challenges of an observation room. It benefits the collaboration to experience the user tests together and be able to discuss the outcome in between tests.

Curious how your website is experienced? And how your website can appeal to your target audience and objectives better? Good! We love to help. Reach out to us and we can discuss the possibilities. Performing a user test can be done in as little as one day.