How to Build Your Own Remote User Testing Lab

How to Build Your Own Remote User Testing Lab

Blue Acorn iCi has been working with a client to renovate their current site, a platform that includes multiple pages across many different sites. With a first round of wireframes completed for this new site, our teams have moved into Phase II of User Testing.

This second phase involved targeted users testing those wireframes, much like Phase I involved targeted users testing the existing site. The twist this time was all of the User Testing was to be done remotely; Blue Acorn iCi conducted the tests with users from all across the country.

Two programs became key to setting up a User Testing Lab that would suit our remote needs.

First, we once again relied on Morae’s Usability Testing Software to perform the actual user testing. Morae was the workhorse of Phase I of the client’s user testing. However the remote nature of the testing in Phase II will require expanding our use of the program to include using the Morae Recorder and Morae Observer functions in tandem.

Second, our client partners set up a screen share service with Zoom Video Conferencing. The client spearheaded setting up the conference periods, and distributed invites to all parties who would need to view the conferences.

The programs taken care of, we turned our attention to the hardware of the test.

The core of the testing took place on three computers. For our purposes we called them the Tester, the Observer and the Participant.

The Participant was the name used as a reference to whatever remote computer the User was connecting on – their personal laptop, a work computer, etc. It had the simplest setup, but most important job. The Participant computer simply required a working microphone, the wireframes open in a web browser and a connection to the Zoom conference.

The Tester was the computer operated by the Blue Acorn iCi team member administering the user test. This computer required access to the Zoom conference, a working microphone, and the Morae Recorder program, open and running. At the end of each session Zoom Recorder saved out the Morae Manager file, a .rdg.
The Observer was the master computer, where all data would ultimately be fed, but it had very little active participation in the testing. It utilized a connection to the Zoom conference and Morae Observer.

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The Observer was the host of each Zoom Conference, allowing the observer to control who would record, speak, or just participate in the conference. At the end of each session Morae Observer saved out a .txt file of all of the Morae notes taken during the session and a .wmv file of the recording of the full session. In addition to all of that, we elected to record the Zoom Session each time, and would save that out in the Observer computer.

These three computers performed the testing, but anywhere from three to seven additional computers could view the testing through the Zoom Conference at any given time, but would be muted by the host, the Observer.

With our setup in place, each session follows similar steps for a successful test.

Pre Testing:

  1. Zoom conference sessions are setup for each individual participant. In our case, four a day for three days. Invites are sent to the participants, the clent team members and iCiDIGITAL team members involved in the testing.
  2. Tester enters the Zoom Conference and opens Morae Recorder.
  3. Observer enters the Zoom Conference and is made Host. Observer mutes all participants except Tester and Participant. Observer opens Morae Observer and connects to Tester’s Morae Recorder.
  4. Tester cedes Morae control to Observer.
  5. Participant enters the Zoom Conference and shares their screen.
  6. Observer begins recording the Zoom Conference and starts the Morae Observer recording and note taking session.

Testing Session:

  1. Testing progresses as normal. Each session is roughly an hour.
  2. Tester administers the test to the Participant, viewing the user’s actions through the Zoom Conference Screen share.
  3. Observer takes notes in Morae Observer. Any Markers or Tasks denoted by Observer are recorded in the Morae Manager file being written by Morae Recorder on Tester’s computer.
  4. During the test, Participant sees only their desktop with the wireframes. Tester sees the Zoom Conference screen share with the Participant’s desktop, with the wireframes on it. Observer is host of the Zoom Conference, but that window is hidden behind the Morae Observer window, which shows the Tester’s desktop (which of course was the participant’s desk top).

Post Testing:

  1. After the test was over and the Participant disconnected, Observer ends the Zoom Conference, and saves the Zoom Recording.
  2. Observer finishes the notes on Morae Observer and saves the .txt and .wmv files.
  3. Tester saves the .rdg Morae Manager file.
  4. Both computers save information to folders set up for each individual participant and day.
  5. That session’s .rdg file is opened in Manager and added to that day’s Morae Manager event. That day’s event is saved out after each session is added into a folder in that day’s master folder.
  6. With all files saved, we set up for the next session, taking us back to step one of Pre Testing.
  7. At the end of each day, all data is backed up to an external hard drive, and saved to Blue Acorn iCi’s intranet.

As complex as this was to untangle at the beginning, by the time our testing began, our team had the process down to a science, and testing went extremely smoothly.
As our User Testing experts begin to analyze the data we received, we’re looking forward to Phase III, and any other opportunities we have to employ our Remote Lab.

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