This is how to do it: Let’s say you prefer the logic and efficiency of computers to human beings. There are many online tools you can use to create quick task-based usability tests, perform card sorts, and measure analytics.Many call this approach “unattended user research,” because the tools automatically gather the feedback with no human-to-human interaction.Using some of the new web applications popping up, you can effectively do remote user research—that is, user research conducted over the phone and your computer.
You lose the bigger picture of usage, which can give you a misleading picture of what your users are doing on your website.Unattended qualitative research services get users to submit webcam videos, images, and/or spoken feedback about your product.Doing this kind of research is mostly just a matter of signing up for one of the services and writing a couple of questions for your users to answer.Task elicitation is the most direct way to gather performance feedback on a particular task, which is why it’s also the most popular. This is a remote version of a tried-and-true user research method.You give participants a stack of randomly shuffled cards, each with an item written on it, and then ask the participants to sort the cards into groups that make sense to them.
At SXSW this year, I attended a panel called “Your UI is Your Laboratory” with people from Wufoo and Freshbooks—two web interfaces well regarded for their user experiences.