Table of Contents Hide
- How to user test with video conferencing apps
- The best video conferencing tools
- Side-by-side comparison of the top video conferencing tools
- Other types of remote UX research tools you may need
- Choose the right remote user testing tools for your team
We’ve always been big fans of remote user testing around here. It’s fast, lets you access a wider pool of participants, and doesn’t require a ton of expensive tools to get started. With COVID-19, remote user testing has gone from one popular user research among many methods to the default. That makes choosing the right tools for the job more important than ever.
This begs the question:
What are the best remote user testing tools?
To throw some research at the issue, I dug into the data from our 2020 State of Research Report, which summarized the responses of over 300 user researchers.
I also talked to four researchers who had recently run remote studies to get an idea of their processes and the tools they used. Three researchers were conducting moderated usability tests via screen share, while one was also conducting unmoderated tests.
All four researchers saw their video conferencing tool as the most important part of their toolkit.
How to user test with video conferencing apps
If you want to do a quick moderated user test, you really only need a video conferencing tool to get the job done, along with a way to take notes or transcribe the conversation. Simply send participants a link or dial-in to your video conference, then ask them to share their screen as they maneuver through your prototype.
If you’re running unmoderated user tests, you will also need a tool that allows your participants to access your test.
As you scale your user testing efforts, you’ll probably need a few supplementary tools—like a participant recruitment tool or a scheduling tool—to make things run more efficiently. (Or you know, you could use User Interviews to do both. 😏)
In this article, I’ll break down the pros and cons of some of the most popular video conferencing tools for remote user research. I’ll also touch on some supplementary tools you may need, along with some of the most popular tools for unmoderated remote research. If you’re assembling a user research toolkit for the first time or updating an existing one, be sure to check out our ultimate guide to 50+ UX research tools in our Field Guide.
The best video conferencing tools
Video conferencing tools are the key tool for any moderated user test or research—they’re perfect for conducting usability tests, running generative or stakeholder interviews, or chatting with users and customers on an ongoing basis.
So which video conferencing tool should you entrust with your remote user testing sessions? The right tool will depend on your needs, of course, but after talking with people who conduct lots of remote user research, a few clear winners emerged.
💻 Psst—We recently released ✨The State of User Research 2021 Report✨. We haven’t yet updated this article with all the new data. Curious about how the video conferencing tools landscape changed during COVID? Read the report and find out.
1. Zoom 👑
Zoom is the best choice for most user testing.
As an entirely remote company, we use Zoom daily to communicate with each other and conduct our own remote research. Of the four researchers I spoke with, all of them used Zoom for at least one study (some had also used other tools). The general consensus was that it’s typically the most reliable and user-friendly video conferencing solution. A few people mentioned the ability to dial into meetings by using a phone number as a great backup plan for interview sessions.
Zoom was the by far most popular tool among survey respondents as well: in our most recent survey, 48% said they use it to conduct their sessions—a slight increase from the 42% who said the same in 2018.
Zoom’s main differentiator isn’t that sexy, but it is super important: consistent quality and general “user-friendliness.” Many of the researchers I’ve spoken to expressed a preference for Zoom solely because the screen sharing button is easier to find—both for themselves, and for participants.
Zoom has other great features, like call recording and the option to transcribe your sessions. Sonya Badigian, who conducts research for an entirely remote team, turned me on to a cool feature that you may not have realized you needed: Zoom allows you to remotely control a participant’s screen when they’re sharing it, in case you run into technical difficulties or your participant can’t find what they need.
Another major benefit of using Zoom is that, thanks in no small part to Covid-19, the platform has over 300 million daily active meeting participants. The newfound ubiquity of Zoom means that your target participants likely already have it downloaded and are familiar with the interface. With a mobile app that touts all the same features as the desktop one, Zoom is also a good choice for mobile user testing.
Oh, and did we mention that User Interviews integrates with Zoom? It’s true—you can now use Zoom + User Interviews to automatically generate unique meeting links, send them to participants, and easily update session moderators as needed.
Zoom will also be rolling out Zoom Apps with partners like Atlassian, Dropbox, Slack, Slido, Pitch, and more by the end of 2020. These apps should make Zoom a lot more powerful and streamline productivity, collaboration, and meeting engagement.
Most features are available in their free version but if you need an upgraded package, check out their pricing page.
2. Google Meet 👫
Google Meet is best for people who ❤️ their Google Calendar.
Two out of the four researchers I talked to—along with 25% of the respondents in our State of User Research Report—used Google Meet to conduct research. That number is down from almost 40% in 2018. The researchers I spoke with applauded the user friendliness of the app, and liked that they could add links directly to their calendar and open their video chat in their web browser. Both of them, however, had the same gripe—the screen sharing button was hard to find in actual sessions.
Still, if your whole team lives in the Googlesphere, Google Meet could be a great choice for your research sessions.
One of the major benefits of Google Meet over Zoom is that Google Meet offers web-based video conferencing—meaning there’s no extra video conferencing software for your participant to download beforehand. Over 6 million businesses are actively subscribed to G Suite, so there’s a good chance your participants are familiar with either Google Meet or its predecessor Hangouts Meet.*
Google Meet is free for individual use. For team plans, check out their pricing page.
*Google rebranded Hangouts Meet in April 2020 and started transitioning its G Suite (business) accounts from classic Hangouts to Meet the following month.
3. Skype 💻
Skype is the best choice for people who need live captioning and translation.
Skype has been around since 2003, making it old by tech standards. Since Skype comes prepackaged in Windows computers, it’s a tool many users already have and are familiar with. Though no one I talked to in my qualitative research said they used Skype regularly, 20% of survey respondents said they used it to conduct research sessions (a slight dip from the 23% who said the same two years ago).
Skype comes with many of the same features as Zoom, Google Meet, and GoToMeeting—including screen sharing and session recording. In addition to its apps, Skype now offers web-based video conferencing. Two additional features that are worth calling out are the live caption and subtitles feature—which is a big plus for accessibility—and the Visual Studio Live Share feature, which allows for real-time code collaboration without ever leaving the platform.
Skype is free for consumer use. Skype for Business, which came with extra features, has been replaced by Microsoft Teams.
4. GoToMeeting 🛠
GoToMeeting is best for teams that want business-oriented features.
Of the researchers I talked to, only one used GoToMeeting regularly to conduct research, accompanied by 14% of our survey respondents (an increase from the 8% who used GoToMeeting in 2018). The researcher I spoke to used the tool because her client already used GoToMeeting for internal purposes and wanted to use it for research as well.
Although not the most popular option on this list, GoToMeeting offers the most robust video conferencing solution for businesses. Think: HD video, mobile-friendliness, Slack and Salesforce integrations, note-taking tools, and HIPAA compliance out of the box.
GoToMeeting is also built to pair with the company’s GoToRoom video conferencing equipment. So if you’re typically conducting your research with colleagues in a conference room setting and want a solution that comes with hardware, GoToMeeting may be the tool for you.
GoToMeeting does not have a free tier. Check out their pricing plans here.
Alternative video conferencing tools
The four tools above may be the most popular, but they’re not the only ones. Zoom alternatives that deserve a mention include BlueJeans—Verizon’s feature-laden video conferencing option—and Whereby, a simple but well-loved tool that requires no downloads and is without a doubt the prettiest of the whole bunch.
Side-by-side comparison of the top video conferencing tools
Here are those four popular tools again, side by side.
Note that for Zoom, Google Meet, and GoToMeeting, the information in the first four rows—download required, session limit, number of participants, and meeting limits—pertains to the lowest available pricing tier. For Zoom and Google Meet, that means the free plan. Skype is totally free (unless you’re using the platform to make international phone calls) and there are no higher tiers available.
The rest of the table compares the features offered by each tool—depending on which tool, you may need to pay for some of those features. Zoom and Google Meet charge for the phone-in feature, for instance, while all of GoToMeeting’s features require payment since the platform doesn’t offer a free plan at all.
Other types of remote UX research tools you may need
The right video conferencing software is a cornerstone of any remote UX research toolkit. But to do exceptional remote user research, you’ll probably need a few other tools in your belt. The most popular supplementary tools, according to my research and our State of User Testing Report, fall into two categories:
- Scheduling or calendar tools
- Unmoderated usability testing tools
Scheduling or calendar tools 📆
Sick of emailing back and forth with your participants to “find a time that works best for everyone?” Yeah, us too. That’s why we built scheduling right into the User Interviews interface, so you can just choose the times you’re available and your participants can choose from the available time slots. Easy peasy.
But, if you’re not using User Interviews to schedule your sessions, you may need another piece of software to avoid all that back and forth. Tools like Calendly, Doodle, and YouCanBookMe help take the hassle out of scheduling sessions by allowing your participants to choose times both of you are available.
Unmoderated usability testing tools 👨🔬
Unmoderated usability testing tools help you run more tests—without needing to block off time in your schedule to moderate the sessions. There are many different types of tools to do unmoderated studies, all with different capabilities.
For example, Optimal Workshop specializes in tree tests, card sorts, and boasts a powerful survey tool. Many of the tools on this list, like UserTesting, Lookback, UserZoom, Loop11, TryMyUI, Userlytics, and UserBrain, specialize in recording users as they navigate through websites and prototypes. Dscout specializes in diary studies, in which participants record videos and answer questions as they navigate through tasks.
You can find a complete list of usability testing tools, complete with pricing and user reviews, in our Field Guide.
Choose the right remote user testing tools for your team
Every team is different, and the needs of researchers, stakeholders, and participants varies from company to company. In terms of popularity, Zoom is the clear winner of the “best video conferencing tool” award. But whether that’s actually true for your team will depend on the features and functionality you need to accomplish your user interview goals.
Maybe you just want a simple, visually appealing tool that doesn’t require downloading an app—in that case, lesser-known Whereby could actually be the right fit. Meanwhile, if accessibility is a high priority, Skype may be the better choice. Prefer to use the tools already at your participant’s disposal? Google Meet or Zoom are likely your best bets.
🗺 Navigate the UX research software landscape, discover new tools, and identify gaps in your own user research toolkit with the 2021 UX Research Tools Map. 🗺
Whichever video conferencing tool you end up choosing, be sure you’ve thought through how you’ll get your participants to the call in the first place. Invest in a dedicated scheduling tool, or use the scheduling feature in User Interviews to make the interview process better from start to finish. Haven’t signed up for User Interviews yet? That’s easily fixed!
👉 Learn more about the Zoom + User Interviews integration.
Read the full article here