Well then, let’s turn to remote research! Part 2: Sharing Stimulus Material
Do not spoil your results by sharing material upfront
You have thoroughly prepared your remote Interview (and read through my tips & tricks for the preparation, which you find here.
Great. Time to take the next step!
Do not spoil your results by sharing material upfront
In a face-to-face interview, it is quite easy to share material exactly when you want your participants to see it. When it comes to remote research, you need to put more planning into preparing this moment.
But why is timing so important?
As researchers, we carefully structure and orchestrate our interviews. Following a funnel approach, we start with the general topics and then go into detail.
If you want to show a new product idea for the brand or platform XY, you might first want to understand the context it will be used in. You first want to understand how your interview partner currently copes in a situation.
- What are the current needs, triggers, barriers and use cases?
- How are related products or services used today?
And you want to learn all of this before introducing a new idea. If you send out the new idea beforehand, this will bias all your results. Naturally, your interviewees will only focus on the specific solution or idea they have already seen.
They will adapt or skip the parts of their story that do not seem to be relevant for your idea. You may accidentally prompt them to fabricate a use case that fits your idea rather than learning about their real needs. And your job of understanding the big picture will become impossible.
Therefore, take some time to consider what you want to share. How you want to share it and when you want to share it.
Unless you want your interview partner to have a thorough look at something upfront (e.g. for a homework assignment), I do not recommend to share anything upfront.
The first thing you need to take into consideration: with remote interviews, you cannot avoid that your interview partner may take a screenshot of what you show (even if a NDA is signed).
You have something that must not leak under any circumstance? Sorry to say, then I strongly recommend not testing it in a remote interview. In a face-to-face interview you can control that no one takes a picture of your material. In a remote interview, you can never be sure.
Of course, there is the option of ‘white labeling’ your product idea or building an elaborate cover story. Still, if you feel that even a white-labeled idea should not be spread, rather do not test it remotely.
Basically, there are three ways to share material:
Option A: You share your screen
Sharing your screen has several advantages:
- It demands no technical skills from your interview partner. You take care of everything.
- You are under control what you show and for how long
- There is no risk that your interview partner does not have the required software installed (not even Microsoft Office is installed on many private computers!)
Limitations: You will not see a natural interaction and are prompting their attention even more than usual.
As an example, I use it for: When my interview partner is supposed to have a look at something to share their first impression with me (e.g. a package or a website design).
You can use it, when no interaction is needed. It helps me keep the conversation on track and not lose scope. I can just stop sharing the screen again. And it also works quite well if you want to show a verbal concept since your interview partner can read the text while you share your screen.
Option B: Link via chat
Sending a link to your interview partner (during the interview) has the advantage that your interview partner can take the time they need to look through material in their own pace without you prompting too much.
For this, I do prepare the respective file upfront and generate a dropbox link to the file. During the interview, I can share this link via the chat function in the remote interview tool. My tip: try to compress the files and share documents only as PDF to speed up the process during the interview.
Limitations: Your material is now out there on someones computer. Unless you want to look into advanced solutions for revoking document / link access after the interview, I recommend sharing only material that is a low business risk when leaked.
As an example, I use it for: Sharing moodboards with several images. Would I share this via screen sharing, I would potentially force my participant to look at one moodboard for longer than they would normally. By sharing a link, they can take their own time when I ask “Please take some minutes and go through the material. Pick out those 4–5 images which best represents XYZ for you.”
Option C: Your interview partner shares their screen
Having your interview partner share the screen is most beneficial for UX & prototype testing. Here you want to see how your opposite naturally interacts with something. I can either ask them to walk me through something they already use. Or by sharing a link I can give them access to a prototype and have them walk me through their actions.
Limitations: Do not forget about privacy. Remind them to turn off notifications of other apps and make sure you do not watch when they have to give payment data or other sensitive information!
As an example, I use it for: This is ideal for website, app & prototype testing when it is important to you to keep track of interactions. And unlike other testing methods with screen recording, you can usually see their mouse or touch gestures.
All three options have their right to exist. Just consider upfront which option is best for your material and your objectives. You considered your options and carefully decided for the one or the other? We are getting even closer to being ready to rumble with your remote interviews.
Nina is a qualitative researcher with over 15 yrs. of experience. She has a track record of working on the key accounts of some of the largest FMCG players worldwide. In recent years she stepped into UX research, built UXR departments for start-ups and coaches UXR beginners. Design Thinking is part of her toolbox as well.