Why do we call it “remote” UX testing, not “in-home” UX testing?

Do you guys know Lee Duddell? Dudds? The Duddster? El Dudderino?

Well, here he is.

Snow photo

Lee often ponders the true meaning of everyday occurrences… like snowfall or UX testing

While he’s neither “Big” nor a “Lebowski”, he’s clearly dripping in swag worthy of the Hollywood silver screen.

Lee is also the founder of WhatUsersDo, a font of puns and the source of the titular question on which this article is based.

He rode into our Cally Road office, straddling a white stallion, and declared:

“We should call it in-home UX testing, not remote UX testing.”

Why not? The more we thought about it, the more it made sense.

Is the word “remote” really accurate in describing the process? Is it user-centred? Is it evocative? This article answers all 3 questions.

“In-home” is a more accurate descriptor than “remote” is

According to the Cambridge English dictionary, remote computer systems are available to users in another part of a building or in another place, for example through a network.”

Fair enough. Accurate, if dour.

But the important detail about our method of UX testing isn’t the fact that the users are far away or in another place.

The important detail lies in the fact that users are at home—or, at least, some place where they feel comfortable.

This removes factors that might pervert typical behaviour. These include the potential for users to feel uncomfortable in an unfamiliar lab setting and for moderators to ask leading questions.

We test with users in their homes so that the user experience isn’t sanitised to the point of being unnatural. Things like the kids’ dinner and broken washing machine, for example, aren’t out of sight and out of mind.

We gather insight from users this way not because we want them far away from us (remote), but because we want them behaving as naturally as possible (in-home).

After all, we say lab testing, not “proximate testing”, when referring to tests that involve bringing the user to our premises.

“In-home” is more user-centred than “remote”

The other problem with the word “remote” is that it shows whom we (perhaps subconsciously) class as the centre of the process—ourselves.

OK, we and the users are far from each other, but it was we (the practitioners, not users) who chose the qualifier “remote”.

Our frame of reference when using that term is ourselves—we are the thing from which the user is remote. It’s like we’re saying:

“All things being equal, the user would come to us. Obvs.”

But from the user’s point of view, nothing is remote. They’re at home, where they’d rather be, doing what they normally do.

“In-home” paints a more sellable picture than “remote” does Remote UX testing Conversation

In this article, based on my interview with the founder of Baremetrics, I discuss whether jargon is obfuscating the value of UX design.

Now I’m asking whether “remote” is one of the pieces of jargon contributing to that problem. When talking to non-UX stakeholders, the use of the term “remote” is accompanied by unproductive conversations. 

“In-home” is a self-describing adjective. If you know what a “home” is and you know the preposition “in”, you know what “in-home” means. The expression is visual.

“Remote”, on the other hand, often needs explaining—not just because of its multiple contextual meanings, but also because it isn’t visual.

Presenting findings from or seeking budget for “in-home testing with customers” evokes clearer and more positive associations (in my opinion) than “remote testing with customers”.

Everyone knows what a home is and for most people, home is good.

So there you have it. Are we talking complete bullshit? What does “in-home” mean to you? Does it sound like we go to users’ homes (which I guess we do vicariously, through software)? Let us know.

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Timi is a London-based copywriter and full-time marketing sceptic – there are now more unvalidated opinions out there than ever.

He became a UX testing enthusiast after seeing its power while working at TUI – the world’s largest travel, leisure and tourism company. He then joined WhatUsersDo to sharpen his UX knowledge and work side-by-side with the field’s best and brightest.

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