Book Review – Remote Research

I recently won a copy of Remote Research from a content on, I had been eyeing this book since it was release by Rosenfeld Media (not to mention some of the other great titles).

One of my main focuses in the coming weeks will be user testing for I will be testing different forms of user interaction, placing classifieds, searching for listings, and different navigational tasks. As I prepare for this one of the main concerns was how to set up a lab for testing and stay within budget.

While looking at different testing procedures I started being drawn to the aspect of remote research, and with my winning the book from UXBooth, this to to be a perfect marriage.

The goal of this post is to provide a brief but informative review Remote Research, and share my thoughts, and how I was able to leverage, and implement the tools and methods discussed in the book.

In Remote Research Nate Bolt, and Tony Tulathimute use their knowledge and experience in user testing and experience design to share about the benefits of using remote research when conducting user testing. The book is written from the assumption that the reader has some knowledge of user testing, but is still very palatable for some who have not conducted any lab or remote testing.


The beginning chapters serve as an introduction to remote research and discuss what remote research is, and the cases for when it should be used (as well as when it should be avoided). The two methods of remote research are deigned before moving into more detailed and segmented information in the following chapters.

Once of the main concepts/proponents of remote research is Time-Aware Research. Time-aware research is when you recruit someone who is in the middle of a task on your site or application, and then observe his or her behavior (read the chapter on recruiting for more on ho to do this). Results can be more genuine when you study users when they would be naturally engaging in a task, in their natural environment.

One of the things that struck me in this book was the fair and balanced approach, the book is definitely in favor of remote research, but does give ample time to the case against remote research (presented by Andy Budd).

There is definitely no lack of research, case studies and data to equip the reader; I was not left wanting more information at any one point.

As the chapters continue the book explains different the techniques and testing scenarios that are encountered during remote research, and addresses what issues may arise, and the best responses in those situations.

Chapter 3 beaks down how to recruit for your remote testing. I found this to be one of the most helpful chapters personally as I am prepping for testing on a site that gets considerable traffic each month. One of my biggest concerns was how to tell when test subjects are the real deal, so that I would actually be getting test results that would help improve the site.

Besides testing techniques and how-to’s Nate and Tony also speak to what legal issues may arise, creating proper consent forms, filtering out spam test subjects and other important issues faced when doing remote testing.

Tools of the Trade

The book also provides a comprehensive list of different tools that can be used during remote testing and shares the pro’s and con’s of them so that you can make a decision as to what tools will work best for your situation. There is a wide array of tools that can be used online or from your desktop and really shows that with a few resources you can do all the testing you need and stay within’ or below budget without sacrificing the quality of test results.

The later chapters focus on reporting and chapter 10 addresses additional challenges that may arise when doing remote research.

Another part of the book that nailed it for me was the conclusion that contained two quotes that I have now written on my whiteboard.

“ Don’t waste your life doing meaningless research”

One of the major benefits of remote research is the ability to do effective research with subjects that are actually using your site. You can intercept them in their natural environment (at home/work on their own computer) where they would naturally be using your web interface/product. Effective, pinpointed, research produce the best results.

And the other is

“Don’t insist on a method, insist on doing things right.”

This is huge for us in the design/ user experience fields, as there is a legacy of proven methods that have been used time and time again, and it can be easy to rely on those techniques, and not look to new techniques that are relative to our project.

Wrapping Up

This book is a must for anyone who is involved in or is planning user testing in anyway. There is valuable insight and great resources throughout the book, Nate and Tony bring a fun, practical approach to sharing their knowledge and experience in remote  user testing.

If your interest has been peaked… or you have been looking for good user testing, design, and UX books/resources make sure check out Remote Research and other Rosenfeld Media titles.

Make sure to check out the companion site for remote research

** all images used are from the book, to see other images and graphics visit Rosenfeld Media on Flickr

07. April 2010 by Aaron Irizarry
Categories: Book Review, User Experience | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 comments