Remote Research in the Time of Coronavirus (COVID-19)
With offices mandating employees to work from home, and people across the world hunkering down, researchers everywhere are scrambling to figure out how to make it all work from their home offices.
I’ve been doing remote research out of my home for years, so I thought I’d share a few tips and tricks from my own remote-research arsenal!
In-office conversations with colleagues: Try Slack
For all conversations, whether it’s discussions about business strategy, sharing ideas on research plans, or sharing random funny articles online, we use Slack. Slack enables us to have many fluid conversations at once, and to organize conversations by topic (such as #customer-discussions, #finance-accounting, #strategy).
Communication with participant recruits: Try Intercom
Rather than using email or a group email, consider using a CRM to communicate with research participants. I have used Intercom as a CRM and have found it incredibly helpful as a way to keep track who we reached out to for which study, and to keep a log of all the communication we’ve had so far with each recruit. It allows my team members to see the previous conversations and take over for me if necessary (something that’s nearly impossible in email). If Intercom doesn’t work for your particular client, consider checking out other group CRMs to solve the same problem.
Scheduling interviews: Try Calendly
Calendly is an incredible streamlined way to have participants schedule time for studies. It syncs directly with your calendar (for us, it’s Google calendar), and you can set parameters for when someone can schedule time. Just send them a link and they can instantly book a time with you.
In-depth interviews: Try Zoom
Zoom is an online video chat service with great video quality that is super easy to use. It can also support video chats with large groups of people if you’re running a study with more than one participant. You can also record the session (make sure to always ask for consent first!)
Compensating participants: Send digital gift cards
Compensate participants by sending digital Amazon gift cards. These will get emailed straight to them. As an additional tip, if you have international recruits in other countries that want a gift card for their local Amazon branch, purchase the gift card from that country’s Amazon site. (For instance, go to https://www.amazon.co.uk/ to send someone an Amazon UK gift card. Amazon gift cards aren’t transferable between countries once purchased.
Writing documents: Try Google Docs
If you were using Microsoft Word and emailing them around, or printing them out for colleagues to review, it’s time to switch to Google Docs. Google Docs is online and fully collaborative. Colleagues can comment directly in your document and collaboratively write with you in real time.
Transcript analysis and coding: Try DelveTool
If you were printing out transcripts and highlighting them using Post-it notes or using desktop based tools like NVivo or ATLAS.ti without online capabilities, consider switching to DelveTool. (Full disclosure, I’m the co-founder so I designed and created this tool out of my own pain points). Now that your research team is working remotely from their homes, DelveTool offers a way for your team to code and analyze a single project together from wherever they are.
Creating presentation decks: Try Paste by WeTransfer
If you were using Microsoft PowerPoint, it’s time to consider using Paste. It’s online, fully collaborative, and makes your decks absolutely beautiful with very little effort. It doesn’t have all the power features of PowerPoint, but that’s precisely the benefit. You can create gorgeous slides with just a quote on a single page or drop in a video clip from a research session. You’ll spend significantly less time making the deck and it will look 1000% better than a standard PowerPoint.
Streamlining and automating your process: Try Zapier
Zapier takes a bit of tech tinkering, but is a great way to automate any repetitive, manual tasks that you’re already doing. For example, if you’re keeping track of participant recruitment status in a Google Sheet, you can use Zapier to automatically update that spreadsheet when participants schedule an interview using Calendly.
Best of luck setting up your remote research workspace. If you have any questions or have recommendations that you want to share, please reach out to me!
LaiYee Ho is the co-founder of DelveTool, where she pours her years of experience as a UX researcher and designer into creating tools for researchers. Before beginning her entrepreneurial journey, she was one of the first UX designers of the Amazon Fire TV, where she learned about the importance of simplicity in design. She then went on to build the first UX research team at a smart home automation startup, where she learned how to uncover human motivations. She has a degree in Information Science from Cornell and lives in New York City.