In the first installment of this two-part post, Brian Loeb from LeapVision highlights the benefits of using remote video for ethnographies and in-depth interviews.
Thanks to the unrelenting advance of technology we can now interact face-to-face even when we are in another place. Video ubiquity provides great benefits to qualitative and UX research, and showing faces is just one side of it. Beyond the importance of seeing the participant’s face, researchers may be even more interested in seeing how they interact with products, services, devices, designs and content. In many cases we can also simultaneously see their interactions, body movements, screens, cursor movements, surroundings, family, etc. Not to mention also hear their spontaneous comments, sighs, grumblings, surprises and exclamations!
I’ve found remote video particularly useful for:
- In-depth interviews (IDIs)
- User experience testing
- Online/mobile communities
Most researchers will agree that one of the most insightful and fulfilling experiences in their professional lives is to visit the subject of a study in their natural environment, smell the aromas of their garden, feel how their car seat feels, or experience first-hand their daily commute. However, most researchers also know the pain this physical presence often entails, with long days spent racing from one end of a city to another in order to get just two ethnographic encounters completed. And aside from lost time there are the costs, scheduling headaches, cancellations, and the always lingering question of how much the presence of the researcher influences the subject’s behaviour.
The inconveniences of face-to-face research are becoming even more magnified as markets become more global, and budgets and product lifecycles tighten. Many times in-person ethnographies are simply not an option. Remote ethnographies are an alternative that is faster, more economical, more flexible and less intrusive. Additionally, remote ethnographies can be more richly insightful because:
- They allow participants to document a greater range of moments and circumstances without the imposing presence of a researcher.
- Greater flexibility makes them ideal when spontaneous interactions are required as they facilitate in-the-moment and on-the-spot insights.
- Flexibility can be especially important in longitudinal studies where you want participants to interact over time, or at various moments during the day that can vary in timing, such as ‘after lunch’.
- Many participants are more likely to speak and act naturally when being observed only by a camera rather than a pair of human eyes with which they might feel impelled to make eye contact.
- When moderated asynchronously one researcher can conduct multiple ethnographies simultaneously. In one study I was able to follow ten young soccer enthusiasts over a whole week, from mid-week practices and Playstation simulations to pre and post-game experiences. This resulted in ten weeks’ worth of research in just one week!
In contrast to ethnographies, IDIs have a long history of being performed remotely via telephone interviews. But now the richness lost by having a voice-only connection can be recovered through video, facilitating all the advantages of seeing the interviewee’s face, their surroundings, and in many cases also simultaneously their interactions. All the benefits discussed under ethnographies also apply, just in a more concise way.
Real-time, or synchronous, moderating has the advantage that:
- The moderator can immediately probe and ask for clarifications depending on the participant’s responses.
- Some participants may respond better when speaking with a human.
- If participants don’t understand something about the tasks or activities they can ask for clarifications.
Automated, or asynchronous, moderating also has many advantages:
- Time flexibility allows the participant to take part when it suits them, so they can be more relaxed or otherwise in the right frame of mind for the study.
- Dozens of interviews can be conducted simultaneously in geographically disperse locations. I live in Spain but I’ve done studies in the US where I’ve gone to bed and had 20+ interviews ready for my review in the morning!
- While some people prefer to speak with a human, others actually prefer talking out loud to the camera and feel more comfortable not being observed in real-time.
- Many participants are more inclined to voice criticisms and annoyance on camera, whereas they tend to be more compliant, inclined to praise, and/or reluctant to confess that they are confused when interviewed in person.
- All the interviews are moderated in identical ways, avoiding any influences of different moderating styles from multiple moderators or moderators who don’t moderate exactly the same way every time.
In the second installment of this two-part post I will be showing how remote video is useful for UX testing and Online/mobile Communities.
Brian is an expert global moderator from the Liveminds network.