April 2020

Remote research in times of physical distancing

Few people saw what has been coming, and within a week, like so many others, we started working with our clients from home. Even our design anthropology and the user research team had to react and learned that doing user research remotely can provide great user insights for innovation when doing interviews in person are impossible.

As a human-centric design and innovation agency, we design along with human needs and research as an essential part of the multiple steps in our design process; from foundational research where we explore the project topic and design challenges, over generative research where we co-create ideas and discover deep needs for product definition, to evaluative research to assess concepts and prototypes to make sure they are useful and usable. 

Over the past years, we have done plenty of remote research projects with various goals. With today’s limitations on in-person research due to the Corona spreading, we have decided to shift all our research activities to online settings, to remote alternatives were they will bring the most value.

Under normal circumstances, we do prefer in-person interviews,  as it adds additional layers of insights through direct observations, however, this does not mean that remote alternatives do not suffice to find out what makes people tick and how new solutions might serve their needs. 

How might remote research add value to your innovation efforts?   

In fact, we find that remote research has specific advantages over face-to-face interviewing: For instance, besides obvious benefits such as reach and speed, participants are met in their natural settings, which strengthens the validity and reliability of findings.

Moreover, remote research can be used to iterate on a concept or design really quickly. 

For example, quantitative evaluative approaches can help identify usability issues while qualitative surveys can help discover feature usefulness and deeper understandings of problems. Additionally, to further decrease the gap, video-call interviews can help avoid the artificial barrier between participant and researcher. 

Remote research methods in our project work.

All research approaches helped guide products to a more functional and useful state. Especially, remote evaluative research has its benefits as it is possible to cover more regions in a shorter amount of time while being more budget-friendly. Remote evaluative research has benefits as we can uncover whether our designs and products are useful and usable in their natural settings. 

Throughout our project work at FLUID, we have used remote research methods to uncover insights. From qualitative research using video-calls and open-text surveys to quantitative methods such as app use analytics and large scale surveys. Some of these projects are available as case studies on our website.

Konica Minolta
- Discovering user needs across EU countries through qualitative video calls.
- Evaluative research to define feature interest and determining the priorities of target groups across 5 countries and 3 continents. Read more

- Use of microsite usage tracking - to define the target group and design preference. Read more

Bosch home appliances (BSH Group)
- App feature usage as a proof of concept. We designed an MVP web app, to test multiple hypotheses of use and feature usefulness. Research outcome gave the most valuable proof for the client to know if the product gives enough value and if it ultimately is worth pursuing. 

Time to shift to remote research!

If a product needs to be assessed from a usability standpoint, multiple tools enable great insights into how people interact with your digital products. Gathering needs can be derived from qualitative surveys or video interviews. In times when in-person research is not possible, taking advantage of remote alternatives can help make use of the time to progress on product development and prepare products for the next phase. 

If you are interested in finding out how remote research can benefit your innovation outcomes in those shaky and uncertain times, we will be happy to hear from you. We offer tailored solutions for moderating and preparing remote research and workshops. If you are interested in finding the right FLUID remote research approach, contact us, and we will be happy to find the best way forward. 

Over the course of the next weeks, we will be diving deeper into remote research and workshops and how we run them. 


by Stefan Markiewicz
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