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Isn't Zoom Good Enough for Moderated Research?

Isn't Zoom Good Enough for Moderated Research?

When Arjun and I set out to build Betafi, we decided to start by elevating the state of the art for moderated user research. We've seen a flurry of activity in the unmoderated testing space over the past year, and yet the vast majority of the design & research teams we spoke with admitted that for them, live moderated testing remains the bread-and-butter of their research practice.

We are huge proponents of moderated research: doing a realtime session, either in-person or remotely via some video conferencing software to talk to a live participant, means you can get a huge depth of qualitative insights and really start to understand your target user's perspective.

The high fidelity information that comes from seeing someone's facial expressions and how they viscerally react to your product, plus being able to ask follow-up questions to dig deeper into their thought process, is hard to replicate with more quantitative methods like surveys or unmoderated, self-guided sessions.

We fundamentally believe that the current toolkit for moderated research available to most teams is underserving them and making the research process as a whole much more painful and time-consuming than it needs to be.

For many of us, in this strange new world, Zoom (or Google Meet) has become the go-to default video conferencing solution whenever you want to hop on a video call with someone. And we definitely don't want to throw Zoom under the bus. Zoom is a great starting point for beginning your research journey, especially in the early discovery phases of a project, where you're mostly doing face-to-face interviews and painting in broad strokes.

But from interviewing over a hundred design and research teams (often over Google Meet and Zoom) in the past four months, we've noticed that things start to break down quickly.

Maintaining a Feeling of Intimacy

How do you have an intimate, earnest conversation with a participant when a half-dozen stakeholders are silently sitting in on a call?

The Zoom Moderated Research Experience

When in-person research was more commonplace, teams would often use physical lab spaces with one-way mirrors to allow observers to sit in another room and witness the live session without introducing bias from the participant sweating that several people were watching their every move.

Today, as more and more people do remote research sessions online, a company may have several observers sitting in on the video call to observe, take notes, and possibly even translate. In the case of Zoom, it can be daunting for a participant to see 6 silent names on the screen.

Giving honest feedback is difficult enough as is, without having to worry about sounding smart when the participant notices the CEO of the company is sitting in on the call, or being distracted by the coffee-slurping PM who accidentally forgot to turn off their mic.

Betafi has a dedicated mode for observers to chat among themselves and take notes without disrupting the live session in any way. This allows the moderator and the participant to maintain the calm and intimacy of a one-on-one session, without losing the benefits of getting to invite key stakeholders to observe your research calls.

Sharing Prototypes and Web Apps without Hassle or Fear of Leaks

As a project moves from the concept stage to the design & prototyping stage, easily sharing wireframes and higher fidelity mockups with users becomes a priority. Tools like Figma, Adobe XD, and InVision make it effortless to get a shareable link for a given prototype.

But what do you do with that link next?

  • Do you share it with participants via email or the chat app du jour?
  • Maybe you share it in the chat tab during the live call?
  • After the call is done, does your team have a protocol in place for revoking access to that link so it isn't shared more broadly to strangers if the project is privacy-sensitive or "in stealth mode"?

We heard time after time that this process of managing prototype links becomes a headache for organizations of all sizes, especially those working on more secretive or early-stage projects.

With Betafi, we obscure your prototype links so the end-participant never directly sees the URL, in order to help mitigate the potential for accidental sharing or leaks after the live session is over.

Likewise, what if you are testing multiple concepts during a single session, do you share all the links up-front? Or on-the-fly during the session to avoid distraction?

Many research teams we've spoken with try to come up with crafty workaround within their prototype files to help "reset" them to the original start screen to run through another flow.

With Betafi, we make it effortless for the moderator to quickly send the participant to the next scenario when the time is right, so they don't have to press some "magic area" in the prototype file.

Our rich Figma integration allows you to easily share particular screens as the jumping off point for different tasks and concept tests. We also support arbitrary website URLs, with first-class integrations for additional popular prototyping tools coming soon.

This way, the participant does not have to fumble around with opening different links as the moderator instructs them. They can simply sit back and explore the interface, and stay fully immersed in the experience.

What happens after the interview?

Zoom and Google Meet may offer the ability to record your videos in the cloud (if you pay them for the privilege), but what really happens once a session video is recorded?

  • Is it daunting to refer back to it and re-watch?
  • Is it easy to share relevant snippets with your teammates to view on their own time?
  • How do you search the contents of the video and find just that moment you were looking for a month down the road?

From our experience, "dead video files" are simply not enough to meet the needs of a modern research team. They put a huge burden on the design or research staff to play archivist or video editor, scanning through reams of footage to rediscover some lost insight, a facial expression of joy or frustration, a snippet that validates or refutes some hypothesis.

  • What if your video player helped summarize the contents for you?
  • What if your notes were already organized, timestamped, and tagged to the relevant screens, sentiment, and the likes, the moment a session was over?
  • What if it was effortless to share just the relevant snippets to stakeholders on your design, engineering, or business teams?
  • What if you could stitch together a "highlight reel" across all the sessions in a research project without ever having to open dedicated video editing software?

Betafi's ambition is to surface insights for you, so you can avoid tedious archival work and get back to the things you care about, building the right product and serving your customers.

It pains us to think about how many insights were lost, or rediscovered 6 months (and thousands of dollars) later, just because the rich findings from previous sessions were not readily accessible for your team.

Interested in seeing an early preview of our synthesis and insights capabilities, or learning more about Betafi in general?

Book a session with us, and find out for yourself how much better your moderated research experience could be.

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