I like to call it usability study instead of test. I worry that "user test" makes the participants/users (not "subjects") think that they're being tested when actually the product is being tested. Conducting a "study" sounds more like no value judgments are being made. Strictly business, my friends.
Recently, I've been looking into remote usability solutions and I'm still looking around but here's what I discovered so far: my colleagues and I are using Macs without IE and that is not helping our search. There were two appealing products specifically designed for remote user studies. However, TechSmith's UserVue is Microsoft Windows-only and Bolt | Peter's Ethnio requires Microsoft Internet Explorer. Boo!
I found some interesting presentation slides from Paul Hibbitts on "Usability at a Distance" and at the same time discovered there is a YouTube for slides, SlideShare. Of course when anything serious about presentations is involved, Guy Kawasaki's name should be dropped somewhere along the way.
What my colleague and I ended up using for a 1-hour remote user study session were the following:
- Yugma for viewing the user's screen broadcast over internet.
- iShowU for recording my screen (including the screen broadcast).
- Audio Hijack Pro for recording the Skype conversation.
- Quicktime Pro for cropping audio and video and then manually synchronizing the two.
The overall result was pretty smooth and not too troublesome. I'd prefer less troublesome but we still managed to glean a solid stack of data from the session.
There's also this neat site Remote Online Usability Testing Wiki hosted by Bolt | Peters User Experience. Thank goodness the URL is only RemoteUsability.com -- phew. There's a nice list of remote usability-specific tools but most of them aren't products as much as they are services with products. I've got my eyes on ClickTale. I hope they let me try the Beta soon.