How to include an observation team during remote user testing

On the last day of a Designathon – our one-week innovation format – we are always super curious how well a digital product will be received by its users. We recently had an intense week of workshopping and an insightful user test in the end with a start-up in the shoe industry. While doing everything remotely, we needed to have a way for everyone in the team to be able to join each user test and to take notes (with each individual tester prior giving consent).

In his book „Design Sprint, “Jake Knapp mentioned that having observers in another room, enabling them to take notes and have a chat during the test, is super valuable because the moderator can’t take notes during the test. Therefore splitting up these tasks (conducting the user test by the moderator and taking notes by the Designathon team) makes things move effectively. When conducting a remote user test, it is possible to include the observers in the actual call, mute them, and turn off their camera. However, from past tests, I feel that some testers felt observed and intimidated. So how can the „observation room" environment be achieved digitally?

Of course, there are wonderful tools like lookback where testers can open a link with the displayed prototype and observers open another link for the live stream. However, testers may feel overwhelmed by installing a Chrome plugin, digging into system privacy settings, and restarting their browser. I feel like valuable time is lost. This is crucial when conducting a Designathon where time is limited, and 4 tests are happening in the afternoon.  

That’s why I wanted to share how to use Google Meet for the actual user test and have a separate live stream (another Google Meet) for the observation team running simultaneously. It sounds a bit crazy, but the way it works is like this: Think of the very familiar setup with a laptop and an attached display. However, the display’s only function is to project the same content from your Mac. Now exchange that „dumb“ display with the iPad using the “sidecar” functionality, and boom: you have not only a display but also a display that can run apps 😉

To get started, here are a few things that you need (I had in my setup):

  • MacBook pro
  • Google Chrome browser
  • An iPad
  • Google Meet app for iOS

What you have to do is the following:

  • Start using your iPad as an extended screen by accessing the control center on your Mac display and here, select your iPad. Now you should have extended your Mac’s screen and it should be displayed on your iPad.
  • Access your home screen and open the Google Meet app on your iPad. Start the video call with the observation team here, share your screen, turn off your iPad’s camera and enable the microphone.
  • Once that video call is running, open the sidecar app icon in your iPad’s doc and now you should see your Mac screen again.
  • On your Mac open Chrome (e.g. from Google calendar) and open the Google meet link that you want to have your user testing done (this is the one you conduct the actual user testing with the testing person)
  • Drag the Chrome window of the Google Meet call with the user tester to your extended screen (your iPad)
  • What you have now is that the call with the user tester will be screen recorded from your iPad, but the call is actually happening on your Mac (just not the Mac’s screen)

So this is the setup I used, and it worked just perfectly! What are your experiences in remote user tests and including the observation team?

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Written by

Marco Torrente


Marco Torrente


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