Illustration by Wendy Fox

In response to social distancing restrictions that have been implemented around the world to slow the spread of COVID-19, people working in design (UX, service or policy) and research (user, social, market, etc.) have been grappling with what it means to do their work in restricted ways.

After years or decades of advocating that product, service or policy directions be informed by lived experience, genuine understandings of human needs and behaviours, and most recently by the inclusion of users in the decision-making process (through methods like co-design), it can seem like an insurmountable challenge to have have many of the those methods removed or diminished. It can seem like it’s too hard.

You shouldn’t despair, though. Rather than scrambling to upgrade your Zoom account so that your user interview can go longer than 45 minutes, you can think more productively and creatively about the opportunities that conducting research remotely provides. Like any design constraint, social distancing shuts down some possibilities but opens up many others.

Remote research, done right, can:

  • include a more diverse range of participants
  • give you more windows into a participant’s life
  • give you fresher, high-fidelity insights
  • empower participants by giving them more tools to express themselves with
  • create a dynamic of collaboratively building knowledge rather than a researcher extracting information
  • invite clients deeper into the sense-making process.

I’ve written more on each of these possibilities, as well as the challenges of remote research, over on Medium. Give it a read.

–– Chris Marmo and the PG Team

Read the rest of Issue #58 here