As part of an upcoming redesign project, I would like to conduct a contextual inquiry with some of our users. Due to COVID, I'm being advised to do this remotely (I normally would do this in-person).

Our product uses highly sensitive personal information. I've been told that real-time screen recordings that contain the sensitive information are prohibited (with good reason - someone could hack into the cloud recording system and breach the sensitive information).

Unlike playback recording software, I can't mask sensitive fields in real-time. And because I want to do a contextual inquiry to understand the current state, using "dummy data" wouldn't be correct.

Is my only option to do the exercise without recording the screen, and try to take the best possible notes? I suppose I could still capture audio and facial expressions (after asking the user to not vocalize any sensitive info), but is there an option I might be missing?

2 Answers 2


I feel like the benefit of a contextual enquiry is to get an appreciation of the environment within which the users operate in, in order to gain insight into some of the details and information that you won't be able to capture in an interview or out of the context of where the problem you want to solve exists.

So can you really perform a contextual enquiry remotely? I would argue that it doesn't actually make sense in this case, except maybe because a lot of jobs are performed remotely these days, it is actually one of the settings in which people do perform their work tasks.

I think the best way moving forward is to come back to what you really want to discover/uncover with the contextual enquiry, and work out the minimum amount of data/information that you need to try and capture. Then you can try doing a 'dry run' and figure out how much data/information you can capture remotely, then use complementary techniques (e.g. diary studies or task analysis) to fill in some of the gaps.

  • 1
    Remote CIs are definitely not ideal... I was thinking of asking the user to show me what they're doing outside of the system in the process of a workflow ("Can you hold up the notepad you just wrote on?"). The dry run is a great idea, thanks.
    – Izquierdo
    Aug 8, 2021 at 14:33
  • I guess it depends on what the user is comfortable with doing, but one idea might be for them to do a quick sketch/storyboard/diagram of what they are doing in a process (for those that like to draw). Basically the idea is to get them to provide the information in more than one way/format so that they can help you fill the gap and highlight things that might be obvious to them but not to you. But often this is hard to do in the same process as the task that they are performing (just think about how unnatural it is to ask some people to say out lout what they are doing/thinking).
    – Michael Lai
    Aug 8, 2021 at 22:33

For macOS, use Screenflow or QuickTime to record the session.

If using QuickTime, be sure to note the exact time that you started recording, then write down the time (hours:minutes:seconds) when you move to a new topic, question or discussion.

Noting the time will allow you to quickly find the part of the video later without scrubbing back and forth a lot.

If you use Screenflow (free to use, watermarks exports), you can use it's Add Marker functionality while recording to mark an important moment in real time.

Screenflow Marker UI: enter image description here

Otter.ai is also worth running at the same time. Otter.ai does an incredible job of transcribing a conversation, which you can use as notes. Otter allows for commenting and highlighting notes and inserting screenshots while recording.

Last but not least, you can also use a survey platform and testing platform such as Useberry to get analytics on survey questions, user tests and card sorting. We use MS Teams, or Zoom and send a link to the participants and ask them to share their screen while completing user tests in Useberry. At same time, record with Screenflow and Otter.ai.


  • Great information. I think the important thing is that there's no cloud-based recordings... I honestly hadn't considered recording my desktop. Thanks!
    – Izquierdo
    Aug 9, 2021 at 1:30

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