Unmoderated usability testing_UserQ

The aim of all usability testing methods is to give must-know user feedback so that products and services meet the user’s needs and expectations. But there’s one particular type we’re going to focus on today: unmoderated usability testing. 

Usually unmoderated user testing is the quickest and cost effective way to validate a product — not to mention the types of tests that people can do remotely from the comfort of their own home (a big win these days).

So here’s your full unmoderated usability testing 101…benefits, drawbacks, best practices, differences from moderated testing, and must-try usability testing tools to get you started as a new-found UX expert. Let’s go.

What is unmoderated usability testing?

It’s all in the name. Unmoderated user testing (AKA remote usability testing) involves getting participants to use and interact with your product/service/survey independently. In other words without the  presence of a moderator

Participants are given tasks to complete, instructions to follow, and questions to answer on their own – by an interface that guides them through the steps. Their interactions and answers are then recorded for later analysis by the researcher.

Unmoderated vs. moderated usability testing

As you’ve probably guessed, moderated usability testing is the exact opposite, ie. user tests carried out with the presence of a moderator. Typically, the moderator plays a vital hands-on role in the experience – whether it’s directly guiding them through tasks or answering real-time questions. 

Although moderated and unmoderated user testing both have their merits, choosing between them depends on your unique research goals and resources. We’ll delve a little deeper into their biggest differences…


Involves a live moderator

Flexible structure

Scheduled sessions in a testing lab

Produces more qualitative data

Usually conducted with a smaller sample size

Provides real-time feedback


An interface guides the user

Fixed structure

Conducted remotely on the participant’s time

Produces more quantitative data

Usually conducted with a large sample size

Data is analysed post-test

When should you use unmoderated usability testing?

Well, we think unmoderated user testing is best for when…

  • you need to collect data from a large and diverse pool of participants
  • there are time and budget constraints 
  • the tasks are pretty straightforward and don’t require extensive clarification
  • you’re after quantitative data.

Pros and cons of unmoderated usability testing

So why might you carry out unmoderated usability testing? What are some benefits? And likewise, what challenges might you face? What are its limitations?

The pros:

  • Cost and time-efficiency
    Without the need for a dedicated moderator, your research has reduced costs and time constraints. 
  • Larger sample sizes
    A cheaper and faster turn-around of results means you can enlarge your pool of participants until you’ve got the data you need.
  • Flexibility
    Participants can take the test and engage with your product at their own convenience. Geographical location and time zone don’t have to come into play.  Flexibility also means you can test amongst a more diverse pool of participants.
  • Natural behaviour
    A moderator can influence a test whether they mean to or not. Whereas unmoderated tests tend to encourage more natural behaviour amongst participants – leading to unbiased insights and authentic feedback.
  • Quantitative data
    Unmoderated tests are apt for quantitative data, including valuable metrics like  s, and the time it took participants to complete tasks.

The cons:

  • Lack of clarity
    Some participants may struggle with tasks because of misunderstandings that a moderator could easily clarify. A pre-written set of clear instructions is very much needed!
  • Limited feedback depth
    Although quantitative data is rich, unmoderated tests lack the qualitative data of in-depth human observations, behaviours, and explanations that moderators can pick up on.
  • Technical challenges
    Although most remote testing tools are top-notch these days,  some participants still might face technical issues while interacting with your testing platform, which can lead to skewed and invalid results.

Tips for conducting unmoderated usability tests

Unmoderated usability tests require careful planning, thoughtful execution, and strategic analysis — so here are our top tips for conducting a remote test with flying colours. 

  • Create crystal-clear instructions
    Make sure all tasks and instructions are easy to understand and simple to follow to avoid confusion.
  • Experiment with pilot testing
    Don’t forget you can conduct a pilot test with a smaller test group to identify any potential issues, before running the real thing.
  • Analyse like a pro
    Once you’ve collected your data, dedicate time to thorough analysis. Look for patterns, trends, and outliers in the quantitative data, then extract valuable insights from qualitative responses.
  • Just keep testing
    Think of unmoderated usability tests as a continuous improvement process. Don’t be afraid to create more design tests if needed and repeat the process. Iterating each test means you’re truly taking feedback into consideration and making thoughtful improvements.
  • Combine quantitative and qualitative data
    We recommend supplementing your analysis with qualitative insights to gain a more holistic understanding. Try adding open-ended questions to the tasks so participants can share their thoughts, opinions, and suggestions (our own UserQ platform allows you to add both introductory and conclusion questions). 
  • Choose the right method
    What type of test you conduct depends on what kind of data you need, the questions you’re trying to answer, and what stage you’re at in the design process. Our own UserQ site is a multi-tool platform – meaning we’ve got a wide range of remote tools you can pick from, including tree tests, card sorting, preference tests, and more. Check out our comprehensive guides to browse which might be most suitable. 
  • Choose the right tool
    Research and choose an unmoderated usability testing tool that has got the features needed: whether it’s video-based recordings, live interviews, prototype testing, heatmaps, participant recruitment, etc. Whatever tool you use, it should also provide a user-friendly experience for your participants and you as the researcher.

Here’s our list of the best user research tools in 2023. It’s packed with all the info you need to discover the right unmoderated usability testing tool for you – including prices and standout features.

To sum up

Remote unmoderated usability testing is a go-to alternative to traditional moderated testing, bringing with it the no-fuss and money-saving bonuses of time efficiency, larger sample sizes, and more authentic user behaviour insights. 

While it doesn’t replace the need for moderated testing in all kinds of scenarios, it’s still a hugely powerful tool to have in your toolkit when a cheaper and quicker turn-around of valuable data is needed.

Here at UserQ, it’s all about picking from the right usability testing tools and recruiting participants from our specially-designed MENA panel. Find out more about our extensive pool of over 10,000 participants, all based in countries across the MENA region including United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.

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