5 tips to ace your unmoderated user testing

Unmoderated user testing is fast becoming one of the most useful research approaches for designers, UX researchers and marketers alike.

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By Ace Bevacqua, March 19, 2020

This is a guest post with our awesome friends at Optimal Workshop, written by David Renwick. Enjoy! 😉

There’s nothing as valuable as fast feedback in the world of product design, especially when it’s useful data from the people who will likely end up using the end product. To that end, unmoderated user testing is fast becoming one of the most useful research approaches for designers, UX researchers and marketers alike.

But there’s a lot that goes into a successful unmoderated user test. So, to get the most out of this process, we’ve put together this list of 5 tips. If you’ve got any of your own, leave a comment below.

1. Find a great source of participants

One of the first activities you’ll need to complete as part of your unmoderated user test is finding test participants. If you’ve ever done in-person testing before then this process will differ slightly in that you’ll be looking for exclusively remote users.

2. Nail your UX toolkit

Key to the unmoderated user research process is a powerful toolkit. After all, the tools you use to run your unmoderated test will determine both the completion rates for participants and the quality of the data you’ll get out at the end.
As you probably already know, there’s no shortage of unmoderated testing tools available – and the number continues to grow every day.

Here are just a few of our favourites:

  1. Optimal Workshop – 5 powerful user research tools covering a range of user research methods.
  2. Askable – Easy participant recruitment with the ability to filter demographics and run screener questions.
  3. Usertesting.com – Add a qualitative data element to your quantitative research by learning why people do the things they do during your test.

Our main piece of advice? Trial a few different tools and research methods to determine what works best for you. If you’re anything like us, you’ll find that your ideal toolkit ends up being a mixture of different tools.

3. Test your test

Before you ever send out your unmoderated test to a group of participants, it’s crucial that you test it internally. Unlike a moderated (in-person) user test where you’re able to explain and clarify throughout, once an unmoderated test is out the door you can’t help your participants. Tests are also a great opportunity to fix typos and broken links.

Even better: Run a few test runs with different internal teams! You never know what feedback you’ll receive from your sales versus marketing teams, for example.

4. Screen your participants

Even in cases where you’ve used a dedicated recruitment service and selected a group of participants matching your exact study requirements, it always pays to run your participants through screening questions. These questions help us to ensure that the people answering our study are the right people.

As for how to structure your screener questions, make sure they’re neutral statements and don’t lead participants on. You can also ensure you only let the right participants in by asking questions which include terminology only your audience knows.

5. Analyze your results

Lastly, there’s the analysis. One of the benefits of unmoderated user research is that, more often than not, you’ll be running your studies using online tools. These tools typically include analysis components – and this is where you can truly take advantage of the capabilities of unmoderated research.

Let’s use the card sorting tool OptimalSort as one example of how this typically works. OptimalSort lets you find out how people think the content on your website or app should be organized using a research method known as card sorting. In a moderated card sort, you’d need to analyze the results of your studies at the conclusion of your research – manually. With OptimalSort (an unmoderated tool), you’ll have analysis generated automatically as participants complete the test. That means both data can you can use and visualizations suitable to present to stakeholders and other interested parties.

OptimalSort isn’t an exception, there are a number of powerful unmoderated tools available online. With recent global events straining the ability for researchers to travel and meet up with participants face-to-face, there’s no better time to consider the benefits of unmoderated user testing over the internet. If you’re interested in reading more, check out the Optimal Workshop blog.

Wrap up

So, that was a high-level look at a few tips for unmoderated user testing. When you take the time to set up and run these tests correctly, they can be one of the best ways of giving you useful, actionable data.

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