Unmoderated usability testing is a research methodology that helps teams conduct research without the presence of a live moderator. Typically, participants engage with prompts or tasks remotely through an online platform like Hubble. Not having a real-time human moderator can lead to participants not fully understanding the context behind the study and this approach may not be suitable for complex tasks or scenarios that require in-depth understanding. On the other hand, it also offers several unique advantages, such as cost-efficiency, flexibility, and the ability to reach a wider and more diverse pool of participants. While there are both pros and cons to running unmoderated studies, we’ll explore some of the key benefits to decide whether unmoderated studies are suited for your next project’s needs.
1. Cost and Time Efficient
Unmoderated studies are typically more budget-friendly compared to traditional moderated studies that involve moderators to be present for each session. Once the study goes live, data can be collected relatively easier within a shorter time frame than moderated studies. In order for unmoderated studies to be successful, teams must make sure that the test is worded clearly and is easy to understand without the presence of a real-time moderator. Pilot-testing the study with another team member is strongly recommended to ensure the study flows as you expect it to.
Because unmoderated studies are conducted in a remote environment, it eliminates scheduling conflicts and enables a much broader pool of participants. As participants engage in the study or the product in their own environments, it can provide additional opportunities to observe how they interact with the product in real-world settings and get more contextual nuances. For example, one might observe the natural setup of their device and how they utilize different tool to accomplish a given task.
3. Large and Diverse Sample Size
Since participants can engage with the study remotely at their convenience, unmoderated studies can accommodate a larger and more diverse sample size than moderated studies. With the remote setup, it’s also easy to reach participants that live in different timezones and locations, creating opportunities for a wider target audience segmentation. Moreover, online platforms for unmoderated testing are typically capable of automatically collecting data and metrics, such as task completion rates and time on task, to help with quantitative data analysis.
4. Iterative Testing
The benefits listed above make unmoderated studies a viable option for iterative testing. The speed and convenience to set up a study, implement and evaluate design changes allow for repeated rounds of testing in a relatively short period of time. A lean approach to swiftly gauge user interaction, identify potential issues, and iterate on design will empower product teams to continue to fine-tune their features based on real user-driven feedback and behavior data.
Some of the benefits of running unmoderated testing boil down to efficiency, flexibility, and the ability to reach a diverse pool of participants. It’s important to note that it may not be suitable for all types of research. For complex tasks that require in-depth understanding or situations in which qualitative insights are crucial, moderated testing that delves into the deep why’s and how’s might still be the preferred approach. While there is no straight formula to decide when to run unmoderated studies, deliberately reviewing the research objectives and the target audience may help determine whether unmoderated testing is the right choice for your next project. If you have any thoughts on unmoderated user testing or have any questions on how to leverage Hubble for your user research, feel free to contact me at email@example.com.