Moderated vs. unmoderated tests

This article explains when to use moderated and unmoderated tests to support and facilitate your goals.


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What is a moderated test?

  • A moderated test is a real-time interview with someone who tests your product or service (or the concept, prototype, or design of that product or service). Such interviews can also focus on user behavior and decision-making.
  • Moderated tests can be done remotely or in person.
  • Remote interviews with UserTesting are called Live Conversations.
    • Your interactions with participants occur in real-time in the same virtual space. 
    • Participants connect with you using a remote conferencing tool that allows you to communicate through video, phone, chat, or a combination of methods.



When to use a moderated test

Use moderated tests when you need to:

  • Ask individualized follow-up questions in real-time.
  • Ensure that participants do not get stuck while doing something difficult, like interacting with a complex or low-fidelity prototype.
  • Observe body language and pick up on the subtleties of participant behavior.
  • Collect feedback on an early design or prototype.

See what a moderated test looks like.



What is an unmoderated test?

  • An unmoderated test is when participants complete predetermined tasks without the guidance of a moderator.
  • The participant decides when and where they would like to complete the test, and they provide feedback out loud as they record their session. You review the recorded session at a later time.
  • Unlike a moderated test, an unmoderated test involves no communication with the participant in real-time.
  • Instead, you can ask predetermined follow-up questions in the test or follow up with the participant after viewing their session.
  • Because modifications cannot be done in the moment with the participant, unmoderated tests may require more effort up front.



When to use unmoderated tests

Use unmoderated tests when you need to:

  • Gather feedback quickly. A test can often be completed by UserTesting participants on the same day!
  • Ensure you’re getting unbiased participant feedback. Sometimes a moderator's presence can influence the response or behavior of a participant.
  • Complete other tasks while participants work on their structured activities. This is possible since a moderator does not need to be present during each session.

Check out how to test a prototype, website, or app on the platform.



Moderated vs. unmoderated tests

Here are the main differences between the two:

Moderated Unmoderated

Allows for individualized follow-up questions in real-time

Often features a quick turnaround in receiving contributor feedback

Real-time assistance from the moderator

Suitable for obtaining larger sample sizes

Can be conducted remotely or in person

Is self-guided and unmonitored



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