Moderated vs. Unmoderated Tests


UserTesting empowers you to get real human insight at various stages of your projects. Both moderated and unmoderated tests are offered to support and facilitate your goals. This article provides some clarification and guidance on when to choose a moderated or an unmoderated test.

What is a moderated usability test?

Through Live Conversation, you can conduct a moderated usability test, which allows your participants to complete various activities as you moderate. The interaction is in real time; they're in the same “virtual” space and connect using a remote conferencing tool such as Web conferencing, VoIP, phone, chat, or a combination of methods.

When to use a moderated test

Moderated usability tests are great when you would like to: 

  • Allow for unique, individualized follow-up questions in real time.
  • Ensure that participants do not get stuck while doing something technically difficult, like dealing with a complex or low-fidelity prototype.
  • Ensure quiet participants are more vocal since the moderator can prompt them to share what they are thinking.
  • Observe body language and pick up on the subtleties of participant behavior and feedback.

Resource: What does a moderated test look like?

What is unmoderated usability testing?

An unmoderated usability test is when participants complete predetermined activities on their own, without the guidance of a moderator. The participant decides when and where they would like to complete the test and provides feedback as they record their session.

The participant thinks out loud as they work on the tasks, and the researcher reviews the recorded sessions at a later time. Unlike a moderated test, the researcher does not communicate with the participant in real time. They may include follow-up questions as part of the test, or they may follow up with the participant after viewing the session.

Resource: Remote unmoderated usability test 

When to use unmoderated tests

Unmoderated tests are useful when you would like to:

  • Gather feedback quickly. A test can often be completed by UserTesting panelists on the same day!
  • Since a moderator does not need to be present during each session, you are able to complete other tasks while participants work on their structured activities.

Resource: Remote unmoderated usability test 

Moderated versus unmoderated tests

Moderated Test Unmoderated Test
Allows for individualized follow-up questions in real time Often generates a quick delivery of feedback
Moderator helps participants in real time Obtain larger sample sizes
Can be conducted remotely or in person Is self-guided and unmonitored

the difference between moderated and unmoderated tests is that with moderated tests you (or a moderator) have to be present to guide the participants through the tasks. With unmoderated tests, you do not need to be present and participants are in their natural environment. Based on your research objectives,  whether you want a high level of interaction between you and your participants, or you want your participants to do self-paced tasks, UserTesting offers both to help you meet your needs.

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