THE NEW NORMAL: UNMODERATED REMOTE USER EXPERIENCE TESTING
Remote unmoderated testing is a way for evaluating websites, prototypes, and mobile applications using online software or a specific remote user research platform. The participant attends the sessions all by themselves, answering questions that pop-up on the top right side of their screen. The questions could be task-related, over an online prototype, or simply over a blank page, asking them about their previous experiences or lifestyle. Then their front camera, screen, voice, and mouse movements are recorded.
Not only that unmoderated user studies give quick outcomes at a reasonable price; Participants are in their own environment, which allows them to act more naturally. You also have the capacity to collect data without requiring the assistance of a facilitator. Unmoderated studies do not require direct interaction between the researcher and the participants, which is both a benefit and a disadvantage (but we’ll come to that). Unmoderated testing is faster than a moderated study because there is no need to organize an individual meeting with each participant. Within a few hours, a study might be launched and findings received. This way, unmoderated studies also allow you to collect data from dozens, if not hundreds, of people at the same time. You also don’t have to get up at an insane hour to match users’ time zones for foreign study.
But this convenience comes with a cost! As every good thing :’) It is more difficult to engage participants when they are not face-to-face with an actual researcher. And you do not get to control the environmental distractors, as you would in a lab or an office. Yet in return you get to avoid social desirability bias, occurring when the participant has a product stakeholder in front of them face to face. You know, people tend to seek appreciation from others so they avoid conflicts in order to be liked. That also applies to when you’re moderated research. The participant is less likely to criticize your product to your face since they are already going to get their compensation too… So unmoderated tests are best when your prototype needs the least prior explanation when it is almost at the state where the consumer will use it at the privacy of their home and you need their most true experience, in their natural habitat, told with no reservations.
For early-stage prototypes that need a lot of prior explanation, leaving the participant alone is not a good idea. The frustration and confusion would heavily influence the data you collect. It is a must to provide real-time assistance in the case of an early-stage prototype, considering you would need the participant to focus on certain aspects while preferring other incomplete aspects to be overlooked.
Globalization made unmoderated remote UX testing a standard practice for enterprises, and the pandemic sped the adoption of remote research even more. Do not hesitate to jump in the unmoderated remote UX testing wagon since you now know the right cases to apply this method of research.