How To Provide Better User Experience Through Unmoderated User Testing

Maddie Tovar Written on March 11th, 2024, Last updated on March 11th, 2024

Almost all products and services meet a need. Your product should alleviate pain points and fulfil a purpose, promising to solve a problem your target audience has identified. And the better your product fulfils its promise, the more likely consumers are to buy it and recommend it to others. 

But how exactly do you establish whether your product is performing as desired? You get your users to test it themselves. This is known as user testing, and it’s one of the most accurate ways to measure the user experience of your products and collect user feedback. 

In this way, your users do the work for you, identifying potential bugs and pitfalls so you can fix them before other users find the same problem. In fact, just 5 users will find 85% of usability problems when testing continuously. User testing is especially important during product design, when issues are 10x cheaper to fix

In terms of conversion rate optimisation, user testing helps you understand user behaviour, preferences, and needs, helping to identify key pain points and desired outcomes to inform your marketing strategy. It’s useful for websites and apps, too, when you might not be able to pinpoint the reason behind a poor conversion rate, but your users will. Let’s explore how to carry out user testing as well as its advantages and challenges. 

Moderated vs unmoderated user testing

Moderated user testing involves a facilitator being present while the users carry out their tests. In unmoderated user testing, there’s nobody present as users test the products. 

Moderated user testing can you more control over the flow of the session and a moderator can ask follow-up questions and gather more user data. Unmoderated testing is cheaper and great for testing a product in the user’s natural context.  

Moderated testing is pricier (so factor in budget), and unmoderated testing is better suited to large-sample studies and it’s extremely scalable. Plus, there’s an argument that unmoderated testing produces less biased results because participants don’t feel pressure to answer in a way the moderator would be pleased with. 

The Benefits of Unmoderated User Testing

I hear you. You’ve already got a product team and a ton of market researchers, why could user testing possibly be a necessity? Here are just some of the reasons it’s a must for your new product development project. 

Identify usability issues

While your product team are undoubtedly great, they might not be the key demographic for your products. By letting your target audience use your products in their natural contexts, you’ll have a better chance of coming across usability or user experience issues. 

Improving user satisfaction

A strong indicator of how successful your product will be is how satisfied users are with it. And with 91% of customers not returning to a business after having a bad experience, user satisfaction should be a top priority. 

By having real end users test your products and feedback from a neutral standpoint, you’ll give yourself the best chance of boosting user satisfaction.  

Validating design decisions

Design decisions should be based on data analysis, not just personal preference. User testing can inform the design decisions made and give product teams validation for financial requests. 

Increasing conversion rates

If you’re user-testing your app or site, you can get real-time user feedback on what would encourage a user to take a desired action. This invaluable information can inform your future strategy, allowing you to optimise your site for the best possible conversion rate. 

Convenience and scalability for testing with a larger sample size

Unmoderated user testing can be easily scaled up. While you might start with just five participants in the room, these testing sessions can be easily scaled up to unmoderated tests with hundreds of participants. Unmoderated testing is much cheaper than moderated testing, too, so you can scale it up without breaking the bank. It’s much more cost-effective, and your budget can stretch to more sessions. 

Reduced bias as participants interact with the product independently

When you’ve built a product from the ground up, it’s difficult for you to see it objectively. After all, it’s your baby! Luckily, your users don’t have such biases, so they’ll give a third-party view of the product with no incentive to make it sound better or worse than it really is. 

Likewise, when there’s no moderator present, participants in unmoderated tests will find it easier to express their opinions without feeling like there’s a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ thing to say. 

Ability to gather insights from a diverse range of participants and demographics

With user testing, you can not only gather a range of participants that reflects not only your target audience, but also a diverse one, with the aim of including as many voices as possible. The greater the diversity of voices you hear, the more inclusive your product will be. Through this diverse user research, you can make sure your product is appropriate for all, taking accessibility into account.  

Plan & Prep for User Testing

Before you embark on unmoderated user testing, you’ll need a plan of action. Here’s how to prep for user testing sessions to set yourself up for success. 

  • Define objectives and goals. It’s good to go into the project with specific goals in mind, which will allow you to take a more targeted approach. Before you begin, define your objectives and how you’ll measure them at the end. 
  • Create test scenarios and tasks. Using your objectives and goals, create test scenarios and tasks that your users will carry out. Remember, don’t only test for things you’ve already spotted – the beauty of user testing is allowing participants to identify issues you wouldn’t have noticed. 
  • Recruit participants. Recruit participants through ads in the online spaces where your users hang out or by reaching out directly to your network of users. 
  • Set up the testing environment. With unmoderated testing, you won’t need a facilitator present, but you’ll still need an environment that encourages participants to use your product in every way possible. You can include prompts or directions written down to guide the test. 
  • Establish metrics for evaluation. Using those objectives you identified (I told you they’d come in handy!), establish the metrics you’ll use to judge the success of the product and the user feedback you want to hear. 

A note on screening questions

When recruiting participants, it’s worth ensuring users who are the target audience are selected to do the test – you can do this using screening questions. If your product or site is aimed at Gen-Z gamers, selecting elderly women to participate won’t give you useful insights. Focus on asking questions that don’t allow users to ‘work out’ the aim of the test, as this might influence their answers.

Executing Unmoderated User Tests

There’s no one right way to carry out unmoderated user testing, but a few top tips can ensure you execute it as successfully as possible. 

  • Clear communication.  While your testing environment should be unmoderated, participants should still have a clear understanding of what they’re supposed to be undertaking. Provide clear instructions and remove any barriers. 
  • Keep it simple. If the testing process is too difficult, you risk your participants ending up doing not very much because it’s too confusing or time-consuming. Keep the tasks as simple as possible for best results.
  • Monitor test progress. While a moderator won’t be present, somebody should still be on hand to monitor the test progress and troubleshoot any technical issues that arise.
  • Encourage user feedback. Allow participants to think aloud and request feedback via surveys or questionnaires. After all, the testing is only useful if you find out what participants really think. 
  • Review test results. Once the testing period is complete, review participant feedback and see how it can inform your future strategies. 

Analysing the Results

Reviewing results is a must after any batch of user testing. Taking a deep dive into what users did and didn’t life provides invaluable insights for the next stage of product development. Plus, you can use what they loved and incorporate it into your marketing strategy. 

  • Review quantitative metrics. Numbers are just as important as feedback. Review metrics such as task completion rates and time on task to assess your product’s performance. 
  • Analyse qualitative feedback. Listen to the user feedback given to participants and search for common themes – good and bad. Recent advancements in AI have made it easier than it ever has been to quantify qualitative data at scale.
    • Identifying common pain points. If something is mentioned by more than one test participant, it’s likely going to be noticed by more than one of your end users, too.
  • Create actionable insights. Analysis means nothing without action. Digest these insights from user feedback into actionable takeaways for your design team, boosting your product quality and customer satisfaction in the process. 

Things to Consider

Naturally, no type of user testing is perfect, and unmoderated testing comes with its own challenges. For one, you’ve got limited control over the testing environment and participant behaviour, which can make it more difficult to capture user feedback. 

For the best chance of success, make the testing process as simple as possible for participants, giving them a way to ask questions if they need to, and making instructions for tasks clearly accessible. There are ways to guide a discussion without a physical moderator present, so delve into cues and targeted surveys for insightful feedback. 

Unmoderated User Testing – Is It Worth It?

If getting an unbiased view of your products and gaining invaluable user feedback is a priority, unmoderated user testing is a must. With the help of the most valuable opinions you can gather, you’ll be able to increase conversion rates, boost the performance of your products, and reduce negative customer feedback with just one simple change. 

For more support in boosting those all-important conversion rates, we’re here to help. At Bind Media, we’re experts in all things paid media, CRO, and analytics. Get your free proposal here and discover how an award-winning Conversion Rate Optimisation agency can help your business thrive. 

Maddie Tovar Hiya, I’m Maddie 👋 Brand Marketing Executive at Bind Media. Started my career within PPC four years ago, however, did a 180 and now my day-to-day consists of SEO, content creation and social! Fun fact: I’ve got an obsession with making weirdly specific playlists on Spotify and talk in TikTok references only.

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