Moderated vs. Unmoderated Usability Testing: Which One to Use?

moderated vs. unmoderated usability testing

Usability testing is one of the most important parts of making an exceptional experience for your users. There are lots of usability testing methods and each one of them has its unique properties. However, we can put them into two main categories, moderated and unmoderated usability testing. These two are the types of usability testing in a bigger scheme. If you don’t know anything about them, don’t worry because this article is just for you.

Here we try to explain each one of these usability testing categories and mention their strengths and weaknesses. We also provide you with some of the best practices for each one. So, stay with us till the end. Let’s start. 

What Is the Best Software to Help You Out in Usability Testing?

As it is clear in the truelist report, user experience has a huge impact on the KPIs and conversion rate of a business. Therefore, you can’t just rely on the information you have and do usability testing on your own. It is wiser to get help when it is beneficial. In this case, a great user tracking software solution is all you need.

WatchThemLive is a user tracking service that will help you with its many tools. The tool that is most suitable for usability testing is session replay. By using session replay, you will be able to capture videos from your users while they are on your website. You can easily have a group of participants does some tasks on your website. Then, analyze their sessions to see what is going well and what’s not. 

You also have the option to filter the videos to narrow your research down and save valuable time. 

So, for a better and more efficient usability test, don’t forget to sign up and use WatchThemLive’s multiple tools.

What Is Moderated Usability Testing?

Moderated usability testing is the type of usability testing that requires an experienced tester to overwatch the process. Traditional usability testing takes place in a UX lab or in a corporate context. However, new testing solutions now allow for remote moderated usability testing as well.

Related Article: The Only Usability Testing Infographic You Must Keep

If the test is done remotely, participants must share their screens with the moderator in order for the test to take place in moderation in real-time. Participants are frequently asked to think aloud as they complete tasks, which enables the moderator to collect feedback in the process.

So, to put it in a nutshell, the aspect that makes a usability test moderated is the presence of a moderator, either in-person or remote. 

When to Use Moderated Usability Testing?

When you need a lot of interaction between you and your participant, moderated testing is the way to go; for example, if the task is complicated or needs certain explanations along the way.

It’s also a great approach to conducting interviews and gaining a better understanding of the customer journey and the pain points they might face during it. Also, remote moderated usability testing or the in-lab one are wonderful ways to pick up on subtle behaviors and responses by observing the participant’s body language. 

This form of test allows you to build a connection with your clients and have a natural discussion with them, which helps to establish trust and can lead to genuine feedback that other qualitative research methods may not be able to provide.

However, it must be mentioned here that this method requires lots of time and money, the two most important resources of any business. You can lower the sum by using the remote method but it still needs a remarkable amount of resources. So, you need to moderate the test’s costs by any means. 

What Is Unmoderated Usability Testing?

Unmoderated usability testing, unlike the previous method, is done in the participants’ own environment and doesn’t need anyone to manage the process. This method is usually faster and less expensive than moderated testing, making it an excellent alternative for UX projects with tight schedules and budgets.

The two categories are similar in many characteristics, with one exception: the presence of a moderator or the lack of it during the process. The fact that unmoderated usability testing doesn’t need a facilitator has a lot of effect on the whole process. 

It’s critical to recognize that unmoderated usability testing has a few significant flaws. It’s not a good idea to run unmoderated tests on complex projects, for example. Users may get confused, and the lack of instruction may lead to unreliable results.

When to Use Unmoderated Usability Testing?

Unmoderated usability testing is ideal for situations where you need fast results from a large group of users. This method can be used when you have particular questions that need to be answered, you need a big sample size, you frequently need feedback, or you want to observe participants in their natural environment.

The unmoderated usability test works very well remotely. The benefit of remote unmoderated usability testing is that it can be done at any time and from any location, and you usually get actionable feedback within a day or less. Since no moderator is required, the cost is often very lower than with moderated tests, allowing you to conduct more tests with a larger range of participants.

On the other hand, since unmoderated tests are fully unsupervised, they require participants to complete a fixed set of questions and tasks on their own without follow-up inquiries or explanations. You won’t be able to help participants if they run into problems, experience technical difficulties, or don’t do exactly what you have in mind.


As we mentioned before, user experience has a huge impact on the success or failure of a business. It is important to make an effort and see what your customers need and how you can make them happy so they keep coming back to you. One of the best ways to achieve this goal is by conducting usability testing.

Moderated and unmoderated usability testing both have their strengths and weaknesses. By using any of these methods, you can see if your product is moving on the right path or not. Make sure to use them in the right situation to make the most out of your time, effort, and resources. 

Cyrus Nambakhsh
Cyrus Nambakhsh
Cyrus is a serial entrepreneur, product-led-growth expert, a product visionary who launched 7 startups. He has built scalable platforms to help businesses and entrepreneurs. Visit my profile here: ==> For Guest Posts and Links Contact: [email protected]
Share This Article