By Owen Fay . Posted on June 3, 2022

Do you know how unmoderated usability testing works but you’re worried about losing the value of face-to-face testing? Usability testing has grown in popularity with new and exciting tools emerging. But, there seems to be a lot of skepticism from researchers about unmoderated remote user testing. A lot of the concerns are the loss of value from face-to-face research.

Maybe like many other researchers, you are reluctant to, but in this blog, I am going to explain why unmoderated remote testing isn’t just diet research, or for people that don’t have the time or resources to do face-to-face testing.

These tools have a number of great advantages, especially used in collaboration with moderated testing, but it’s not a direct replacement for your in-person testing process.

Rather than trying to convince you to make a full switch from moderated testing to a tool like Poll the People, why not use both?

What is Unmoderated Remote Testing?

Unmoderated, remote user testing is exactly what it sounds like. It is not monitored by a test instructor or guided, there is no additional cost to hire a researcher, and no one is present during the test other than participants. The users complete tasks and answer questions on their own time, when and where they want.

A specific resource presented to participants is usually provided by the testing tool. The participant is given a task to perform when they view the design, website, or prototype. They explain their thoughts when answering the test questions to provide the tester with qualitative and quantitative data.

This method is ideal for quickly evaluating concepts and designs with a wide range of people. If you have particular questions that need to be answered, you need a big sample size, or you need feedback rapidly, unmoderated is a great way to validate resources.

Unmoderated testing can bring a lot of value to your user research process and help you move things forward much more quickly while spending less money.

The following are a few reasons every company should include unmoderated testing in their testing strategy.

1. Your Toolkit Should Be Diverse

Just like any successful team the tools you use to gather research should be diverse. Different tools give different benefits, allowing you to test and analyze with different levels of confidence, precision, and complexity.

In-person and moderated testing is without a doubt a valuable process that allows you to understand users and empathize with them. However, it can be a long and expensive process. Iterating these tests can be unrealistic for small or medium-sized businesses. Instead of restricting your research to fit within the technical limits of a particular tool, use a tool or multiple that has the features perfectly suited for your testing goals. You can define must-haves for the testing software if you have clearly stated your research goals.

Unmoderated testing is a great way to get quick feedback for a lot less money than the other methods. A good research toolkit might include:

  • Face-to-face interviews
  • In-person usability testing
  • Surveys
  • Remote usability testing
  • A/B testing

Knowing how to design and test in multiple ways is important to creating an effective research process. Having a well-rounded toolkit for your research process will help your business get the most out of your testing. Just like you wouldn’t travel from Massachusetts to New Hampshire the same way you travel from Massachusetts to California, you shouldn’t use just one research method to gather all your data.

2. Using the Right Tool at the Right Time

Assuming you know how to make the most out of your toolkit’s resources, how do you recognize when each tool should be used?

The first thing to identify is the stage of the testing process you are in. The tool you use in each stage might be different, you need different types of feedback and have varying amounts of time and budget to do your research.

Some of the stages are as follows:

Ideation Stage

In some ways, ideating and plotting the details of remote testing is the most important element of the entire process. However, in this stage, you might not need as much time or have as much money for research as in future stages. Utilizing a quicker and more cost-effective research method can help validate your ideas before spending more time and money on them.

Problem-solving stage

You’ll still be learning about what clients or users are having trouble with and where their pain spots are during the problem-solving stage. Structured interviews, card sorts, questionnaires, and other methods of experimental studies can all be used here. You might start usability testing here to begin to understand the user experience associated with your idea.

Creation stage

You’ll carefully arrange the flow you’ll lead your participants through at this stage. You’ll need real, actionable feedback to learn how users interact and understand your prototype. Unmoderated testing can be a great way to get rapid insights on your first iteration of the resource. A lot of times this is where businesses start their moderated or face-to-face interviews.

Implementation stage

The implementation stage of your idea, product, or service typically needs in-depth research. You should be testing the final changes and last tweaks to ensure your resource is ready for launch day. This is where moderated testing is very effective, you need to gather specific feedback to validate the final design. However, unmoderated testing can still be effective here. A quick “last check” of your design will ensure there are no hidden issues or bugs.

3. Validating Assumptions & Ideas

You can validate some of your assumptions by testing ideas, concepts, designs, and functionalities. Moderated remote testing is the quickest and easiest way to validate your assumptions and ideas before moving forward with them.

Using a tool like Poll the People to quickly receive feedback on your assumptions is an excellent method to reduce the risk of biases in research or design. It allows you to bring proof to back up your claims, eliminating disagreements because you have the data to back up the decision.

A last remote usability testing can help a cross-functional team confirm their thoughts before going live, but it doesn’t replace the research done in previous stages.

4. Leverage Rapid Feedback for Iterations

Face-to-face moderated testing takes time, it can be hard to iterate your research and test all of your ideas with the high time and cost attached.

The rapid feedback from unmoderated testing can help a business test multiple ideas, concepts, or designs at a low cost. Not all testing feedback cycles are quick; some moderated studies can take several weeks or months to collect data, even before analysis.

Unmoderated testing takes only an hour with Poll the People, and a test with 100 users costs less than $50. It lets you quickly test simple assumptions or ideas and iterate quickly.

You can leverage the lost cost and fast feedback in addition to the moderated research to test all of your concepts and variations of your designs.

At some stages of the testing process, you might be testing a lot of variations quickly, when you are in other stages of research you might be more willing to give these tests more time. Utilizing multiple tools that give different benefits will help paint the full picture of your research.

5. Gather More Feedback with More Flexibility

One major reason to add unmoderated testing to your tool belt is diversifying feedback and adding flexibility.

Remote testing identifies the issues in the ideas and allows you to fix them before the product launch, rather than after it is launched in the market. There should be flexibility in creating and customizing any part of your business. Through unmoderated remote testing, you’ll be able to get instant feedback.

The feedback will allow you to constantly make changes to optimize the business. An added benefit of consistently remote testing elements of your business is the audience might give you new ideas that you might have never thought of.

Moderated testing is usually conducted in small groups, the participants are more niche and hand-picked to get detailed feedback. Larger user panels and a more diversified mix of people are typically used in remote, unmoderated testing. Poll the People, for example, draws on a panel of over 500k users to provide you with diverse and representative opinions.


Ultimately, remote unmoderated testing isn’t only a lesser substitute for in-person, moderated testing, but rather a useful tool that you can use in addition to your current research methods.

Interpreting the findings of unmoderated usability testing takes practice, just like anything else. Finding the right testing goals, formulating your test questions, and testing the right resources are all things that need a lot of attention in both moderated and unmoderated testing.

The greatest method to practice is to conduct the tests on a regular basis. Find a good tool, like Poll the People, and test whenever you need quick feedback. You will not only improve your research, but you will also learn a lot about your audience and see improved resources.

It’s sometimes necessary to spend a lot of time and money on face-to-face research, while other times utilizing unmoderated studies is a more effective research method. If you’re ready to add unmoderated testing to your tool belt, sign up for free with Poll the People.

Owen Fay

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