Over the past year, research teams have seen more and more research requests paired with reduced resources, and, unfortunately, we don’t anticipate that changing anytime soon given the macro landscape. So how do teams manage the workload, get user feedback that is necessary to use resources wisely and build successful products, all while avoiding burnout? Tapping into unmoderated user testing is one answer, and the benefits of unmoderated usability testing go far beyond the ability to do more with less. Unmoderated research is a methodology that should be on the front line of your research roadmap and it’s a crucial piece of the product development process. It can be used to gather meaningful user feedback at scale, with more diversity of participants, and with more efficiency than more time-consuming and hands-on types of testing.
What is Unmoderated Research?
With unmoderated research, research studies, including concept and usability tests, are set up so that participants can complete them independently. There are fewer resources required than with moderated research and scheduling challenges are limited since these studies are typically conducted on the users’ own time. Participants take the survey or test on their computer, in their home or wherever they are, and there is no coordination required on the research team beyond setting up the test and recruiting participants remotely. Tests can be launched quickly and insights are available as the results come in, making it an incredibly efficient way to conduct research and receive real-time results.
Additionally, this type of unmoderated research gives you the ability to reach larger sample sizes and more diverse audiences. You’re not limited to those who are in your geographic region. Imagine reaching international audiences without waking up in the middle of the night to facilitate a moderated session.
When Does Unmoderated Research Make Sense?
In general, research and testing are always good ideas. You’ve probably seen this play out firsthand, by running your own test before iterating on concepts or working with user researchers to get feedback on a new feature and ending up in a totally different place than where you started. This can feel like a setback, but really you are saving incredible amounts of development time by not building something that your users won’t love or need. The best judge of whether or not a product or feature is worth your team’s time is hearing directly from users.
Of course, prioritization is critical in this environment, particularly when time and resources are thin, so we created a quick checklist of questions to ask that will help you determine if it’s worth running a test for a particular project.
- Is it part of the core flow of your user’s experience? Test!
- Is the user’s ability to do this particular action going to determine the success of the launch? Test!
- Is this an area where we anticipate users could have difficulty? Test!
- Does this change the way current customers are accomplishing their tasks? Is this going to impact what customers are currently doing? Test!
- Is there already an industry best practice here? Skip the Test!
- Is what you are looking to test simply a matter of user preference? Skip the Test!
- Do you have enough time to undertake this effort? Test!
There are so many instances when unmoderated testing makes sense, but where it really shines is when you need real-time feedback quickly. Because you don’t have to spend your time scheduling meetings with each test participant, it’s usually much faster and less resource intensive than running a moderated study. When you have excellent participant targeting, it’s not unheard of to launch a study and receive results back in just a few hours. This saves an incredible amount of time and effort on your end, especially when you’re looking at a long roadmap of potential features to build.
Five Benefits of Unmoderated User Research Testing
The benefits of unmoderated user research testing make it an essential tool for researchers looking to maximize their impact at their organization but unable to clone themselves to conduct more moderated interviews (the dream, right?). From efficiency to flexibility to cost-effectiveness, here are five of the top benefits of conducting unmoderated user research at your organization.
Unmoderated testing is often more efficient than moderated user testing. It doesn't require participants to be present at a specific time or place. It doesn’t require a live facilitator. It is a lighter ask it is easier to recruit participants and collect insights in a time frame that matches both their own schedules, as well as your development schedule. When you’re on a tight timeline, unmoderated testing can help you reach your goals significantly faster than scheduling, re-scheduling, coordinating, and conducting moderated research.
Unmoderated testing is more cost-effective than moderated usability testing because it doesn't require a researcher or a moderator to be present during the testing sessions in-person. It’s even more cost-effective when you factor in tooling to make participant recruitment and testing seamless. This saves employee time and resources by allowing companies to conduct more research on a limited budget, and it’s incredibly useful now as more research teams face increased asks with decreased resources. It’s easier to make a case for unmoderated research to stakeholders and execs when you can show it has a significant impact with a lesser cost.
Unmoderated testing allows for a larger number of participants since they can complete testing at their own convenience and no one has to manage the scheduling headache of live, moderated sessions. This provides a more representative sample of users within your target audience and demographic and increases the chances of uncovering valuable insights that can provide directional insights. When you want to reach a more comprehensive group or your users aren’t easily accessible, unmoderated testing gives you that far-reaching ability.
Unmoderated testing makes it so testers can complete the Usability or Concept Test in their own environment and on their own schedule. Some tools, like Sprig, let you capture video so you can still get a feel for body language while they complete the tasks in their own natural environment, without feeling like they’re under the watch of a researcher. This provides a more accurate representation of how they currently interact with the product in their everyday lives.
- Remote testing
Remote unmoderated usability testing can be done anywhere, which is especially beneficial for testing products that are notoriously difficult to test in a lab setting, like mobile apps or websites. Usability testing tools can help you reach users from a variety of geographic locations, allowing you to gather insights from a diverse group of users who better represent your actual user base. This is also helpful when you’re looking to invest in products or features that will reach new markets where you may not be able to easily travel for in-person research sessions.
Unmoderated research is not the only research method that you need for testing products and features to guarantee they’ll be successful, but it is a valuable and critical tool for product development teams, providing cost-effective, scalable, flexible, efficient, and remote testing options. And, when you’re being asked to do more with less, it can be a great way to gather user feedback and make user-informed decisions.
Are there Challenges to Conducting Unmoderated Research?
For all its benefits, there are a few challenges to consider that can prevent research and product teams from conducting more unmoderated research.
For starters, it can feel daunting to recruit users — but in-product surveys with a prompt for recruiting are one way to reach the right users fast. Recruiting users from your own product also ensures that you are reaching the exact right audience. If you recruit users out of product you run the risk that your panel isn’t exactly a match for your users or you have to use high incentives to get them to join a session. Often when you’re building a new product or feature, the best people to ask are those that know your product best and are already invested in their ability to use it more efficiently.
One of the biggest complaints about unmoderated concept tests is that you don’t have the opportunity to ask follow-up questions in-the-moment. One way around this is to include a question at the end of your test asking participants if they would be open to follow-up at a later time. You’ll be surprised to see how many people opt in to give feedback. People enjoy feeling like their voice is being heard and if they were open to taking the survey to begin with, it’s likely they’re also eager to offer you more of their thoughts and experiences with the product.
When weighing your options as you consider investing in an unmoderated research tool, the benefits far outweigh the challenges, making unmoderated research a choice that makes sense for research and product teams looking to optimize limited resources and derisk the design and decision process.
Want to get started? Create a Sprig account today and launch your first unmoderated test for free.