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Unmoderated Usability Testing (2023): Step-By-Step Guide with Free Tool Provided

Yoong Shien
April 14, 2023
5-star rating
Reviews on Capterra
Unmoderated Usability Testing (2023): Step-By-Step Guide with Free Tool Provided

As a UX designer, your primary goal is to create seamless, engaging, and effective user experiences. A crucial component of achieving this lies in the power of unmoderated usability testing. This invaluable method provides essential data and insights, allowing you to optimize your designs for exceptional performance.

In this comprehensive guide, our team of UX design experts will provide you with all the knowledge you need to excel in unmoderated usability testing, ensuring you stand out as an industry leader.

We will cover:

  1. Definition of unmoderated usability testing
  2. Benefits of unmoderated usability testing
  3. Step-by-step guide to conducting unmoderated usability testing (with tips from Howuku's UX experts)
  4. FREE unmoderated usability research tool with session recordings to pinpoint user interactions

What is Unmoderated Usability Testing

Unmoderated usability testing is a type of user testing in which participants complete tasks and interact with your designs independently, without your direct influence or guidance. Participants follow a set of predefined tasks and scenarios at their convenience, allowing for authentic, honest, and unbiased feedback.

Unmoderated vs moderated usability testing

Aspect Unmoderated Usability Testing Moderated Usability Testing
Interaction No direct interaction between the tester and participants. Moderator guides and interacts with participants.
Cost More cost-effective due to the absence of a moderator. Higher costs due to dedicated moderators and facilities.
Scalability Easier to gather data from a larger number of users. Limited by the availability of a moderator.
Bias Reduced risk of influencing user behavior. Potential for moderators to inadvertently influence user behavior.
Insights Relies on self-reported data, may be less detailed. In-depth exploration of user behavior, more nuanced insights.
Flexibility Limited opportunity to probe for additional information. Moderators can adapt tests in real-time and clarify instructions.

Unmoderated usability testing is a remote method in which participants complete tasks on their own without direct guidance or supervision from a moderator. This type of testing is typically conducted using online tools like Howuku, which enable users to access the testing environment from their own devices at their convenience.

On the other hand, moderated usability testing involves a designated moderator who guides the participant through the test, providing instructions, answering questions, and probing for additional insights as needed. This method is typically conducted in person or remotely via video conferencing platforms.

Both research methods have their own unique advantages and challenges, and choosing the right one for your project depends on your goals and the resources at your disposal.

Benefits of Unmoderated Usability Testing

There are several advantages to incorporating unmoderated usability testing into your UX design process. Let's take a closer look at some key benefits:

  1. Flexibility: Since participants aren't required to coordinate with a facilitator or follow a strict schedule, unmoderated usability testing offers greater flexibility for users and designers alike.
  2. Cost-effectiveness: Unmoderated usability testing can be more affordable than traditional moderated tests, as there's no need for an on-site facilitator, lab space, or travel expenses for participants.
  3. Efficiency: By allowing multiple tests to be conducted simultaneously, unmoderated usability testing can save you time, enabling faster improvements to your designs.
  4. Authentic user behavior: By removing the presence of a moderator, participants are more likely to exhibit natural behaviors and reactions, making for more reliable and actionable data.
  5. Global reach: Unmoderated usability testing allows you to easily gather feedback from participants all over the world, providing diverse perspectives and insights.

“Usability rules the Web. Simply stated, if the customer can't find a product, then he or she will not buy it.” -- Jakob Nielsen

Armed with a clear understanding of the benefits of unmoderated usability testing, it's time to explore how you can effectively integrate this approach into your UX design process.

Steps of Unmoderated Usability Testing

Conducting effective unmoderated usability testing is crucial for UX designers to gain valuable insights and improve their products and services. Following a systematic and organized approach can yield more accurate and actionable results.

Below, we discuss the essential steps UX designers must follow to execute successful unmoderated usability testing.

1. Identifying the Objectives

Before diving into the usability testing process, it's important to set clear goals and objectives. These objectives guide the entire testing process and help in narrowing down the focus on specific areas that need improvement. Some common objectives include:

  • Identifying bottlenecks in the user journey
  • Assessing the effectiveness of a particular design element
  • Evaluating the overall usability of a product or service

By having specific objectives, UX designers can design the test plan accordingly and analyze the results more effectively.

Howuku tip: Your objectives should be SMART -- specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound so that the insights gathered are actionable.

2. Selection of Participants

Choosing the right participants is crucial for the success of the unmoderated usability testing. Here are some factors to consider when selecting participants:


Define the demographics of your ideal participants, such as age, gender, location, and socioeconomic status, to match your target audience. This ensures that the feedback received during the test is relevant and reflective of your user base.


Participants should have the necessary background and familiarity with the kind of product or service being tested. This enables them to provide more meaningful and informed feedback during the test.

Howuku tip: Also consider your participants' motivations, needs, and pain points when recruiting for your usability study.

Sample Size

Determine the ideal number of participants needed to obtain statistically significant results. A larger sample size is typically preferred for more reliable insights, but it's essential to balance the sample size with the available resources and timeline.

3. Creating a Comprehensive Test Plan

A well-designed test plan is the backbone of any successful unmoderated usability testing. Consider including the following elements:

Testing scope

Depending on your research objectives, your usability study could involve testing all the primary use cases, one newly released feature, or even conducting a full-scale optimization project on an existing website or app.

Task Definition

Define a set of tasks that participants need to complete during the test. These tasks should align with the identified objectives and cover the key aspects of the product or service being evaluated.


To help participants understand and engage with the tasks better, provide them with relatable context through scenarios. These scenarios should replicate real-world situations, enabling participants to imagine themselves as actual users interacting with your product or site.

Consider these factors while crafting scenarios:

Real-World Scenarios

Develop scenarios that accurately represent how users will interact with your website or product in their daily lives. This will allow you to gather more genuine insights into their behavior patterns and decision-making processes.

  • Use concrete examples and situations familiar to your target audience
  • Create scenarios for both new and returning users, if applicable

Task Complexity

Striking a balance between the difficulty level of tasks is essential to avoid participant frustration and ensure the effectiveness of the test. Consider the following while setting task complexity:

  • Start with simpler tasks and gradually increase complexity as participants become more familiar with the product or site
  • Avoid tasks that are excessively difficult or time-consuming, as they may discourage participants and skew results

Time Limits

Allocate appropriate time limits for each task to keep participants focused and avoid unnecessary stress or fatigue. Consider these points when setting time limits:

  • Estimate the average time required to complete each task and add a buffer for participants who may need extra time
  • Clearly communicate the time limits to participants before they start the test

With these steps in mind, UX designers can ensure a streamlined process for conducting unmoderated usability tests and obtaining valuable insights to improve their products and services.

In the upcoming sections, we'll explore how to conduct the test efficiently and analyze the data obtained to further enhance your UX design. And finally, we'll introduce you to Howuku – an all-in-one solution designed to support UX designers throughout their unmoderated usability testing process.

4. Conducting the unmoderated usability test

Executing an unmoderated usability test effectively and efficiently is crucial for gathering meaningful insights into a website's user experience.

In this section, we will explore the essential steps required to carry out such a test, and discuss the importance of selecting the right tools, effectively communicating with participants, and monitoring their progress throughout the test.

Test platform selection

Choosing the correct platform or tool for conducting unmoderated usability testing plays a critical role in the success of the test. A suitable platform should offer the following capabilities:

  1. Tracking user interactions and clicks
  2. Recording users' screens during the test
  3. Facilitating communication between participants and administrators
  4. Analyzing test data

There are numerous usability testing tools available in the market, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. When selecting a platform, consider factors such as your budget, technical requirements, and the tool's compatibility with your existing systems.

Communication with participants

Clear and timely communication with test participants is vital to ensure the success of the usability test. The following sub-sections cover some best practices and tips for communicating with participants effectively.

Test preparation

Before the test, participants should be informed about the following:

  • The estimated duration of the test
  • Any required software or browser extensions to be installed
  • Possible need for a quiet environment during the test

It's also beneficial to provide a brief explanation of the test's purpose and overall objectives. This information will allow participants to adequately prepare for the test, reducing the chances of issues arising during the process.

Support during the test

Though unmoderated usability tests are designed to be self-guided, it is crucial to offer some degree of support or assistance to participants if they encounter difficulties during the test. This support can be provided through:

  • Email
  • Live chat
  • Telephone hotline

Providing support channels helps maintain participant engagement and minimizes the risk of losing valuable test data due to user frustration.

Howuku tip: Unexpected issues such as technical difficulties, participant dropouts, or unanticipated user behaviour are inevitable. You can minimise them by conducting a pilot test before the actual usability study.

5. Post-test feedback

After completing the test, gather feedback from participants to further understand the reasons behind their actions and decision-making during the testing process. Some methods of gathering post-test feedback include:

  • Surveys
  • Online questionnaires
  • Phone interviews

By obtaining feedback from participants, UX designers can gain valuable insights into the user experience, which may not be evident from quantitative data alone.

6. Analyzing and Improving Based on Testing Data

Once the unmoderated usability testing is completed, it's time to analyze and interpret the data collected from the test to identify areas of improvement and enhance the overall user experience.

This section will guide you through both quantitative and qualitative analysis techniques to help you gain valuable insights from your unmoderated usability testing data.

Quantitative Analysis

Quantitative analysis involves analyzing numerical data and identifying trends and patterns in the test results. This type of analysis helps in understanding common user behaviors, measuring task completion rates, and identifying areas of the design that may need improvement.

Some key aspects of quantitative analysis include:

  1. Time spent: Analyze the average time spent by participants on tasks, and compare it with the expected completion time. This will help you understand if tasks were easy, just right, or too complex for users.
  2. Click path analysis: Trace the path users take through your website or application during the test. This can reveal unexpected bottlenecks, confusion, or areas that remain unexplored by users.
  3. Conversion rates: Measure the conversion rates for specific goals, such as signups or sales, to determine the effectiveness of your design in driving users towards completing the desired actions.

Qualitative Analysis

Qualitative analysis focuses on understanding participants' behavior, decision-making processes, and overall user experience. By examining users' actions and feedback in more detail, you can gain better insights into why users behaved in a certain way and identify areas for improvement.

Some important aspects of qualitative analysis include:

Task Completion Rates

Monitor the percentage of participants who successfully completed the tasks provided during the test. Low task completion rates may indicate problems with your design, while high completion rates indicate that users can easily navigate and achieve their goals.

User Errors

Identify and analyze frequent errors and problems experienced by participants while trying to complete tasks. Examining these errors can help you identify areas of your design that need improvement, such as unclear or confusing navigation, complexity in instructed tasks, or inadequacies in the design's intuitiveness.

User Feedback

Collect and analyze user feedback, including comments and suggestions. This can provide valuable insights into users' preferences, expectations, and potential pain points when interacting with your design. Consider this feedback when making design modifications to better cater to your target audience.

Howuku tip: Triangulating your insights from different data sources can help you map out a more accurate and well-rounded understanding of your users' behavior.

7. Continuous Improvement

After analyzing your unmoderated usability testing data, it is important to implement changes and improvements in your design based on the findings. Continuously iterate and improve your design, ensuring that you are addressing user feedback, correcting errors, and enhancing overall user experience. Then, conduct follow-up usability testing to validate the effectiveness of your improvements.

Remember, providing a seamless user experience is a continuous process. Regularly conducting unmoderated usability tests, collecting data, and making informed improvements based on the analyzed data will significantly enhance your user experience, ultimately leading to better conversion rates, user satisfaction, and overall success.

By following these steps to analyze and improve your design based on the testing data, you'll be well on your way to unlocking the full potential of unmoderated usability testing for your projects.

Stay tuned for the next section, where we will discuss how Howuku can help you in conducting seamless unmoderated usability tests.

All-in-One Unmoderated Usability Testing Tool: Howuku

Using the right tool for the job is just as important. Ideally, your tool should come with other user behavior analytics features to pinpoint when, what, and how users interact with your website or app.

But most tools don't have that, and those that do can cost up to thousands when scaling your website traffic.

Introducing: Howuku.

Using Howuku for Unmoderated Usability Testing

Howuku offers a suite of powerful features designed to help UX designers gather crucial insights into user behavior, preferences, and interactions.

Here are some key features that streamline the unmoderated usability research process:


Howuku heatmaps show user interactions with your website.

Visual representations of user interaction data on your website, allowing you to identify common trends and pain points.

Session Recording

Visitor recordings are replays of a website visitor's session.

Capture and review individual user interactions on your site, providing context for understanding user decisions and possible challenges they face.

Survey Tools

Howuku feedback tools collects responses in real-time, whenever, wherever.

Collect vital feedback from users through customizable surveys, helping you understand user preferences and gather suggestions for improvement.

Analytics and Funnel Analysis

Identify drop-offs and optimize your funnel to improve conversions.

Gain valuable insights into how users navigate through your site and identify drop-off points, leading to better user experience optimization.

A/B Testing

A/B testing (or split testing) lets you test variations of a page for the best results.

Run split tests to determine the most effective design elements and improve conversion rates.

By harnessing these features, UX designers can collect comprehensive data to construct meaningful insights and drive informed decisions for website optimization.

Integration With Existing Workflows

Understanding the importance of seamless integration with your established workflows, Howuku aims to fit easily into your current testing process. The platform is compatible with a wide range of tools that UX designers commonly use, allowing for easy adoption and implementation.

In addition, Howuku's intuitive interface and user-friendly design make the transition to incorporating its tools straightforward and efficient.


The potential of unmoderated usability testing in enhancing user experience cannot be overstated. Having explored the benefits and steps involved in conducting effective testing, it's clear that a platform such as Howuku can be your trusted partner in gathering actionable insights and optimizing your website.

Are you ready to elevate your unmoderated usability testing process and improve user experience? Give Howuku a try and experience the difference with its comprehensive suite of features designed to support data-driven and user-centered design decisions.

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