Getting Started with Remote Usability Testing

If you ask any UX designer, they will second that usability testing is an important part of your overall product or service design. As a designer, you can never evaluate the functionality of an interface on your own assuming that users will like your design interface without running a test with real-time users. Because they are the ones who will use your product So let’s face it YOU are not the USER. Therefore, you really cannot tell what bothers or attracts a user on your website or app design.

To achieve your business goals and enhance your customers’ user experience you need to conduct usability testing. It’s the most effective approach for getting meaningful insights from real-time users while they interact with your product design. The three core components of usability testing are:

1. Representative Users: A set of people who are similar to your actual target users
2. Appropriate Tasks: The activities that users perform on your design interface
3. Good moderator: The person who conducts the test in real time

But as a UX designer, you’ll know conventional usability testing is hectic, expensive and time-consuming. Owing to budget and time constraints and in light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic that has upended businesses globally, remote working has been the light at the end of the tunnel for agile businesses.

Switch to remote usability testing

Remote usability testing is a fast and cost-effective way to test your design interface with a larger group of representative users from different geographical regions. They Interact with your design interface separately at various locations through different online tools. Unlike traditional usability testing where you and the participants are physically present in the same room.

Categories of remote usability testing

Now that we have identified the key difference between traditional and remote usability testing and when it’s beneficial to switch to it. Let’s explore the two categories of it.

Categories of remote usability testing

Remote moderated usability testing

In moderated usability testing you and the user representatives are not present at the same place but are connected through video call and screen sharing tools. Through this, you both can communicate and you can examine the user’s actions. You can ask follow up questions or nudge them when the user looks confused at some point in the task.

The challenge involved with this type of testing is that you are not able to analyze the full body language and gestures of users while they perform tasks. Since they are not present with you in the same place. For this you may have to find a good fit between asking to follow up questions, probing them so that they can fully engage with your tasks and still don’t feel interrupted during the activity. Moderated testing incorporates the benefits of conventional usability testing and unmoderated testing. As it is a cost-effective way to gather quality user insights.

Remote unmoderated usability testing

In unmoderated usability testing, you are not bound to sit in each test session with the users virtually rather you let the software run the test. That software gives users instructions for performing tasks and records video. You can watch and analyze video after the test session has been completed.

The challenge involved in this type of testing is that you are unable to give users real-time support if they are stuck at some point in the task where they require your push to “think aloud”. Due to this, they may skip any important activity. To overcome this, you have to be proactive and prepare a detailed guideline for the participants. Explaining how to go about each task that clearly states users when to wait and think before starting a task. Unmoderated usability testing is the fastest and the most cost-effective method to collect data from thousands of users across the globe.

How to go about it:

It’s totally your choice to either go with moderated or unmoderated usability testing but you need to make sure that you follow some pro tips for conducting an insightful test that can help you achieve your target.

Tip 1: Identify your objective

It’s totally your choice to either go with moderated or unmoderated usability testing but you need to make sure that you follow some pro tips for conducting an insightful test that can help you achieve your target.

Tip 1: Identify your objective

Identify your objective

You should have a clear understanding of your objective and what you are trying to achieve with this test whether you want to test a specific element of your design or you plan to test the overall usability of the interface.

Tip 2: Recruit smartly

You should act smartly while recruiting people for the test. Since in remote usability testing you are able to recruit anyone anywhere in the world. So make sure you don’t end up with a pool of people who are more likely to dilute your findings or may give false data because they actually don’t represent your real users. For this try using the tool “screener” to select participants.

Tip 3: Mock real test scenarios

Before conducting the test, you should have mock trials of the tasks and scenarios that you have prepared for the users to double-check whether or not they are clear and make sense to people. Confusing your users is the last thing you want to do. So try keeping the scenarios very basic that are easy to understand.

Tip 4: Stay connected

Stay connected

Since in remote usability testing you and the user are physically not present with each other so make sure you always login to the testing app before your user’s login even for the unmoderated test you need to be connected with them through emails.


Considering agility is the need of the hour, remote usability testing is a trending approach at this point in time when the businesses have started considering remote work for many reasons like cost cut down, faster delivery of work or COVID-19 pandemic but still don’t want to compromise on the quality of insights and data. The richness of insights in this type of testing may suffer so it’s an added responsibility on UX designers to effectively use this method and get the most out of it because remote usability testing is better than no usability testing at all.

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    Jason Frost

    Manager, Customer Success

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