Unmoderated Usability Testing Checklist: 6 Steps to Success

Unmoderated usability testing can be challenging. Follow these 6 steps for success, and use our checklist to ensure your testing goes smoothly.

Reshu Rathi
March 24, 2023
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Unmoderated usability testing, as the name suggests, is done without direct supervision. Normally in these studies, the participants complete tasks and answer questions at the time and place of their choice using their devices, which makes unmoderated usability testing the perfect tool for fast and efficient testing.

Benefits of Unmoderated Usability Testing

usability testing

Unmoderated testing comes in handy in situations where you have to test specific scenarios or observe and measure behavior patterns.

For example, let’s say you are revamping an e-commerce website and you want to understand how easy (or difficult) it is for users to find products. So, your task could simply be to ask the users to find any one product and add it to the cart. This would give you nuanced insights into how users navigate your website and help you identify friction points they encounter during the user journey.

Apart from these, unmoderated usability testing also helps you in the following ways:

  • Saves you time and money – Unmoderated usability testing can be done quickly and with minimal effort using advanced in-house user research tools. This saves you significant time, money and effort.
  • Naturalistic observation – You get to observe participants in their own environment as they navigate your product giving you
  • Minimizes bias – As the moderator is not present to influence the users, the results are unbiased.

Since there is no direct interaction between the users and the researcher in an unmoderated session, these sessions need careful planning. And they are best suited for tasks where there isn’t much room for interpretation.

So, how do you ensure that you are conducting unmoderated testing correctly? A checklist can ensure you stay on track, and you are approaching the process methodically.

The Only Unmoderated Usability Testing Checklist You Need

usability testing methods

Let’s look at each of the above points closely.

#1 Define Your Testing Goal

Having a clear goal is an essential step in any testing strategy, and unmoderated usability testing is no exception.

It pays to clearly state your goals before you begin testing. Firstly, defining your goals upfront will help you to choose the right tools and methods to employ. Secondly, it will help you gather actionable feedback.

If you set a clear goal, before you start conducting these tests, you know exactly what you are looking to test and if at any time you observe the testing is going off track, you can always course correct.

Also, by clearly defining the goal you can ensure that stakeholders are also clued in on what is expected of the testing and even use this as a reference point for subsequent discussions.

In short, spending the time upfront to get this right will save time down the track and help ensure a successful study.

Once you have defined your goal, it’s time to pick the right set of participants. It is important to consider who they are, where they live, their age etc. Are they your existing users, or are they using your product for the first time? Defining this before you build your study will help you get better results.

#2 Recruit Users

Recruiting the right users for your unmoderated usability test is quite crucial. Why? Because your team will use the data you obtain from these studies to make crucial decisions.

Ideally, the participants you pick for these studies should either be users of your product or prospective users. Not sure how to narrow down your participants. You can do it by including a basic screening procedure in place, with a questionnaire. This will help in ensuring you have the people you need.

For instance, if you are a food delivery app, and you are launching a new feature that you want to test, you need to make sure that your sample set of users belong to the right age and demographic and are active users of similar food delivery apps.

This will help you get nuanced insights into how users use your app, their behavior patterns, and even identify the friction points in their user journey.

#3 Selecting the Right Tools

Now that you have identified your testing goals and recruited the right set of users, it’s time to select the tool. One that fits your purpose and can support your study objectives. And so, it is important to look for an integrated tool that can handle both quantitative and qualitative research methods, is scalable, easy to use, and offers actionable insights with a minimal turnaround time.

Affect UX’s AI-powered user research platform not only helps you conduct various kinds of research at scale and faster, but also offers nuanced insights that give you a better understanding of your users’ subconscious behaviors.

#4 Create Your Tasks

How actionable your insights are depends a lot on how well-defined your tasks are. So, to get the results you want, you need to construct the tasks carefully.

Now there are no shortcuts that can help you turn goals into clear tasks – it takes practice to master. But there are a few tips that can help:

  • State clearly and in no uncertain terms what you want the participant to do so that there is no confusion in their minds as to what is expected of them. So, if you are testing the effectiveness of your ecommerce website, and you want to see how efficient product discovery is, then instead of saying vaguely ‘Browse the website’, clearly say ‘Select any one product of your choice and add it to cart’.
  • Make sure the tasks are written as directions, not questions. The whole point of a task is to understand how a user interacts with your product and identify the areas where they are facing trouble navigating or finding information they need. So, it is important that the instructions simply direct them to carry out a specific activity. For example:
Instead of ‘Is it easy to add a product to the cart’

Simply say ‘Select any one product and add it to cart’

When creating the task don’t forget that you won’t have a chance to probe. And your participants won’t have a chance to clarify. So, if they misinterpret, the task may be wasted.

#5 Run Trial Session

Do a dry run before inviting the real participants to take the test; this will ensure that instructions are clear. By conducting a pilot test, you can iron out issues before your participants see them.

Also, it will help you fine-tune any instructions and tasks to eliminate the potential for misunderstanding.

If you don’t have test participants, you can test it on your colleagues. But do it on the ones that were not involved in the design of your product. Or you can test it on people that represent your target audience.

#6 Launch Your Test

The last step in your unmoderated testing is the most important – where you will launch the test. Before you do that – pay attention to these points:

  • Make sure your test is not too long—an unmoderated test should be only 3–5 minutes in duration. Otherwise, your dropout rate will increase.
  • Ensure that your test does not require the participants to carry out more than 3-4 tasks — to prevent participants from quitting the test.
  • Try to keep participants engaged. If the tasks are interesting, it will increase the chances of participants completing them.


Unmoderated usability testing can help you garner feedback quickly. With it, you can validate concepts and designs with a diverse group of people. Unmoderated testing is the right choice if you have specific questions that need answering, have a large sample size, require feedback quickly, or want to observe a user interacting in their natural environment.

These sessions are best suited for straightforward, simple straightforward tasks that don’t leave much room for interpretation.

Though unmoderated testing can save you time and money, it requires careful planning. The key to good unmoderated testing is to be thoroughly prepared and organized to ensure you get the data insights you are looking for. And following a checklist is a great way to do that. This will ensure you approach your research methodically.


Supercharge your research with actionable insights faster on Decode's integrated consumer research platform with Insights AI.
Want to conduct lean and unbiased research? Try out Entropik's tech behavioral research platform today!
Want to conduct lean and unbiased research? Try out Entropik's tech behavioral research platform today!
Want to conduct lean and unbiased research? Try out Entropik's tech behavioral research platform today!
Build the Right Products, the Right Way: Elevate your UX with Qatalyst's integrated user research platform with Insights AI.


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Author Bio

Reshu Rathi
Reshu Rathi is an online marketing and conversion rate enthusiast. She specializes in content marketing, lead generation, and engagement strategy. Her byline can be found all over the web

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