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Remote User Testing: Practical Tips for Remote Usability Testing

Usability testing allows you observe and analyze real people using your product. By getting insights from users who have actually used your service or product, you get a solid idea of your end users' possible needs, pain points, thoughts, and actions, and as a result, you can identify usability issues and improvements.

One great way to gather these insights is through remote usability tests. Unlike traditional usability testing, which requires in-person availability, this method is super flexible because you can do it without worrying about geographical limitations.In this guide, we've put together some practical tips on how to do remote user testing and get the juicy insights you're looking for, along with going over why usability testing is important. By following these recommendations, you’ll be able to run successful research and make informed decisions to incorporate stellar UX practices into your product development.What's Usability Testing?Usability testing is an important UX research method that involves evaluating the usability of a product or website by real users. These users, who are representative of your target audience, interact with your product or service in their natural environment. This research method aims to understand how users interact with a product, identify any usability issues or pain points, and gather feedback for improvements.During usability testing, participants are asked to complete specific tasks while their interactions, feedback, and overall experience are observed and recorded. This hands-on approach provides valuable insights into how users navigate through a product, whether they can easily accomplish their goals, and if there are any obstacles or frustrations along the way.But why usability testing is important? It allows you to put yourself in the shoes of your users and gain a deep understanding of their needs, expectations, and challenges. By observing real users in action, you can uncover usability issues that might have gone unnoticed during the design and development stages.Usability testing helps you identify areas where your product can be improved, leading to enhanced user satisfaction, increased engagement, and ultimately, higher conversion rates. By addressing usability issues early on, you can save time, resources, and potential customer frustration in the long run.

What's Remote Usability Testing & Why Consider Remote Testing?

Unlike in-person testing, remote user research allows participants to take the test and provide feedback completely online. The participants use your product at their own location rather than in-person with you, and their actions and feedback are recorded by a usability testing platform.It opens up access to a wider audience and allows you to connect with users on a global scale with ease. The benefits of remote usability testing also include saving you costs and time spent on facilitating in-person studies.

Types of Remote Tests: Moderated Remote Testing vs. Unmoderated Testing

When it comes to remote usability testing, there are two main approaches to consider: moderated remote testing and unmoderated remote testing.

  • Moderated Remote Testing: In moderated remote usability testing, a moderator guides participants through the testing process remotely and observes their actions in real-time through a screen-sharing platform. They provide instructions, ask questions, and observe the user's interactions live. This method allows for more in-depth insights and qualitative data collection through direct communication with participants.
  • Unmoderated Remote Testing: In unmoderated remote usability testing, participants complete the tasks independently without direct guidance from a moderator. They follow pre-determined instructions, and their interactions are recorded for later analysis. This approach is generally more scalable and time-efficient but may provide less detailed qualitative feedback compared to moderated testing.

Now, the question arises: which approach should you choose? Both moderated and unmoderated remote testing have their advantages. It's crucial to consider your research goals and resources when deciding on the right method for your remote usability testing. Whether you choose moderated or unmoderated remote tests, they provide both qualitative and quantitative data to inform your UX decisions.Advantages & Disadvantages of Remote Moderated Testing:With a moderator present, testers can benefit from real-time guidance and support throughout the process. The moderator helps users navigate any challenges they encounter, ensuring that every user successfully completes the test. This aspect is especially helpful when the tasks are relatively complex.Furthermore, as the moderator interacts with participants in real-time, they have the opportunity to discuss their experiences and ask follow-up questions. This helps in gaining a more comprehensive understanding.However, this kind of testing requires a time commitment from both the moderator and the participants. Both parties need to agree on a specific time that works for everyone involved. Time zone differences can make scheduling more difficult. As a result, this type of testing may have a relatively small scale and requires dedication from all participants.Additionally, if you want to observe the participants interacting with your product naturally and see how intuitive your product is, then the involvement of the moderator's effect on the participants' actions may provide insights that don't fit what you're seeking.Advantages & Disadvantages of Remote Unmoderated Testing:Unmoderated usability testing offers users greater freedom and independence. They can participate at their convenience, without requiring your dedicated guidance. This allows for a larger pool of participants, and it's faster when it comes to the turnaround of results. Moreover, it provides a natural glimpse into how users would interact with your product, as there is no moderator influencing their actions.However, while running an unmoderated test has its benefits, it also has downsides. For instance, if users encounter difficulties during the process without any guidance, they may just shrug and abandon the test. There may also be a lack of people completing the tasks simply due to a lack of motivation. Additionally, without the opportunity for real-time conversation, you miss out on gaining a deeper understanding of their experiences and their thoughts about your product.

Remote Usability Testing Software to Use

You need to choose the right remote usability testing tools for conducting user tests to best facilitate your remote user testing process.

  • Video Conferencing Tools: Platforms like Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangouts provide video communication capabilities, allowing you to interact with participants in real-time during moderated testing sessions.
  • User Testing Platforms: There are various dedicated user testing platforms that simplify the process of setting up and running remote usability testing and come with features such as task management, screen recording, participant recruitment, analytics, etc. These include Maze, UserTesting, UserZoom, Useberry, etc.
  • Screen Sharing and Recording Tools: Tools like Lookback, OBS Studio, or QuickTime Player enable you to share screens, record user interactions, and capture audio and video during testing sessions.

It's essential to research and choose the user testing tool that best fits your testing needs and technical requirements.

How to Conduct Remote User Testing: Tips for For Effective Remote Research

Want to know how to do remote user testing that helps you generate effective and useful insights? Here are practical tips to conduct your top-notch remote user research.

Part A - Before Testing

Research Your Testing Platform:Before conducting remote usability testing, thoroughly research and test your chosen platform to ensure it meets your needs. Check if the platform allows participants to share their screen, enables the front-facing camera while screen sharing, supports session recording, and is compatible with the devices you want to test.Understand the Testing Device:Choose the appropriate device to perform the testing session based on your objectives. Ensure that the device aligns with the intended user experience and matches the device your target users are likely to use. For example, if you're testing a mobile prototype, using a desktop device might not provide accurate results.Account for Screen Size:When conducting usability testing on participants' mobile devices, be aware of varying screen sizes and how they may affect the display of your prototype. Request information about the participants' mobile devices in advance and adapt your prototype to each screen size to ensure accurate results.Test Your Prototype Beforehand:Avoid starting usability testing and discovering basic mistakes that could have been avoided by thoroughly testing your prototype beforehand. Seek feedback from colleagues or friends who can provide a fresh perspective, ensuring your prototype is ready for testing. Once testing has begun, avoid changing the prototype midway to maintain the reliability of the results.Provide Clear Technical Instructions:To ensure smooth testing sessions, provide participants with clear instructions regarding technical requirements. Send participants an email in advance, detailing the technical aspects they need to consider. Avoid using overly complex terminology and ensure that participants understand how to set up their devices and software for the testing session.Manage Task Difficulty:Keep in mind that usability testing participants may not have the same level of motivation as real users when it comes to completing tasks. To prevent overwhelming participants, gradually increase the difficulty of tasks or break larger tasks into smaller parts. Strike a balance between challenging participants and ensuring they can successfully complete the tasks.Prepare for the Worst-Case Scenario:Technical issues can arise unexpectedly during remote usability testing. Prepare for such scenarios by having backup plans in place:Keep a charger and headphones nearby for unexpected device or audio issues. Have alternative video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangouts as backups. Maintain a list of test participants and their contact information (email addresses or phone numbers) for easy communication if needed. Keep a list of all relevant links and resources readily accessible during the testing session.

Part B - During Testing

Emphasize No Right or Wrong:Make it clear to participants that there are no right or wrong answers or actions during usability testing. This helps alleviate any potential stress or pressure they may feel, encouraging them to provide genuine feedback and perform tasks naturally.Warm-Up with Questions:Before diving into background and open-ended questions, start with a few warm-up questions. Asking participants about themselves or their favorite apps can help them feel more comfortable, open up, and get into the testing mindset.Record the Session:It can be challenging to remember every detail of a testing session while simultaneously observing the tester's reactions and interactions. Record the session to capture valuable insights and review it later for more in-depth analysis. Ensure you have obtained signed consent forms from each participant before starting the usability testing.Allow Testers to Read Tasks:Instead of reading tasks aloud, display them on the screen and give participants a moment to read and understand the tasks. This allows participants to absorb the information at their own pace, mimicking a real-world scenario where users encounter tasks independently.Enhance Observation of Reactions:Remote testing poses challenges in picking up micro-expressions and social cues. Be fully engaged during the session and eliminate distractions such as cluttered browsers or notifications. Put in extra effort to observe the tester's reactions, paying attention to verbal and non-verbal cues that may indicate frustrations, confusions, or successes.Avoid Assisting When Testers Get Stuck:When participants encounter difficulties or get stuck, refrain from providing direct instructions or solutions. Instead, allow them space to think and answer their questions with probing questions of your own. This approach encourages problem-solving and helps you understand where users may struggle with the interface.Measure Task Completion Time:Tracking the time it takes for participants to complete tasks provides valuable insights for analysis. Avoid interfering with participants while they work through each task, allowing them to complete the tasks naturally. Note the time spent on each task as it can indicate the ease or difficulty of specific interactions.Gather Final Thoughts and Feedback:Before concluding the session, ask participants if they have any final thoughts or feedback about their overall experience. This open-ended opportunity allows participants to share any additional insights, suggestions, or concerns that may not have been covered during the tasks.


Remote usability testing allows you to get a broad range of audiences to experience your product hands-on, thanks to it being conducted online and thus eliminating geographic limits, unlike in-person usability tests. With these convenient, scalable, and cost-effective remote tests, you can observe how the test participants interact with your product and ask for their feedback.Product managers, UX designers, and researchers alike can benefit from these valuable insights, identify areas requiring improvements, and work towards building an excellent user experience.By understanding why usability testing is important and implementing our tips that guide with knowing how to do remote user testing that's impactful, you'll be well-equipped to conduct effective remote research that's a valuable part of your design process!Note: This article was originally published on October 2020 and updated on June 2023 reflect the current status of the market.