Moderated and Unmoderated User Testing: The Differences

Moderated vs Unmoderated User Testing

We often get asked what the difference is between moderated and unmoderated user testing.

They are the two most common types of user testing, but they both offer different types of advantages (and disadvantages) and there are different scenarios of when it’s best to use each of them. It can be quite confusing!

Therefore we have created this handy guide to help you understand these and the differences between them.

First let’s understand each of these types of user testing, and then we will compare them.

Unmoderated user tests

This common type of user test is where you create a list of tasks and questions and then get many user testers to record themselves answering them, without the guidance of a moderator. The video recording includes the user testers using your website or app, and audio of them answering your questions and completing your tasks. These user test sessions are usually 20 minutes long and ideal for gaining quick feedback from your target audience on small websites or apps, a limited set of pages or screens, or prototypes.

Moderated user tests

These types of user tests are longer and give more detailed feedback than unmoderated sessions, and give you the ability to actually talk in real-time to your user testers and ask them questions based on their actions. They are ideal for gaining feedback on large websites, complex flows or apps, and for doing user interviews. They are used less because they take much longer to set up and do them, and they are also more expensive.

The major differences

To help you understand and compare the differences, here is an overview of these two types of user testing that we offer.

User Testing
User Testing
Type of user feedback gained
Quicker feedback
Detailed feedback
Session length
20 minutes (40 and 60 minutes also available)
40 minutes (60 minutes also available)
Where they occur
Who is on the user test session
Just the user tester
User tester plus a moderator (whoever you choose)
Time needed to setup, moderate and analyse each user test
Less time consuming
More time consuming
Timeframe for gaining results
Fast, often within 24 hours
Slots due to having to set up time slots with user testers
Audio and video of tester's screen using your app or website
Can you see the user tester and have a conversation with them?
Can you help the user tester if they get stuck or confused?
The ability to get user testers to elaborate on answers or ask questions based on their actions
Costs per user tester
$60 for 20 minutes
$120 for 40 minutes
Best used for
Feedback on simple websites/apps, on a limited set of pages, and prototypes
Feedback on full website, complex web pages or apps, and customer interviews

So which is best, moderated or unmoderated user testing?

As you can see, there are advantages to both. But to put it simply, if you are looking for detailed feedback on complex or large websites/apps and want to interact with user testers and ask follow-up questions, then go for moderated user testing. But if you are looking for shorter and less detailed feedback on smaller websites/apps or prototypes, or perhaps have a smaller budget, then go for unmoderated.

To maximize the insights you get from your user feedback we often recommend doing both at the same time, and we can help you with all your user testing needs.

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