User testing is a way companies evaluate a customer’s user journey and online experience. The aim is to get feedback on how testers experience a particular website, app or product, and then to make changes and improvements based on that feedback.
User Testing can be done both online (remotely) or in person (moderated).
Remote User Testing
In remote user testing, user testing software and user testing apps are utilised to record screen and sound so that it is possible to listen to testers giving verbal feedback and see them navigate as they journey through a website or app.
There are different options available to record screen and audio depending on what device is used. Some mobile phones and tablets for example have their own inbuilt recording software, making it very easy for testers to record remotely.
Many companies prefer using remote user testing, as it is usually cheaper, and participants can test the usability of an app or website in the comfort of their own home at their convenience.
Another benefit of remote user testing is that when testers are in an environment they are comfortable in, their feedback is often less biased and more honest.
Although remote user testing tends to be cheaper, you are relying on the testers to perform the required tasks and not go off track. There is no possibility for them to ask questions in real time, and if they have technical difficulties, there’s no one to help them solve the problem face-to-face.
In some cases, there is the potential to moderate remote testing with the use of video chat or the like, where you can provide guidance, but this is more difficult to do in tests with a large number of testers or with testers likely to experience technical difficulties.
Moderated User Testing
Moderated (face-to-face) user testing is preferable in cases where participants may require extra assistance, such as with low tech testers or low vision testers.
Face-to-face support minimises technical issues as you don’t have to rely on remote testers submitting tests and potentially experiencing issues with recording audio or uploading video. It also provides the ability to moderate testers which can be very helpful if testers get stuck.
Another instance moderated user testing is preferable is when there is a need to dig deeper into an issue or topic. The moderator is able to question user decision processes in real time to uncover insights, however this may result in unrealistic feedback.
Someone onsite needs to be available to moderate the test, which uses staff resources. Also, greater payment may be required to compensate for travel time for the tester.
The presence of a moderator will also have an affect on the user, introducing various kinds of performance biases that may skew the findings.
Ultimately both remote user testing and moderated user testing have their place as ways to assess how a website, app or product is experienced by the user. Depending on your research needs, the number of testers required, and your confidence in their technical ability and their likelihood to follow directions without being moderated, remote user testing online might be the best method for an organisation to test their digital products in an efficient and cost effective way.