Klick Health

Remote unfacilitated usability testing – go or no?

VP, User Experience

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Usability testing has long been the most effective ways to gather user feedback about your website. The premise is simple: watch real users use your website, observe their experiences and iterate your site design to minimize barriers users may encounter that prevent them from accomplishing their on-site goals.

Traditionally, website usability testing is carried out in-person in a usability lab. A facilitator will sit alongside a participant at a computer and prompt them to complete tasks while observing their behavior and results “over their shoulder.”

However, over the last couple of years, we have seen a proliferation of online tools like usertesting.com and loop11.com that offer cheap, quick online usability testing conducted remotely without a physical facilitator present.  The “facilitation” is done through pre-loaded prompts that appear overtop of the website that is being tested.

Loop11.com screen shot

UserTesting.com screen shot

These services’ primary differentiator is speed and cost savings.  UserTesting.com has a built-in participant pool on standby waiting to take online usability tests at $39 a pop.  Provide your own subjects and the cost goes down to $29 per test.  Additionally, the complexities of in-person test logistics are avoided – no rental testing facility, no travel or accommodation for the facilitator(s) or participants.

This all sounds great, right? Super quick, cheap usability testing – a marketer’s dream!

So what’s the problem with online unfacilitated testing?   Let’s explore the drawbacks of this approach:

These risks are significant, yet nearly all can be compensated for through the following techniques that would be employed by your friendly neighbourhood Klick Health UXer:

In conclusion, it’s safe to assume that traditional, in-person usability testing will almost certainly yield richer findings than remote unfacilitated testing.   However, there is no denying the cost-benefit that these services offer.  I’d say that a properly designed remote, unfaciliated test can probably reveal 70-80% of the insights you would get in an in-person testing scenario, depending on your testing goals. After all – running any type of usability test is better than no test at all!

Get in touch with us to learn more about this exciting testing technique.

More About the Author

Michael Melnick

Michael Melnick has been with Klick Health for over 13 years and heads up the User Experience practice. His passion for designing customer-centric experiences has manifested itself in numerous industry awards from Nielsen-Norman Group, MM&M, and UX Awards.

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