Sometimes questions are more important than answers

What is remote usability testing?

Remote usability testing is a way to test how easy to use a website is with users who are in a different geographical location. Traditional usability testing brings users and researchers together in one place to conduct the test, whereas remote usability testing allows the researcher and user to be in different locations while the test is completed.


Remote user testing can be moderated or un-moderated

Remote usability testing is a method of website usability testing when the user is in a different location to the researcher. A test can be moderated by the researcher watching and interacting with the test participant using internet screen-sharing tools and a telephone connection.

An alternative method is to run an unmoderated test where the test participants are provided with a set of tasks to complete on-screen whilst they progress through the session. The results are generated for the researcher to review when the test is complete. However, tests with no moderator involved are much harder to control and therefore offer questionable value. For this discussion, we will stick to the moderated method.

Moderated remote usability testing is used to gain insight into the barriers users face when completing typical tasks with a website. The key aspect of remote testing is that it offers a researcher and the participant the ability to test from their own location. This provides a realistic user environment compared to the less natural environments often used for traditional user testing.

Remote testing can also recruit participants live when they enter the website. When using the live recruiting method researchers can catch people at the beginning of their journey with the site, ask them to share their screen, and then watch how they complete their journey. This is a critical difference with traditional lab-based usability which places participants in an unfamiliar environment and asks them to perform pre-defined tasks.

Advantages of remote user testing

Moderated remote usability testing offers a number of key advantages including:

  • Time and cost savings over hiring a professional usability lab
  • Easier to recruit participants as they do not have to travel to the research facility
  • Participants can conduct the test in their natural environment which can offer key insights into true behaviour
  • Offers the ability to test higher numbers of participants per day compared with lab-based testing
  • Researchers can test people from various geographical regions from a single location
  • When using live recruiting researchers have the opportunity to observe true user behaviour as they catch users while they attempt to complete tasks they have a real emotional attachment to

Disadvantages of remote user testing

On the other hand, the disadvantages are:

  • Inability to control the environment can lead to distractions and interruptions at the participant’s end i.e. pets, doorbells, children
  • Researchers can’t see the participants’ facial expressions or body language and therefore don’t have the extra insight into user behaviour they usually have in face-to-face research
  • Limiting the interaction to the phone can lead to participants and researchers struggling to gain rapport which can affect the quality of the session
  • Observing participants’ screen activity relies on third-party screen-sharing tools which usually require the participant to receive some sort of download and relies on a solid broadband connection


Moderated remote usability testing offers researchers a versatile tool that not only offers the potential to see true user behaviour across multiple geographic locations, but also offers them with potential time and cost savings as well. However, the disadvantages can lead it to be an unreliable method in terms of technology and control over the test. The time and cost savings can offer researchers the ability to over recruit to ensure they get enough quality feedback throughout the testing to really understand the usability issues and make key recommendations

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Natural User Journeys

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Competitor Evaluation

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Multi-platform UX

UX insight into each of your core platforms.

More UX Methods Questions

Usability testing is a way to see how easy to use something is by testing it with real users. Users are asked to complete tasks, typically while they are being observed by a researcher, to see where they encounter problems and experience confusion. If more people encounter similar problems, recommendations will be made to overcome these usability issues.

User-centred design is a process or set of tools used to design a service which focuses on what users need at the very beginning and continues throughout development until launch. Typically services are designed from a technical and business perspective, with consideration for users added in later. Instead, User-centred design ensures the service focuses on what users need before balancing this with the technical and business requirements.

Wireframing is a way to design a website service at the structural level. A wireframe is commonly used to lay out content and functionality on a page which takes into account user needs and user journeys. Wireframes are used early in the development process to establish the basic structure of a page before visual design and content is added.

Website prototypes are interactive demos of a website. These are often used to gather feedback from project stakeholders early in the project lifecycle, before the project goes into final development

User requirements capture is a process used to understand what typical users will need from a service which is about to be designed. Users are observed using similar services and interviewed about the ways they go about planning and completing their goals. This information is used to identify a list of content, features and functionality the new service must have in order to satisfy the needs of its users.

Customer profiling is a way to create a portrait of your customers to help you make design decisions concerning your service. Your customers are broken down into groups of customers sharing similar goals and characteristics and each group is given a representative with a photo, a name, and a description.

Card sorting is a technique that involves asking users to organise information into logical groups. Users are given a series of labelled cards and asked to organise and sort them into groups that they think are appropriate. Card sorting helps you to design an information architecture, workflow, menu structure or website navigation paths.

A user journey is a path a user may take to reach their goal when using a particular website. User journeys are used in designing websites to identify the different ways to enable the user to achieve their goal as quickly and easily as possible.

Focus groups are a research method used to gather feedback and opinions from customers. Each person in the group is encouraged to participate in a discussion which is pre-planned by a researcher and is guided by a facilitator. Focus groups are typically used to gauge opinion and gather information from users about products, services, and features before they have been developed.

Remote usability testing is a way to test how easy to use a website is with users who are in a different geographical location. Traditional usability testing brings users and researchers together in one place to conduct the test, whereas remote usability testing allows the researcher and user to be in different locations while the test is completed.

An expert review is where a usability expert uses his/her knowledge and experience of testing websites with users to walk through a website in the shoes of a typical user. The expert will spot problems and recommend changes to improve usability when budgets and timescales don’t allow for user research.

Service design makes a service easier to use, more useful and more desirable for the customers who need to use it: the service user. Whether creating an entirely new service or improving an existing one, service design focuses on what customers really need at each stage of their interaction with an organisation.

Ethnography is a study through direct observation of users in their natural environment rather than in a lab. The objective of this type of research is to gain insights into how users interact with things in their natural environment.

Tree testing is a way of evaluating a proposed site structure by asking users to find items based on the sites organisation and terminology. This online test only displays the navigation links and removes any additional clutter.

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