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​​Remote Usability Testing: Advantages and Best Practices

What is remote usability testing in UX design? Learn about this helpful technique and how to develop practical remote usability tests.

Written by RamotionSep 7, 202311 min read

Last updated: Sep 7, 2023

User research is a critical part of UI/UX design. Product design and development teams can only evaluate their prototypes or make improvements to their designs if they observe the interaction of users and get valuable feedback from them.

It is essential to conduct usability tests for all products and services, whether in the digital or physical environment. However, it is only sometimes possible to visit the users and bring them to a testing facility. This is where remote usability tests can come in handy.

There are several reasons that a UX team would prefer conducting a remote usability test. If, on the one hand, it gives more flexibility to the designers, then, on the other, it also helps in improving the understanding of users' context. Regarding digital products and services, remote usability tests are gaining more and more importance.

Usability Testing in Design (UsabilityHub)

In this article, we introduce the concept of remote usability testing along with its advantages and disadvantages. We also discuss the best practices to conduct effective user research with the help of a remote usability test and the process to design such tests.

Read along as we explore an essential way of adding value to the UI/UX design process.

Introduction to Remote Usability Testing

The idea of remote usability testing is vital for all UI/UX designers and researchers, particularly those working with digital products and services.

Remote usability testing, as the name indicates, is a technique in UI/UX design with the help of which researchers can conduct user research without bringing the users to the lab or research facility.

The research can be performed remotely, with the users interacting with designs in their context, thus better understanding the product's usability in their day-to-day lives.

The goals of in-person and remote usability testing are similar. However, the tools used to conduct research and the processes followed in both cases differ greatly.

The key objective of remote research, similar to in-person tests, is to understand how users interact with designs, gather information about their pain points, and gather feedback about the overall experience.

In-Person vs. Remote Usability Testing (InVision)

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Remote Usability Testing

A designer's job is to conduct thorough user research and gather valuable insights about the factors and features that enhance user experience. However, certain limitations, such as time, resources, and budget, need consideration while conducting user research.

We'll see in the following section how remote research can help navigate these limitations. Additionally, there are several pitfalls that designers need to consider when relying on remote user testing. These will also be discussed below.

Advantages of remote usability testing

Some of the critical advantages of remote user testing are as follows.

Efficient testing

With the help of remote testing, UX designers can gather valuable insights from the interaction of users with digital prototypes. Using features such as screen sharing, eye-tracking, and heatmaps, researchers can better understand the user journey in a remote test.

Faster and cheaper

In UI/UX design, remote research is one of the fastest and cheapest user research methods. The designers can spend a little time gathering users and bringing them to the facility.

On the other hand, users can skip taking a whole day out of their schedules to participate in such tests. An added benefit is that of cost. When conducting in-person tests, the designers must address logistic concerns, such as reserving rooms and compensating users for their time and travel.

These costs are significantly reduced in remote testing.

Better access to users

With the help of remote user testing, designers can better access the users. Since geographic location is no longer a concern in remote testing, designers can recruit participants worldwide. This gives better access to an international audience, adding significant value to the design process.

Access to a Wide Range of Users (Susanna Zaraysky on Medium)

Understanding the user's context

Another advantage of remote user testing is that the researchers can observe the users in their context. The users no longer participate in the test sessions conducted in a laboratory setting, so their journey is closer to their real-world experience. Analyzing the issues and pain points this way helps make better design decisions.

Disadvantages of remote usability testing

Designers need to be aware of the possible issues when conducting remote testing. Some of the key aspects to consider are as follows.

Limited feedback

One critique and limitation of remote usability testing is that it only allows for limited user feedback. There is only so much that designers can ask in a remote setting.

For example, asking long descriptive questions in remote testing is more challenging than in-person interviews. Similarly, when remote testing is conducted unmoderated, asking follow-up questions gets more complicated.

Prone to technical issues

Like any other digital experience, remote user testing is susceptible to technical difficulties. For example, the web conferencing platform might stop responding, or the internet might encounter issues.

In such cases, the users can get frustrated, affecting their overall experience and thus directly impacting the results of the user test.

Issues with complex prototypes

Another aspect to be aware of when conducting remote testing concerns complex prototypes. It becomes more challenging to design tests for complex user interfaces where the users need additional assistance or in-person moderation.

It is, therefore, essential to consider the goals and features of the product before choosing remote usability testing.

Testing Complex Prototypes (Net Solutions)

The Distinction Between Moderated and Unmoderated Remote Usability Testing

Based on the mode and testing environment, there are two major types of remote usability testing: unmoderated and moderated remote testing.

The significant difference between unmoderated and moderated testing is the level of involvement of the researchers and the live interaction with participants.

Moderated testing is where at least one research team member is present throughout the testing process. This researcher serves as a moderator, leading the users through the test process as they perform the tasks.

Moderated remote usability tests are helpful when the tasks and processes are complex.

Moderated and Unmoderated Remote Usability Testing (Userfeel)

On the other hand, remote, unmoderated usability testing is where the researchers need more involvement once the test begins. The users go through the test, perform the tasks, and the researchers analyze their activities at a later stage.

Tools such as those used for screen recording and eye-tracking are particularly helpful in remote unmoderated usability testing, as designers can reflect on the test process with the help of such software applications.

Best Practices and Tips for Remote Usability Testing

By considering the users' needs and context, designers can extract the most value from remote usability tests, whether unmoderated or moderated testing. Additionally, it is always essential to have a clear understanding of the test's goals.

Some of the best practices for conducting UX research with the help of remote user testing are as follows.

Clarify goals and objectives

Like any other UX research strategy, designers need to clarify the goals and objectives of the tests before recruiting users or conducting test sessions. This is where clarity of research questions is critical, as these can guide the entire test process.

Select representative users

When it comes to remote usability testing, designers have better access to a wide range of audience. This is where designers must be careful when recruiting participants for the test.

The researchers should ensure that the selected participants represent all their user groups and that every vital demographic is included.

Create clear and understandable tasks

When participating in remote usability tests, mainly when conducted unmoderated, the users have limited real-time contact with the researchers. Therefore, it is important for designers only to create complex tasks that take way too long to complete.

Focusing on simple, actionable tasks can help get better insights from the target audience.

The Importance of Understandable Tasks (Dilkushi Jayaweera on Medium)

Ask effective questions

Designers can get better information by asking descriptive questions to understand users' contexts and pain points. However, the questions should be designed and asked carefully.

It is essential to avoid leading questions so the users can share their thoughts and experiences instead of responding to designers' biases.

Planning and Developing a Remote Usability Test

Designers and researchers must devise effective strategies for user testing methods. This means that planning any usability testing process is critical to its success.

UI/UX researchers need to understand the steps they need to take to plan, design, and develop an effective user testing protocol, whether moderated or unmoderated remote testing.

The essential steps for designers to get the best insights from testers' experiences are as follows.

1. Define your goals and audience

The first step in the process is to get clarity on the goals and the target audience. The clarity of goals means that the researchers are aware of the design's goals and the insights they want to gather from the participants with the help of remote testing.

This also means that the designers know who their target users are and what the needs are that they want to consider for the design solution.

2. Choose the type of test

The next important step is to choose the type of user testing. This is where designers assess their resources and decide whether to use moderated testing or conduct an unmoderated test.

The nature of the target audience, the complexity of the product, and the availability of resources are important factors influencing the decision.

3. Develop necessary test materials.

The designers and researchers then develop the necessary test materials based on the type of test selected.

Some critical test materials include documents such as a consent form, pre-test and post-test questionnaires, interview scripts and protocols, and the main tasks, along with their success or completion criteria.

These test materials come in handy on the test day, saving researchers' and participants' time and effort.

4. Recruit target users

A critical step in any user testing methodology is to recruit participants who are the best fit. When it comes to selecting real users, the designers need to make sure that they represent all the audience groups, matching the personas of their users.

The feedback gathered from the test participants strongly impacts the design decisions, so the population of testers must be inclusive, aligning with the goals of the product or service.

5. Write the test script

One important document to create is the test script for the remote usability testing session. Whether the researchers conduct moderated or unmoderated testing, a test script is equally essential.

A test script includes introductions to tasks, what to say when the participants complete tasks, and a list of compelling questions.

Write an Effective Usability Testing Script (PlaybookUX)

6. Run the test sessions

Until now, all the steps have been leading up to the actual test session. Before conducting a final test with the users, it is always a good idea to go through a pilot test where all the materials can be evaluated.

When performing the test, the researchers should focus more on observing the users' behaviors and avoid leading questions. Once the participants complete the test, a follow-up discussion can be conducted immediately or later in case of unmoderated testing.

7. Gather and analyze useful data

After the remote usability test session, the researchers can use all the observations and recorded data to analyze the results. Data from different sources, such as the observations of moderators, the feedback from users, and the objective results for each task, helps make design decisions.

Necessary Tools for Remote Usability Testing

Experienced UI/UX designers, researchers, and academics have experimented with several tools to conduct remote user research for moderated and unmoderated testing.

This section lists some essential tools to help designers conduct practical remote tests.


Zoom is one of the most widely used video conferencing platforms, quickly surpassing other tools with similar features. With the help of Zoom, researchers can conduct moderated and unmoderated testing.

The participants can join the meeting, share their screens, and perform the tasks as usual. The ability to record and view meetings later for analysis is an excellent feature.

Zoom for Remote Usability Testing (Condens)


Lookback is another helpful usability testing tool for designers and researchers. With the help of Lookback, designers can observe a participant similar to an unmoderated test and chat with them for moderation or technical support.

The ability to capture screen touches and transcribe the session is also helpful in gathering valuable feedback throughout the test session.

Usability Testing with Lookback (Lookback)


Hotjar is an excellent tool for measuring website usability. This tool runs on the backend as the users navigate through a website, trying to accomplish their tasks.

The researchers can look at their activity on the web pages to understand the navigation and clicking pattern. This can highlight important information and create a better overall user experience.

Understand Your Websites with Hotjar (Hotjar)


Remote usability testing is essential for UI/UX designers and researchers. With the help of this usability testing tool, UX professionals can conduct effective user research by saving time, money, effort, and several other resources.

This article discussed the basic idea of a remote test and its two types: moderated and unmoderated. Both negotiated and unmoderated testing have their advantages and shortcomings. Therefore, designers need to be aware of their resources, limitations, and goals before choosing the type of test. T he best practices and processes discussed in this article help conduct both types of tests with the help of the essential tools mentioned above. The list of devices, however, needs to be completed.

There are several other tools and resources that designers can use to add value to the process of remote usability testing.