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What are the different types of usability testing?

Sheza Naveed

Usability testing is a tool for testing a website’s functionality. The type of usability testing done depends on the context, purpose, and audience.

Overall, there are three types of usability testing:

1. Moderated vs. unmoderated

A moderated usability testing session is moderated by an administrator who introduces the procedure and purpose to the participants and answers any queries. This leads to in-depth results, as the researcher can ask follow-up questions and for the rationale behind performing certain actions from participants.

An unmoderated usability testing session is performed without any direct supervision. It is likely that the participants are in their own homes and not in a lab. It is low cost. However, it does not allow for direct decisions and in-depth insights.

2. Remote vs. in person

Remote usability testing is performed in an online setting such as over the internet, phone, laptop, etc. Remote testing does not explore participants’ reasonings behind certain actions in detail. However, one can perform a large number of tests online in a cost-effective manner. It allows people from far away areas to take part in the process.

In-person testing is completed when a UX researcher is physically present. This provides more in-depth insights, as the researcher can dig deep and talk to participants for their rationale behind certain actions and discuss them.

3. Explorative vs. assessment vs. comparative

Explorative usability testing is open-ended, where participants are asked to brainstorm, discuss ideas, and tell their insights. This is usually performed in the early stages of product development to identify new opportunities, ideas, and features.

Assessment testing is performed to evaluate a product’s general functionality. It checks the users’ satisfaction with the product and how they use it.

Comparative usability testing requires users to choose between two given options. They choose the solution that they prefer. It is used to compare an interface with other major competitors.

Usability testing methods that incorporate the above methods are performed in different contexts. Some of the methods are discussed below.

Guerilla testing

Guerilla testing involves going to a public space, such as a coffee shop, and performing testing there. The users are chosen randomly and are given a small compensation, for example, a free cupcake. People are asked about the prototype in a short discussion.

Thus, guerilla testing is a quick and cheap method. It allows for the collection of large amounts of data. Guerilla testing is performed in the early stages of product development, when the interface is tangible and you wish to know about the user’s opinions and emotions.

A guerilla test sample might not represent the ideal target users, so it should not be performed if a particular audience is required. Since people might not be willing to give more than 5 to 10 minutes of their time, it is essential to prioritize tasks to ask the participants to perform in that short time span. Guerilla testing is performed in person and is moderated.

Guerilla testing. Source:


We can perform interviews both in a remote as well as an in-person setting. One-to-one interviews provide in-depth insights where the moderator can ask follow-up questions to gain more information if required. Interviews allow for collecting qualitative data where multiple parts of the interface can be tested by giving multiple tasks and scenarios. We can do interviews in person as well as in a remote setting.

Session recording

In session recording, the entire interaction with the interface performed by the participants is recorded while keeping the participants anonymous.

It helps to highlight the specific and repetitive issues faced by the participants and the navigation paths adopted by them. This helps to understand the mental maps of the users and eliminate prominent issues in the interface.

Session recording. Source: Hotjar


Usability testing is a very effective method to test the interface and prototypes, highlight issues in them, and improve the user experience significantly. It is essential to choose the right method in the right context and stage of the project.




Sheza Naveed
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