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How to perform unmoderated usability testing with Zoom

August 12, 2020

Two doggos on Zoom
Photo by visuals on Unsplash

I've mentioned a few times now that as a UX designer, I regularly perform user testing. There are tons of user testing methods, but two I like to do are unmoderated and moderated usability testing from time to time. 

I often run unmoderated sessions for the following benefits:

  • It is usually faster than a moderated session, and I can do other work while users are testing.
  • It more closely mimics user interaction of a product in "the wild".
  • I can schedule it to suits a user's timezone - no need to get up during the middle of the night.

There are a lot of limitations to unmoderated usability testing, so it is not ideal for every scenario.

There are plenty of tools that will help you organise and run unmoderated testing, but most of these come with a price - as in you need to pay to use their software. A lot of these tools are fantastic, but sometimes you need a cheap and no-frills way of doing it. So that is what I'm going to show you.

Anyway, I want to share how you can perform usability testing using Zoom. It is a pretty simple method, but it does require a little more planning and perfecting. With a bit of practice, you'll quickly be running unmoderated testing while you're watching the latest show on Netflix.

To get started, I've created a simple checklist for doing this.

  1. Prepare for user testing by adding our goals to this template.
  2. Set up a Zoom Meeting.
  3. Create a task list.
  4. Prepare the email for participants.
  5. Record an instructions video to help participants get up and running.
  6. Perform a test run.
  7. Recruit participants.
  8. Review the test results.
  9. Send a thank-you email.

Preparing for usability testing

For the user research to be successful, you will need to have a test plan. So before you jump into any usability testing (or any testing), take a few minutes to think about what are your goals, and what questions you would like answered. I previously wrote an article about preparing for user testing sessions which also has a template that you can use for this.

Setting up the Zoom Meeting

This is simple if you've got Zoom downloaded. All you will need to do is the following:

  1. Schedule a meeting and give it an appropriate topic.
  2. Set it as a recurring meeting. Or you can create multiples for each participant. I just create the one since I stagger the time that I schedule users.
  3. Turn on participants video, and set audio to "Computer Audio", if you're performing mobile testing you will want to set the audio to "Telephone and Computer Audio".
  4. In the advanced options, turn on "Enable join before host", and "Automatically record meeting" - set the recording in the cloud.
  5. Lastly, click the "Schedule" button.
  6. And copy the invitation, we'll use this later.
Scheduling a meeting in Zoom
Zoom settings

That is it, we've got a Zoom meeting scheduled to record.

Creating the task list

We need to create a list of the tasks that we want our users to complete during the test. The tasks should tie back to the questions that you want to answer. If you'd like to see an example of user tasks, then take a look at this user testing script. Otherwise, a quick google search will give you plenty of examples of how to create tasks for usability testing. 

Once I've created the task list, I'll add them to the email that I send users, which is the next step.

Preparing the email

We're going to need to create an email that we'll send to our participants. This email will give them all the details about the usability testing and what they can expect from it. I also include a video in the email where I walk through joining the Zoom meeting and sharing my screen. You will want to make sure that the email answers the following questions:

  • What we're doing?
  • Why we're doing it?
  • How we perform user testing?
  • What tasks do they need to complete?
  • And how they can give further feedback?
  • Plus any other details that they need to know.
A snapshot of the email I send to users
A snapshot of the email I send to users

Click here to see a full example of the above email.

Recording the instructions video

I'll also record a video of me walking through the instructions in the email so that they can see exactly the steps that they need to take. I like using Loom to do this, but you can do it with Quicktime, or even Zoom. 

Lastly, I make sure to transcribe the video too so that people can turn on captions when watching it. Transcribing a video is pretty easy to do so I'd highly recommend doing it.

Performing the dry run

I always perform a dry run the day before and again on the morning of the usability testing. The way I do it is pretty simple, I find someone in the company or at home that is not familiar with the product, and then I get them to follow the instructions in the email. The dry run helps me to uncover any problems that might occur or where my instructions are wrong or misleading. 

Recruiting participants

I generally recruit at least five users for usability testing. I've found that this number is manageable and will uncover a good deal of problems. And according to Nielsen Norman Group, you can identify up to 80% of the usability issues with just five testers, so that is good enough for me.

When recruiting participants, you will want to make sure that you give yourself plenty of time to source them and schedule them in. There are plenty of resources online to help you do this, but you should be able to recruit existing customers easy enough.

Anyway, once you've got them recruited, you'll want to send them a copy of that email you crafted earlier along with their scheduled testing time.

Reviewing the test results

After users complete the session, Zoom notifies you that there is a new recording available to view. I will watch the session and use the template mentioned earlier to record any user observations. Once all users have completed the test, I will update the results and declare our findings from the user testing.

Since its all recorded, it is easy to rewatch any parts that you are unsure about or to share clips with the broader team - which I highly recommend doing. Make sure to share the good things and "not so good" things - I think all user feedback is good feedback.

Thanking the participants

After the testing, I send each participant a thank you email, and I usually send them a reward of some kind - either a voucher or money - to say thanks for giving us some of their precious time.

So now that you know how to do it, there is no reason why you can't start performing user testing today. It really is that simple, and don't worry if it all falls to pieces on your first try, that happens to us all. Just learn something from it and try again. If anything, you will learn how easy it is to find usability problems in your products which you can use to improve the user experience.

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