Remote usability testing vs. lab testing: 4 questions for making the right choice

In general, we recommend remote usability tests as opposed to lab-based usability tests. This is because a moderated remote usability test can often deliver results that are at least as good as those from a more expensive lab, but with lower costs, less prep and more flexibility.

But in certain situations, it might be more advantageous to carry out a lab-based usability test. Answering the following four questions is an easy way to decide which type of testing is best for what situation.

Situations favoring a moderated lab-based usability test

If you can answer “yes” to one or more of the following questions, then a lab-based usability test may well be your best choice:

  1. Does this test require the use of eye tracking?
  2. Do you need high-resolution video documentation for later review?
  3. Do the moderator and test participant need to be in the same room?
  4. Is the test item still unstable and unpredictable, making it impractical for the test participant to operate the test computer remotely?

If all four answers are no, then we recommend (as in most cases) a moderated remote usability test.

Situations favoring a moderated remote usability test

In most situations, a moderated remote usability test is the preferred choice, especially in terms of cost-benefit ratio. In the following two situations, we’d even recommend remote testing as the superior option:

  • If the target group is poorly represented in the general populace, or is widely spread out across Germany
  • If there’s not much time left for prep, and the test needs to be done as soon as possible (still subject to the recruitment of test participants)

Comparing the two testing types

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Julia Gebauer
#ux Julia joined sum.cumo as a senior copywriter in May 2017. She is now part of the UX team as a UX writer, where she delivers text for the digital products of sum.cumo and clients. Her aim is to produce clear language that makes the use of these products as simple and comprehensible as possible, and to allow a kind of human dialogue to take shape. Julia works across projects and customers and also takes care of content, text, words and language at sum.cumo beyond web applications. Before her time as UX writer in Hamburg, Julia was involved in marketing communications for various companies: After studying literature in Germany and Italy, she worked for several years for the outdooractive.com portal and the logistics company Dachser before moving to the sporting goods industry to join Ortovox and, finally, sum.cumo. Julia appreciates her work at sum.cumo because the way people interact is “truly unique” and she can fully develop and contribute her diverse interests and talents. In addition, she appreciates being able to determine her own work and having a successful work-life balance. 
This is especially important to her because she now lives as a remote colleague in the Bavarian foothills of the Alps, where she spends every free minute in the mountains or at the lakes. She recharges her batteries with outdoor sports and nature, and otherwise she loves the sea and likes to surf, take pictures or read a good book.
 In her spare time, Julia writes for a mountain sports portal, and she publishes her travel photos on juliagebauer.com. All articles by Julia