Key Pointers for Website Usability Tests Moderation

website usability tests

There are several techniques of conducting website usability tests.  In the case of synchronous usability testing, the moderator interacts with the users to guide them through the testing process. 

The moderator oversees the usability testing and then reports the findings to the website design team. This information is useful in improving the product such that it provides an excellent user experience when it launches. The most crucial qualities for this job are quick decision-making and being observant.

Here are a few tips for effective moderation of website usability tests.

  • Make the participants comfortable
  • Profile the participants
  • Listen
  • Watch yourself
  • Watch the participant
  • Manage observers
  • Watch the time

Make the Participants Comfortable

When performing website usability tests, the environment should be similar to the real-life setting where users interact with a website. This is not always the case. Most participants feel uneasy, are aware of how they are perceived and know that they are being observed and tested. 

As a moderator, you should be friendly to the testers and make them comfortable. Keep note of their mood throughout the test, as a relaxed user gives you more accurate results than a nervous one. Accurate results tell if your product is likely to succeed when you launch it to the market. 

Profile the Participants

Website usability tests involve a variety of people, each with a unique character. You should profile them according to these personas to make the process quicker.

Here are some of the characters you are likely to encounter when overseeing usability tests.

  • The quiet ones that are hesitant to share information
  • The talkers who tend to discuss irrelevant information
  • The overly negative naysayers
  • The ones who act like they know everything
  • The critics who criticise everything
  • The ones who agree with everything, even if they are experiencing challenges

These characters are nothing but a referral point. You should profile each persona based on their interactions with you during the testing sessions.


The objective of a site usability test is to collect information from participants. You should always look to find the balance between listening and taking charge of the interactions with users.  

You should only start talking when the participant stops. Interrupting them will not only break their flow of thoughts, but it also means that you miss out on useful insights. Also, you should give the users time to understand your question before they start giving a response.

Watch Yourself

As you observe the user during website usability tests, it is important to watch your conduct as well.  Here are a few tips to help you in this regard.

  • Know your moderation style
  • Take note of researcher bias
  • Watch your body language

Know Your Moderation Style

You should know your personality, the style you use to moderate, its demerits, and more importantly, how to make up for them. There are two main personality types, robotic and animated.  If you are robotic, you should try to become more lively.

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Regarding the style of moderation, you can be either transactional or relational. Transactional moderators usually overemphasise the test and lack a human touch. If you happen to be one, try to use positive gestures and words of affirmation.

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Take Note of Researcher Bias

Researcher bias is a widespread shortcoming that hurts digital marketing in Singapore. It is prevalent even among experienced moderators. 

Common types of biases include control bias, leading questions, question-order bias, halo effect, and confirmation bias.

Watch Your Body Language

Your body language tells a lot about your attitude towards the participants. Make sure that you observe your non-verbal cues to avoid any issues.

Watch the Participant

Besides feedback, you should also watch how the participants conduct themselves during the test.  Here a few things you need to take note of when moderating website usability tests.

  • Respondent bias
  • Non-verbal cues

Respondent Bias

If a participant is biased, they will not give accurate results. You should actively look to reduce the incidences that may impact the integrity of your test results. The most prevalent biases among users include consent biases, demand characteristics, and social desirability bias.

Non-verbal Cues

You can easily tell if the participants are comfortable with the research by observing their body language. Non-verbal cues can also show you if the respondent means what they are saying verbally.

As a moderator, you must know how to interpret non-verbal cues and adjust the way you interact with participants. For instance, if the user is fidgeting, it shows that they are nervous. You should start with easier tasks or ask simple questions until they gain confidence.

Another cue to look for is restlessness. Usability tests often cause fatigue, and you should stop a session immediately the users appear tired. In such cases, you can either introduce breaks or shorten the tasks.

It is difficult for novice moderators to pick up non-verbal cues. As you interact with more people, you will develop this ability and be able to pint them out easily.

Manage Observers

A smart way of involving stakeholders in your website design project is by inviting them to see a site usability testing session.  That said, it is vital to exercise caution when dealing with external observers.

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Since they are not researchers, observes may say or do something that may skew the findings of the testing session. Also, too many observers might make the users uncomfortable.

If you do not want observers to interfere with your usability tests, you can have them watch the session through a video live stream. If they have to be on the ground, make sure that they know what to avoid so that they do not affect the results of the test.

Watch the Time

You have to be time-conscious when moderating a website usability test. However, make sure that the respondent complete tasks at their pace without any pressure.  If you want to save time, make the tasks shorter and easier to accomplish.


The secret to having successful website usability tests is asking the right questions and observing the behaviour of the participants throughout the session.  You need to make fast decisions and make most of the time while keeping the users comfortable. Lastly, you also need to be aware of your verbal and body language and find a balance between talking and listening. 

Get in touch with for more tips on how to carry out website usability tests in Singapore as well as website design services and tips. 




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