What Moderated Research Is | Five Keys
Moderated research is a great tool for UX researchers to gain deeper understanding of users’ needs. In moderated research a moderator interacts directly with the participant, which allows researchers to capture detailed responses and behavioral observations. In addition, it is incredibly useful when we want to gather in-depth reflections and insights about use of a product or service. Here are five key factors what moderated research is and why it should be used more.
Moderated Research is Interactive.
The key to successful Moderated research is interactive facilitation. The goal of the moderator is to investigate deeper and to understand what their participants are thinking, feeling, and doing. During a research session, moderators are communicating with their participants and guiding them through the tasks, answering their questions, and responding to feedback in real time. A good moderator can restate a question so that the participant understands and will dig deeper by asking follow-up questions if new insights arise.
Moderated Research is Discovering In Depth.
Moderators can dive deep into their participants’ responses and reactions by noting body language and non-verbal queues that are hard to capture in unmoderated research. Moderators ask questions, provide instructions, and observe participants’ reactions. A seasoned moderator is able to interact with the participant to uncover insights that are easily missed in unmoderated research. During study sessions, moderators always ensure that the participants are guided in a manner that matches the study purposes.
Image via ConnectFive, Inc.
Moderated Research is Flexible.
When we think of an interview or study session, we may picture a fully formatted test with a script. Moderated research has a bit more flexibility than what we traditionally think of with studies. It can, of course, utilize prepared scripts and reading materials. However, it also allows the testing to be more fluid and questions can be changed in the middle of the session based on participants’ reactions, and understanding of the questions or tasks.
In addition, moderated research allows the facilitator to respond to any immediate questions from participants, which can trigger key insights. Moderated research provides the flexibility to dig into the user’s experience through various perspectives allowing greater insight to their mental model.
Image via ConnectFive, Inc.
Moderated Research allows New Findings.
Since a moderator can ask more questions beyond a prepared script of questions, it is possible to get new, novel, or unexpected results. Sometimes it is difficult to see beyond what we know when starting a research project. Moderated research provides an opportunity to reveal unknown problems and findings. The findings may result in metaphors from the participant that help recast the problem in a new way for the research and design teams.
Moderated research also shows how users interact with a product, which may not have been considered by the designers and researchers. We may observe participants using a product in an unusual that is unintended by the original design. This new perspective can be a hack or simply how a product is used by participants in the real world, and can lead to new insights for the design team.
One technique to dig deeper into user testing is Think Aloud Protocol. This technique complements moderated research by allowing the participant to vocalize what they are thinking while using the product. While participants are using ‘think aloud’ this empowers the moderator to gather new findings.
Image via Handrailux.com
Moderated Research leads to more Rich Data.
Learning “how” and “why” is a great benefit of moderated research. It enables us to see how users navigate the product and why some issues arise. By contrast, in unmoderated research, data is usually limited because there is limited, for example, a moderator can take an extemporaneous approach from ‘reading the room’ by asking off-script questions, something unmoderated research does not support. However, moderated research can expand to rich data by digging into responses of participants, where participants made mistakes, how long it took them and if they needed help to complete the task.
Sometimes moderated research can reveal trends or patterns experienced by several participants during tasks. Also, any additional issues participants encountered could be discovered. When utilized correctly, moderated research can inform what functionalities and features need to be improved for future product development.
Moderated research provides active sessions unlike scripted facilitation. If you want to capture detailed responses and behavioral observations, you, too, should plan for your own moderated research. It will help you to gather in depth reflections about use of a product or service, and provide you with insights to what your customers really need.
Eui Yang, Ph.D.
Eui is a UX analyst/researcher at ConnectFive. She loves to see how people interact with products and systems.