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Types of user testing

We will learn about the different types of user testing.

Depending on the type of concept you are developing, you may need to consider a number of different user testing techniques to gather data about your users.

First, let’s look at how we can categorise user testing methods.

Types of user testing

The type of user testing method you select is informed by a number of factors, including the available resources, your target users, and your research goals.

Remote vs in-person user testing

Not all user testing has to be conducted in the same room as the user – there are a number of advantages of remote user testing as well.

The table below compares the advantages of remote and in-person testing. [1]

Aspect In-person testing Remote testing
Advantages You can directly observe the user’s facial expressions, body language and behaviour and more control of the testing environment to minimise distractions Cheaper and more convenient than in-person testing and possible to reach more users
Disadvantages Costly and more time-consuming Limited control over the test environment
Examples Observation; lab usability testing Video interviews; session recordings

Moderated vs unmoderated user testing

One of the advantages of testing digital products is the ability to conduct moderated remote tests. These can be done via video conferencing technologies, like Zoom, and captured using screen-recording software.

Unmoderated testing can also be conducted asynchronously using recorded sessions in tools like UserTesting or through user surveys or feedback prompts [1].

The graphic below shows examples of user testing types and how they fit into different categories.

Common user testing techniques

Now, let’s look at some of the user testing techniques widely used today.

Concept testing

Concept testing occurs in the early stages of the design process. This could look like a paper-based sketch of a concept that is shared with users, as well as user interviews, surveys and focus groups that can be conducted in-person or remotely. The goal of concept testing is to understand how users feel about your product idea before you invest time and resources into developing it. [2]

A/B testing

A/B testing compares two different versions of a design with users to determine which one users respond to better. Do this by creating two separate prototypes and testing them with different sets of users. It’s important to focus on one variable at a time when conducting an A/B test to avoid skewed results. You could test something as specific as the copy on a call-to-action button or something broader like the user flow of an onboarding process.

Note: A/B testing will help you validate whether a design approach is working, but not necessarily why. Consider following up an A/B test with a survey or focus group to gain more insights into your users’ behaviours and preferences.

Usability testing

We made a distinction earlier between user testing and usability testing. The purpose of usability testing is to determine how easy your design is to use. When it comes to usability testing, observing how users interact with a product rather than asking them directly how they feel about it is key. Techniques such as eye-tracking, which observe and track a user’s eye movements using a pupil-tracking device, are useful for eliciting unbiased user reactions and responses to your design.

Heat map analysis

If you want to test how users are engaging with your site, heat maps can give useful insights without having to generate large amounts of data.

A website heatmap is an automated graphical visualisation that uses a range of colours from cool blues to warm reds to tell you exactly what part of your webpage your users are focusing on the most. Warmer colours like red and orange are usually used to indicate where users are engaging the most with your site. [3]

During user testing, heat maps can answer two key questions: 1. How are users browsing with your site? 2. What areas are most interesting to your users?

Card sorting

Card sorting is a method to test the domain knowledge of your users to learn more about their mental models and how to design your UX to cater for these mental models. [4]

During a card sorting test, users are given cards with labels or menu topics and asked to sort them into categories. This testing technique can be done remotely or in person and is a quick and cost-effective method to help improve your product’s information architecture.


1. Stevens, E. User Testing: A Guide To Step 5 Of The Design Thinking Process [Internet]. Careerfoundry; 2019 Apr 25. Available from:
2. Chew, K. 3 qualitative concept testing case studies & methods [Internet]. Remesh; 2019 Aug 28. Available from:
3. Website heatmaps: your complete guide [Internet]. JustInmind; 2020 Jan 20. Available from:
4. Card sorting: your complete guide [Internet]. JustInmind; 2020 Jan 14. Available from:

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