The Moderator's Survival Guide

Handling Common, Tricky, and Sticky Situations in User Research


  • Donna Tedesco, Senior Usability Specialist
  • Fiona Tranquada, Senior Usability Consultant

The Moderator's Survival Guide is your indispensable resource for navigating the rocky shoals of your one-on-one user research sessions. Inside, you’ll find guidance for nearly 100 diverse situations (ranging from business-as-usual to tricky and sticky) that might occur during usability studies, contextual inquiries, or user interviews.

As a moderator, you are responsible for the well-being of the participant, your study, and your organization. You must be prepared for anything that may happen, from your technology failing to the participant quailing. Use this guide to identify your best next steps, react appropriately, and survive any challenges that comes your way.

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UX professionals (UX designers, usability engineers, usability architects, usability researchers, UX managers)


Book information

  • Published: November 2013
  • ISBN: 978-0-12-404700-6

Table of Contents

Part 1: Your Moderation Toolkit

Chapter 1. Moderation Matters: Power, Responsibility, and Style

Chapter 2.  In the Trenches: Six Steps for Handling Situations

Chapter 3.  Mix and Match: Your Moderation Patterns Toolbox

Part 2: Your Survival Guide

Chapter 4. Recruiting Mishaps: Participants You Weren't Expecting

Chapter 5.  Participant Misconceptions: Not What the Participant was Expecting. 

Chapter 6. Some Guidance Required: Participants in Need of Shepherding. Chapter 7.  Make it Work: Handling Technical Obstacles

Chapter 8. Is This Right? Responding to Uncertain Participants.

Chapter 9. What's Going On? Recovering from External Interruptions.

Chapter 10. Get on Track: Overcoming Momentum Blockers.

Chapter 11. Take the Wheel: Guiding Wayward Participants.

Chapter 12.  A Delicate Touch: Addressing Sensitive Situations

Chapter 13. Uncomfortable Interactions: Responding to Awkward Situations

Chapter 14. Safety First: Minimizing Emotional and Physical Distress

Part 3: Improving Your Skills

Chapter 15.  An Ounce of Prevention: Avoiding and Mitigating Situations

Chapter 16. Sharpening Steel: How to Improve Your Skills and Help Others Improve Theirs

Appendix A. What to Say

Appendix B. Preparing for a Successful Session

Appendix C. Resources