Conducting Unmoderated Research with Handrail

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Surveys are a great method for researchers to collect quantitative information that can be counted or measured. This type of information is typically easier to analyze and can help researchers identify focus areas or help define future qualitative research efforts.

In unmoderated survey studies, research participants complete an individual session without a facilitator guiding the conversation, asking follow-up questions, or probing to gain a deeper understanding of the answers. Although it is possible to have someone observe, participants generally conduct them by themselves.

Overview Contents

  • Step 1: Create a New Study
  • Step 2 Create a Research Plan
  • Step 3: Create a Survey Form
  • Step 4: Distribute Your Survey
  • Step 5: Review Results

Step 1: Create a New Study

Navigate to the Studies page and click "Create Study" and then choose “Simple Survey”.

Your new study will contain a research plan, the survey form you will create for your participants, all the future survey sessions, the results, and a place to organize and store the findings of your research study.

See example:

Step 2: Create a Research Plan

Capture and clarify all of the details regarding your research initiative. You can outline the study purpose or objective, how your research will be used, who will be involved in the study as well as when and where the research will take place.

Study Purpose

  • Add what you want to learn, measure, or benchmark during this study. This helps inform the overall goal of the study, guide specific topics and questions, as well as stay aligned to the overall goal.


  • Define your participant criteria, target user types, or recruitment methods. Establishing this information up front and being able to refer to it helps you and your team find the right people.


  • List start and end dates, important milestones, or even the quantity of responses you are targeting to complete. This information helps keep team members informed on important dates and can indicate progress towards completion.


  • Identify where your study will take place. This keeps everyone involved informed on the logistics of your study and allows team members to plan accordingly.

Team Members

  • Include team members and their roles. This will help promote collaboration and keep the team informed on who is responsible for certain aspects of the study.

Step 3: Create a Survey Form

Fill out the sections of the survey form template. Customize the survey form template to fit your specific research needs by adding content to the following fields:

1. Welcome Message – optional

Add a message that welcomes the participant and informs them on what to expect. An introduction message helps the participant feel welcome and encourages participation.

2. Participant Identification

Select how study participants will be identified in your results. There are three ways participants can be identified:

  • Name
  • Email Address
  • Anonymous

Selecting 'Anonymous' will only identify participant by an automatically assigned ID number.

3. Questions

Drag and drop specific questions to collect and report on qualitative and quantitative data. You can create new questions, use a template from the library, or reuse a question from a previous study.

Available question types:

  • Text Entry
  • Multiple Choice
  • Multiple Select
  • Rating
  • Task Success
  • System Usability Scale

4. Thank You Message – optional

Add a message that thanks the participant for taking the survey. A thank you message helps the participant feel appreciated and can contain an outline of what they should expect now that the session is over.

See example:

Step 4: Distribute Your Survey

There are four main ways you can distribute your survey and collect data using Handrail:

1. URL Link

Click “Copy URL” or copy the URL link text to paste into an email, text, social media, or other medium that participants can access.

2. Social Media

Click one of the social media icons to launch a modal allowing you to access a customized message area that will post a survey link to facebook or twitter.

3. Embed on Website or Application

Copy the “Embed on Website” html code and paste into your website, application, or other digital interfaces where you would like a survey button to appear.

4. In Person

I. Enter Data Real Time

Click the “+ Session” button to start a new survey session if you are the one responsible for starting the session and handing it over to a participant so they can enter data into Handrail.

II. Enter Data After Session

Select "Print Survey" to use a paper version of the survey. This will allow you and the team to have a paper copy of the survey to give to a participant, record answers by hand, and enter data in Handrail later.

See example:

Additional Notes for Conducting Sessions

Participant Information

Handrail automatically creates a unique identification number and assigns it to each participant. This unique ID is used internally to keep participant data separated, but it can also be used as reference for participant data stored outside of Handrail.

Participant identification information is not required in Handrail and should only be captured with permission of each participant.

See Policies for more information regarding privacy and GDPR compliance.

Step 5: Review Results

Navigate to the “Results” tab to access an organized output of all the participant survey sessions that have been completed in a single study. It will contain aggregated information of the responses captured.

Notes for reviewing results:

Data Visualization

Depending on the construction of the survey form and the types of questions used, Handrail automatically organizes all the session data and generates aggregated views in different types of visualizations.

Example visualizations include:

  • Word clouds
  • Pie Charts
  • Bar Charts
  • Confidence Interval Error Bars

Research Cards

Capture key findings, issues, opportunities, quotes, action items, or other insights in the Research Cards inside of the Results or Analysis tab within your study.

Any cards you create on the Results page are automatically exported to the Analysis tab allowing you to do more in-depth analysis like tagging, grouping, and filtering.

Analysis Tab

The Analyze tab allows you to create and edit Research Cards as well as classify and categorize cards into groups that share similar meanings or qualities.

Summary Tab

The Summary Tab is for creating an informal summary or topline report of your study findings, recommendations, and action items.

Need more information or have questions we didn't cover here? Get in touch!


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