Most often, when you think of usability tests, you think of a facilitator guiding and observing a test partipant as they complete a set of predefined tasks. Recently, I’ve been considering a different approach to testing that involves letting participants loose on a web site (still encouraging them to think-out-loud) and observing what is perhaps a truer user experience, since the user is making most of the decisions about where to go and what’s worth doing (e.g., Download, Share). One reason that a facilitator may still be of use in these situations is that sometimes a user will leave the site to do research elsewhere and spend less time commenting on the site being tested. While this may be an important learning, it may not be the best use of time, and having a facilitator available to guide the user back to the focus of the study can be important. I’m curious to know if anyone has experience with this “let ’em loose” approach, and would love to hear suggestions.