Best tools for user research

best tools for user research

The software environment around UX research seems to change faster than we can write about it. We’ve written about leading UX research software in the past, and those pages soon start to look dated, given the speed that technology moves.

There’s no surprise, however, that new tools invade the industry so regularly, as picking the right tool or tech stack can significantly improve operations. Advanced efficiency allows for more effective study and delivery, saving time, becoming more cost-effective, and ultimately ensuring better performance from the UX we create.

So instead of deep diving into a small selection of specific design research tools, we’re going to look at the categories such tools are used for and offer suggestions of which could be the best user research tools for each. From there, you can consider the areas of expertise where you’re lacking, a few options that could work for you, and setting you off down your own rabbit hole of research into the solutions that should satisfy those needs.

1. UX recruiting tools

With UX research, you couldn’t get past square one without a healthy pool of participants to study. Armed with the right tech, finding enough qualified participants becomes painless, as does organising, tracking, and scheduling.

Some options will allow direct recruitment from your website, while others offer an opportunity to pick from existing ready-built databases for immediate studies.

  • Ethnio – Ethnio offers participant recruitment with an incentive facility and automated scheduling—all delivered from your website or app to locate the most suitable test subjects.
  • UXtweak – UXtweak offers both a widget you can add to your website for user recruiting and also a user panel where you can recruit from pre-selected participants. It also boasts a healthy list of testing features.
  • User Interviews – A popular tool for recruiting, with over 350k vetted participants, utilising screener surveys, scheduling, and participation tracking.
  • Ribbon – A simple and straightforward all-in-one recruitment, screening, and interviewing tool.

2. UX usability testing tools

UX user and usability testing tools cater to so many types and techniques. From card sorting, and tree testing, to task completion and prototype testing, measured by time, outcomes, or automated analytics and recorded for examination and review.

  • Sprig– A widget that researches critical moments during your app product flows, including micro surveys, concept testing, and user interviews.
  • Optimal Workshop – Offers multiple testing types with built-in analysis and recruitment tools.
  • Useberry – Prototype focussed testing tool with analytics and test recording.
  • Crazy Egg – Website optimisation and testing tool with heatmapping, scroll maps, session recording, and snapshot reporting.

3. UX survey tools

Surveys might seem like some of the most straightforward online user research tools, but they’re a valuable part of our process. Survey tools don’t just deliver questions but contain many advantageous features while integrating with other essential UX apps and programs.

  • Google Forms – Google provides a few good free UX research tools, and even though this one isn’t entirely free, it’s as good as, unless you’re a seriously prolific user. Google Forms is a practical survey tool that offers real value.
  • Tally – A polished survey creation and delivery tool, with answer piping and redirects on completion.

4. UX user interview tools

Gone are the days when an interview was held over a desk, face-to-face, and in person. Instead, technology is the UX interviewer’s new best friend, with so much live testing and interviewing held online and so many intelligent tools to extrapolate data.

  • Lookback– A comprehensive tool that executes live interviews while recording users’ screens. Either moderated or unmoderated, a great collaborative tool for the entire team.
  • Userzoom – A multipurpose UX research platform including usability and other forms of testing, recruitment, heatmapping, surveys, and of course, interviews.
  • dscout– Part of dscout—dscout Live—allows remote user interviews and feedback collection. It’s another multipurpose platform with a wide range of utilities, including recruiting, with on-call observers.
  • Grain– A handy tool that records, summarises, automatically transcribes, organises, and shares Zoom meetings.

5. UX tracking and analytics tools

Tracking technology delivers valuable insight into what users are doing on-page. Plenty of user research analysis tools and packages do this exceptionally well, and the data they provide tells us so much about how each UX design functions.

  • Hotjar – A comprehensive all-around platform with great heatmapping and recording functions.
  • Maze – A testing tool that integrates with most popular prototyping packages. It includes remote testing, surveys, automatic recording, heatmaps, and instant shareable test reports.
  • Loop11 – Usability testing on prototypes and live websites (including competitor sites).
  • Userlytics – Research into prototypes, applications, websites, and apps at scale, delivering advanced metrics and reports.

6. UX analysing, documenting, and sharing tools

Research plays a vital part in many industries, and with such growth, developers have created better ways to securely store and share findings using the latest available technologies.

One of the most significant growth areas in this area is by using research repositories.

The rise of the UX research platform and research repository tools

Again, research repositories aren’t a new idea; they’ve been around for decades, but with the amount of data produced under current UX research, they’ve become an invaluable and prevalent tool for modern operations.

Research repositories are user research platforms where all a team’s research-related elements are stored, organised, shared, and accessed by leaders, researchers, designers, and any other UX professionals or clients with a need or interest in it. Storing and sharing existing information creates real value for researchers and designers ready to utilise it in new products, projects, and instances.

A research repository manages the following categories of information:

  • UX insights – All customer-centric and design research insights are stored and tagged in easily accessible, consumable formats.
  • Observations – A further level of the research data includes the observations made by researchers and utilised by designers.
  • Raw data – The original unfiltered research data. Repositories allow it to be revisited and explored for alternative trends, behaviours, and otherwise unlikely investigated opportunities that weren’t considered during earlier rounds of examination.

Why use a research repository?

Traditional research storage and management methods included local and cloud-based spreadsheets, databases, and project management tools. This allowed researchers to create their own silos and data stores but lacked the control and efficiency of a custom-designed platform.

  • Easy to manage
  • Ease of access and operation
  • Smarter workflows
  • The opportunity to build on previous knowledge
  • Time-saving efficiency
  • Includes all types of data, incorporating special features and tools
  • Secure sharing with transparent information
  • Customisable
  • Scalable
  • Cost-effective

As UX analysis tools go, research repositories add an extra level of opportunity with an expert level of sharing.

Leading research repository platforms

  • Dovetail – A research repository that compiles all areas and participants in one place.
  • Condens – Another all-in-one repository with its own tool for automating transcriptions—very handy.
  • Maze – Previously mentioned due to leading research features, Maze is one of the top all-around performers on many levels. Surveys and tests can be shared within minutes, transformed from quantitative data, misclicks, or heatmaps, delivering automated reports, and opening discussions under a simple URL.
  • Great Question – A simple, searchable, secure, centralised, cloud-based repository that caters for recruiting, scheduling, interviewing, and prototyping, all from a single intuitive dashboard.

Conclusion

Deciding which are the best tools for UX research is impossible in today’s market. There are hundreds of ways to test, track, organise, and deliver outstanding results, with so many different ways to operate, observe, and arrange research data.

With organisations working at different operational levels, each tool and tech stack will likely be constrained by an appropriate and relative budget, so choosing tools wisely plays a crucial part in the process.

In the current technological climate, it’s no surprise that there’s a tool for every job and a hundred more you never imagined. Fortunately, with so many online UX research tools to choose from, you won’t be short of new ways to improve performance.

If you would like to know more about the UX research tools that we use and how they could help you, email us at hello@ux247.com.