How to use online research platforms properly

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Put online research platforms in the right hands

There are a growing number of online research platforms that help teams test ideas and products. These include, and WhatUsersDo both of which we have experience with. They are really good tools and are an important part of the digital product teams tool set.

As the use of these online research platforms has grown so too has the number of people using them. Many companies invest in a subscription that means they have few limitations on the use of the tools and they want to make sure they get the most out of them. However, not all of the people using them know what they are doing.

The inquiry normally comes to us from the insight team. They have seen an increasing use of the online research platform, often at the expense of more extensive research. They bring concerns about how the tools are being used and the decisions being taken based on the data. They often share that NPS is moving in the wrong direction, customer service calls are rising, online feedback is negative.

When we get to look at how the tools are being used, we often find it isn’t pretty. These are research and testing platforms. If they are not set up correctly the answers are unreliable at best, misleading at worst.

“If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.”

Red Adair

The problem for organisations is that if they get this bit wrong, they essentially move customer research into the live environment. Products go live based on unstable foundations. So what can they do about it?

How to get it right

It is obvious of course – put the tool in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing. Before this, it is important to recognize that if your teams are using these tools, they ARE conducting research. Also, just because it is quick and easy to do, doesn’t mean the decisions you make based on the data are trivial. When you get the mindset right, you can then consider how to use the tools better.

There are different ways to achieve this:

  • Training – if your UXD’s are going to be using the tools to provide data to base key design decisions on, get the training. Learning how to structure research questions is a great start. And there are no end of books about conducting research and testing that will provide a great platform.
  • Hire a UXR to work within your team – a lot of teams only have UXD’s in them so when you have a space, hire a UXR to compliment your team.
  • Use an agency –  this is feathering our own nest of course but agencies like UX24/7 are a viable solution and can not only deliver services but also change the culture and build capability.

So do carry on using these tools. But get the right mindset and recognize that your are taking important decisions based on the data. And finally get the tools into the hands of someone who knows what they are doing. It is true had working amateurs can become professionals, but in where these platforms are concerned, they shouldn’t be practicing their craft in full view of the public.

If you are worried that your team is basing important decisions on badly conducted research get in touch on +44(0)800 0246247 or email us at

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