The State of UX Research
Over the past eight years, we have witnessed the rise of innovative design tools. The well earned popularity of UX Design and Design Thinking drive this innovation forward. Sketch kicked off the revolution in 2010 by specifically focusing on UI design (a huge step up from Photoshop!). Other great tools like InVision and UXPin and many more followed. They proved a big improvement again for the design process. The next step in this design evolution was Figma and it brought real-time design collaboration directly to the browser.
Research fuels design and no great design comes without research. User interviews and user tests have traditionally come painfully and slowly because of recruitment, scheduling, transcribing and other unpleasant steps.
While we’ve witnessed this boom in design tool innovation, we've seen fewer improvements with research tools. Research product innovation lags behind researchers’ needs: When a UX Researcher needs to prepare weeks ahead to recruit users, that's clearly not something you should do in 2018.
This was the main reason, we started with PingPong: to change the status-quo in stagnating research tools and to make user interviews as easy as ordering an Uber. We believe UX research should be easy, effortless and fun, and we must catalyze research with better tools.
In the past two years though, the speed of research innovation seems to be changing, starting with new and better products. As the founder of a UX research startup, I’ve been following these closely and I’m going to give you an overview of some of the great tools out there.
PingPong focus is moderated 1 on 1 user interviews and user tests. We have a global panel over 25,000 people, and one of our greatest features is the speed of recruitment and the quality of participants. To get a better idea, check out our product page.
- Price: starts from €75 for 30 mins.
- Panel: 25,000
- Private Panel: Yes
- Extra: Built-in video calling, mobile testing, transcription, observer
Unmoderated testing it the most popular UX research method because it allows you to receive quick and seamless feedback on your product. You don’t need to prepare and moderate sessions so designers and marketers use it widely. From my experience, it’s not the favorite research method for UX researchers. The received feedback can come shallow, the participants might not be the greatest fit and more space opens up for misunderstanding and derailing the testing. But in the right hands, when done right, it definitely has its place in the UX research toolbox and can provide you with valuable feedback.
The most interesting thing about Rayfeed is their technology and their carefully crafted design. The users don’t need to download software or install extensions: everything works in the browser instantly. They record the user’s voice and interactions and you can watch these recordings on playback.
It has a really nice level of detail in their user experience and user interface, subtle animations and great choice of shapes and colors.
Unfortunately, they cannot provide you with a panel, so you have to invite users or share a unique URL to participate. Check out Rayfeed demo here to get the full picture.
Userbrain offers a low-cost subscription-based service to make user testing a habit. For as low as $69 a month, you’ll receive one video every week about someone trying your product and sharing their feedback. The offering is very similar to usertesting.com but their approach to turn user testing into a week-by-week exercise will be valuable for many companies.
Userbrain won’t fulfill your qualitative research needs but it provides a low-cost and accessible way of receiving constant feedback and sharing issues with your team.
We’ve seen a couple of innovative recruitment companies popping up in the past few years. They offer high-quality participants with low turnaround time. Most of the time, these companies start at a specific geographical location and then expand further. As they only focus on recruitment, they won’t provide you with tools (video, transcription, etc) but they still prove massively useful as they’ll take out the most painful part of your research: recruitment.
Respondent is a New York based recruitment company, that can help you recruit niche audiences for in-person and remote studies with quick turnaround time and high quality respondents.
They are launching their Respondent Management System, which will allow you to build your private panel.
- Price: Compensation + 35% service fee.
- Panel: No info
- Private Panel: Yes, Respondent Management System
- Extra: Access to niche audiences
Based in Zurich, TestingTime has a very strong German-speaking panel (DACH focus). They can recruit users for in-person or remote (Skype) interviews (and surveys as well) and they work with a two-day timeline.
- Price: From €30 (can go above €100 with extra options)
- Panel: 150,000
- Private Panel: No
- Extra: Strong German-speaking panel
A US-based recruitment company, UserInterviews can also help you find the right participants. Their Research Field Guide has some good content and they have a really great and funny marketing video.
- Price: $20 for consumers, $60 for professionals
- Panel: 125,000
- Private Panel: Yes, Research Hub
- Extra: Great content in Research Field Guide
Askable is one of the recent recruitment firms and they're sharing their journey openly. They have a solid product and a pretty big panel in Australia. In case you need to run research there, Askable probably make the best bet.
- Price: From $75 + compensation
- Panel: No info
- Private Panel: No
- Extra: Strong Australian panel
Vase is a Malaysia and Singapore focused recruitment company, with additional products to run surveys and focus groups. They are relatively new, but their panel is massive.
- Price: No info
- Panel: 700,000
- Private Panel: No
- Extra: Malaysia and Singapore
There’s nothing worse than when you do a lot of research and the outcomes are not being properly documented, shared and built into the product.
Dovetail is built to manage and analyze your user research. You can organize your research into projects, analyze, highlight, tag and visualize all your learnings. You can drop in your images, audio and video files and build a proper research repository.
Dovetail is the most useful when you start building up a massive amount of research data that you need to overview quickly. It becomes even more crucial when you run multiple research projects and collaborate in a team. You can always use Trello or Airtable but more focused and sophisticated product like Dovetail can save a lot of time and make your life easier.
Aurelius helps you tag, analyze, search and share all your user research in one place. It's a UX research repository that helps you quickly make and find key insights or "nuggets". Their Collections feature allows you to easily answer "Do we have any research on this?" by gathering research findings and data from multiple studies in one place and sharing them with anyone on your team, even if they don't have an Aurelius account!
Where is research innovation heading?
It’s great to see that the need for quicker and better research results in better products. We can see a nice transition here to a more accessible, cheaper and quicker UX research.
Recruiting participants and running different research has become more accessible, but there’s still a long way to go. I believe the next few years are going to be super interesting and we’ll see more tools coming to market and the current tools will continue evolving.