Last updated Aug 2020
Complete guide to UX research
Josh Zak,
Founding Partner at Turtle Design
For nearly a decade, Josh has designed world-class experiences for tech companies. A co-founder and managing director at Turtle, he uses UX strategies to design winning digital products.

Best Tools and Software for Conducting UX Research

It’s 2020, and there's a ton of UX tools out there... and many researchers and designers have strong opinions about the best ones. Believe me, some days it feels like I’ve tried them all. In my opinion, picking tools is like buying a car: the best ones depend largely on your budget and needs. So let's dive in to my top picks and why I love them so you to evaluate for yourself.

Best UX research templates

Because our team loves using Miro, I thought it would be important to showcase a few templates you can use to get started. These are templates we’ve used – or that have been created by other UX professionals.

1. The UX Research Demo

Miro has a great selection of visual templates for creating personas, empathy mapping, tracking interviews, and creating action plans — but this board has it all. It’s a great starting point for you to work through your research either alone or with a collaborative team.

2. User Research Observations

Capturing user research observations can be done in many different ways, but this visual format created by seasoned UX consultant Laura Yarrow is special because it can be used by your team during live interview sessions. You can see everyone adding to the board in real time, which makes gathering feedback efficient and collaborative.

3. Remote UX Workshops

These days, remote UX research is a fact of life. For those who are new or still adjusting, this template board gives tips for planning and delivering remote workshops, how to introduce your session, and how to use online breakout rooms. Plus, it includes templates for three popular UX workshop activities: empathy mapping, refining personas, and mapping user journeys.

4. UX Design Analysis

When gathering research on user flows and creating low-fi prototypes, Miro is a great tool. Their Wireframe Library makes it easy to drag and drop elements onto any board, but this pre-made template can also get you started.

See even more UX templates>>

The best UX research software

From a software perspective, it’s not so important to have one tool that does it all (although that would be nice). But we need to be able to run surveys, do usability studies, watch interviews, gather insights, create prototypes, and run tests. So here are my top picks for you.

Tools for gathering and managing feedback

Gathering feedback from users is (obviously) an important part of the UX research process. It’s really crucial you pick a tool that allows you to survey users and manage the data that comes back. Here are my favorite tools that will help you do this.

1. Typeform

Typeform is a way to set up online forms and surveys that look great too. If branding is important to you, this should be your feedback tool of choice. You can start from a template or branch out on your own - the surveys are very customizable.

→ Basic account: $35/month

2. QuestionPro

QuestionPro is an awesome free option for feedback gathering. Although the free account only allows for one user, it has all the features you'll need to create, manage, and analyze a professional survey.

→ Basic account: Free

3. SurveyMonkey

SurveyMonkey comes with powerful analysis features and the surveys are super easy to set up. This is a great choice for the most data-driven decision makers.

→ Basic Account: $34/month

4. Formstack

Formstack is great for ease of use and the powerful, simple use of conditional logic within surveys. Its most basic account is the least expensive option of the paid options in this list. However, analytics are not included in the basic account.

→ Basic Account: $19/month

5. Canny

Canny helps capture and automatically organize feedback in one place. What makes it a bit different? Similar feedback is grouped and pushed to the top of your feedback list, making what needs to be done next very clear.

→ Basic Account: $50/month

6. Smartlook

Smartlook is a qualitative analytics solution that allows you to watch user sessions and track specific user events. An awesome feature is that you can use events to filter recordings.

→ Basic Account: Free

7. Condens

Condens is a tool that allows you to structure and connect evidence to identify patterns in qualitative data, like interviews and feedback. They have put a lot of focus into their overall user experience and onboarding, which makes analyzing and sharing data more accessible and enjoyable.

→ Basic Account: $33/month

8. Fullstory

Fullstory not only allows you to watch user sessions, it has powerful features, such as Frustration Signals, that call out important user behaviors. They collect more diverse interaction data than most other analytics platforms and make the data easy to analyse.

→ Basic Account: Paid but unknown

9. Hotjar

Hotjar lets you watch recordings of anonymous users interacting with your site, amongst other analysis features. You can also set up feedback models and surveys directly on your site to get some extra qualitative data directly from your users.

→ Basic Account: Free

10. CrazyEgg

Like the other tools listed here, with CrazyEgg you can watch user sessions, review heat maps, and set up A/B testing for new designs. A unique aspect to this tool is its easy integration with Shopify- and Wordpress-powered sites.

→ Basic Account: $24/month

Tools for prototyping

During the research phase, we like to wireframe, analyze and compare the user flows in Miro. It helps us define the relevant steps of the flow, identify user pain points, and gather more ideas for our prototype. There are plenty of robust tools to help make more robust prototypes as well:

1. InVision

InVision allows you to turn a static design into an interactive prototype quickly and easily. It is super easy to share and add comments as well. Great for if you design in Sketch, as it is a Sketch extension.

→ Basic Account: Free

2. Framer

Framer is ideal for the designer who wants to create a more complex prototype and knows a little bit of code. It has magic motion options that create fancy animations and interactions that makes your prototype feel real.

→ Basic Account: Free

3. Principle

Principle is a tool that is great for users new to animation and interaction design. The tool offers a lot of flexibility in animations while still being easy to use and quick to execute on clickable prototypes.

→ Basic Account: $129/yearly

Tools for testing

From remote tests and self tests to in-person, moderated tests, there are a lot of tools to choose from these days. Prices and functionality can range quite a bit from dirt cheap to very expensive. Here are a variety of tools I’ve liked, at various price points.

1. Lookback

Lookback is great for testing and recording prototypes from any platform. It has helpful customizability based on if you are doing remote moderated tests, in-person moderated tests, or self tests. You can do everything in one place, from setting up instructions to taking notes.

→ Basic account: $49/month

2. UserTesting

UserTesting gives you access to participants through their UserTesting Panel to test your prototype on. They also have a feature that pulls out similar quotes from user tests, such as “this task was hard,” creating jump links to those moments in the videos.

→ Basic Account: Paid but unknown

Validately Validately is another platform for moderating user testing. It is easy to set up, and their insight tab feature is well designed, making it easy to report all your insights and video reference points in one place.

→ Basic Account: $300/monthly

3. Userlytics

Userlytics is the all-in-one choice for user testing. The platform has card sorting, tree testing, and prototype testing, amongst other testing features. A great choice for the user who is doing multiple user tests in multiple ways and wants it all in one place.

→ Basic Account: $400/monthly

4. OptimalSort

OptimalSort is the tool to use for virtual card sorting. You can hold moderated or independent card sorting sessions, from which this tool will gather all the data, organize it, and pull out data patterns for you.

→ Basic Account: Free

What do remote UX Teams love doing in Miro?

  • Creating affinity maps, personas, and customer journey maps

  • Brainstorming and collaborating on projects

  • Running remote design sprints

  • Sketching out or iterating prototypes

  • Documenting everything together

  • Presenting their work

Learn more about Miro’s free online whiteboard tool>>

Looking to read more about remote collaboration? Start at Chapter 1 of our guide!

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