SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER
June 1, 2023
Step into the Realm of UX Research to discover the 236 tools that make up the UXR software landscape in 2022.
Keep reading for a complete guide to navigating the map, a look at how the 2022 edition came together, an overview of the tools we used, and answers to anticipated questions. In the Traveler’s Guide:
If you came here in search of a solution to a particular problem—be it participant recruitment or A/B testing—you can cut to the chase by using the search feature at the bottom of the page.
But as cool as it is to be able to filter the list by UXR use case, we really recommend wandering through the map itself to experience the user research software landscape in its entirety and see all the tools in context.
🧙Note: There’s a legend in the map itself, which you can consult if you’ve lost your way.
There are 6 distinct, color-coded regions of the map, which correspond to the six broad categorical buckets (insight management, recruiting and panel management, creative thinking and design, end-to-end platforms, active research, and passive insight collection).
Within these regions are 18 smaller territories that correspond to specific use cases and features (in previous years, these categories were depicted as subway lines).
Each category is represented by a different cartographic element—e.g. swaying grasslands for incentives (aka the Fields of Gold 🌾), swampy wetlands for A/B Testing tools (aka Twin Marshes 🐸), cloudy peaks for brainstorming and collaboration (aka Storm’s Head ☁️).
Some logos are clustered tightly around a category label—these are tools with a single or strong primary use case. Many more tools are located in the spaces between categories—these crossover tools are plotted by both their primary and secondary (and sometimes tertiary) use cases.
You can identify crossover territory by its mixed topography. For example, the Ancient and Unwavering River of Everflowing Insights (usability testing) cuts through various other terrains, including Feedback Fens and the Singular Steppes.
Tool categories and regions of the map:
Participant recruitment and panel management tools help you find the right participants for your research and streamline the participant management process by automating operational tasks related to recruiting, like incentives distribution and scheduling.
Incentive tools automate the task of sending incentive payments to participants.
Scheduling tools help you find and schedule mutually convenient times for your research sessions.
Research panel solutions help you find, recruit, and screen participants from an external pool of users, (not your own). Note: In order for us to consider its panel to be a tool’s primary use case, the panel must be agnostic. In other words, researchers must be able to recruit participants for research on any other platform, not just the platform associated with this panel.
Insight management tools are used to store, organize, and analyze data collected through user research, passive insight collection methods, and customer-facing teams.
Tools for creating a text transcription of your audio or video interviews.
A research repository is a single, centralized place for storing, tagging, and keeping track of all the user research insights, data, artifacts, and relevant user feedback that you collect. Note: Tools that do not allow researchers to import data and insights from other sources do not qualify as repositories.
Note taking tools enable you to take efficient notes during your research sessions, save them, and organize them for future analysis.
Analysis software helps you organize, analyze, synthesize, and glean meaningful insights from research data. Note: Many testing and data collection tools have built-in features designed to interpret the data gathered via the same platform. In these cases, analysis is listed as an additional feature rather than a primary use case.
Creative thinking and collaborative design tools enable you to brainstorm, collaborate, and create visuals that help you get feedback from participants and your team.
Brainstorming and collaboration software is designed to help you to collaboratively explore ideas with minimal friction.
💻 Revisit our webinar: How To Use Miro For More Collaborative UX Research
This category includes flexible tools that help you map out the connections between ideas, steps, or sketches of a user flow, and design tools for creating a simple mockup that approximates a real product.
📜 Read more: 128 Best Prototype Templates and Examples
Active research tools are used to conduct studies with participants to answer a specific research question or enable a particular business decision (e.g. surveys, usability studies, interviews). This is different from data collection tools that run continuously and independently of any specific research study—if that’s what you’re looking for, journey on to the Principality of Passive Insights Collection.
Video conferencing software enables you to conduct and record video calls with participants, either 1:1 or with multiple participants (e.g. a focus group).
Tools for creating a survey that you send to participants. Note: This does NOT include automated in-app surveys or screener surveys (those meant to be completed before the “real” research session to filter out qualified participants).
📜 Read more: 13 Survey Tools for UX Research
Usability testing tools enable users to test out a product and share their feedback, either live (moderated) or asynchronously (unmoderated).
📜Read more: Usability Testing Best Practices
Passive insight collection tools collect data and insights while users interact with your product, independent of any specific research project. Product analytics, voice of the customer (VoC), and automated in-app surveys fall into this category.
These tools allow you to trigger automated feedback requests at key points in the user experience (e.g., NPS surveys, in-app polls).
Session analytics tools allow you to track and analyze user interactions with a product in real time through heatmaps, mouse/eye tracking, and session recording.
Product analytics software is used to collect and analyze quantitative data on user behavior within your product. This category includes analytics tools used by product, marketing, and CX teams to monitor and optimize the customer experience.
Tools that enable you to show different users different variants of a page or feature, to see which variant performs best.
🏰 UX research software suites offer a single solution for recruiting, analyzing, and conducting several types of user research. These tools are designed to be used across multiple phases of the research process (if not end-to-end). Often—but not always—their broad suite of tools and “all-in-one” approach means that these platforms are not as open or integration-friendly as ecosystem players with a narrower feature set.
Some tools have additional visual identifiers, in addition to their relative location and cartographic illustrations.
There are many tools that offer a participant panel which are not located next to the Deep Pool. That’s because these panels are either:
🧙Note: Tools with an agnostic panel are shown with a maroon gemstone below their logo. Those with a restricted panel have a purple gemstone.
Many video conferencing platforms also offer transcription. Although these categories are located on opposite ends of the map, they are connected by a bustling maritime trade route.
There are plenty of strange and wondrous creatures that reside in the lush river valleys and craggy foothills of this vast realm. A few of them have been given their own place on the map. Specifically:
These platforms form the backbone of most researchers’ toolkits. The vast majority of UXRs and PWDRs (people who do research) work in an organization powered by Google and/or Microsoft and will build their tool stack on top of one or the other.
One of the first and most important building blocks in that UXR stack is a powerful recruiting and participant management solution. That’s where the Unicorn of User Interviews comes in: we have two products for researchers—Recruit and Research Hub.
Recruit sources quality participants from our pool of over 2 million people. You can target professions, demographic groups, or any niche audience you’re looking for.
Research Hub helps you tap into your own customer base for research. It’s the top-rated panel software for teams that do research at scale. Grow and segment your panel of thousands (or millions) of users, then allow every researcher in your org to self-serve recruitment and automate their studies.
We’re building the most open, integrated recruiting and panel management platform in the realm. On the map, our current integration partners can be identified by their “User Interviews green” border. You can also find this information using the search tool and the downloadable list.
Almost soon as we began creating our first UX Research Tools Map, we ran into a challenge that UXers will be very familiar with. Namely, we had an information architecture problem. As Erin May wrote at the time:
“Once you’ve done the hard, subjective work of defining categories, many of the tools you use every day fall into at least 2 buckets. We thought a perhaps more useful and representative visual would embrace this overlap. That way you can avoid the overlap you don’t want, get it where you do want it, and hopefully quickly get a sense of where you might want to dig deeper depending on your needs.”
The result was a subway-style map, with software plotted at the intersections of various lines, each representing a feature category.
The challenge was, the UX research tools landscape kept growing, and UXR platforms kept adding new features and functionalities. As a user researcher, that’s not a terrible problem to have—it meant greater access to more tooling options with more robust, purpose-made features and competitive pricing. But from an urban planning perspective, it presented an even greater infrastructural challenge.
Last year, Holly Holden (Senior Visual Designer) and I (Katryna Balboni, Content Director) found ourselves staring at spreadsheet upon spreadsheet and Figma file after Figma file wondering how on earth we were we going to plot over 200 tools—especially when more and more platforms were taking an end-to-end approach to user research tooling, offering impressively comprehensive suites of UXR features that just would not cooperate with our schema.
We wanted to reflect the increasing complexity and interconnectivity of the user research software landscape. But in order to do that, we had to streamline somewhere. We did this by sorting tools into categories based on their core functionalities, and by limiting the number of tools in each category to five (we included ~1-3 well-known and broadly popular options, ~1-2 robust enterprise solutions, and ~1 "dark horse" or alternative option).
In the end, the 2021 UX Research Tools Map featured 100 tools, with a database of over 100 more available to download for the first time. It looked slick (it was obvious we had a real designer on our team), but we received valid criticisms about the usability of the map as a tool for navigating the UXR software landscape (which was kind of the whole point). We also heard from a number of companies who were disappointed they didn’t make the cut. 😔
For the 2022 edition, we decided to take a rather different approach.
This year, we wanted to include as many relevant tools as possible. But we were frankly spooked by the prospect of plotting over 240 tools to fit on the correct subway line or station. So we decided to scrap the subway theme altogether, in favor of a geographic map that would (in theory) give us more flexibility when it came to plotting tools in their appropriate regions.
Over the course of several months we:
Holly and I took turns adding visual design inspiration to a shared FigJam board, in which we then added notes and comments about the elements of each example that we liked (or disliked) for our own Tools Map.
We ultimately decided on a historical fantasy theme, with a flat background and “hand drawn” illustrations.
The design exploration was the easy part. Next we had to align around a schema for categorizing the tools on our map. Should we add or remove any categories? Did the names we’d given to buckets in past years still apply? What system of categorization would be most useful for researchers consulting this resource as part of the evaluation and buying process?
We went back and forth in spreadsheets and Google Docs before settling on the categories outlined above, which are more or less the same as past years.
Once we had our categories locked down, we needed to make sure our list of tools was comprehensive. We had our 2021 list, of course. But things change. Companies get acquired, new software launches, old favorites get new features…
After scouring the internet (Google, ReOps Community, our own content), we ended up with a preliminary list of 315 tools.
That was too many, even with a more flexible map structure. A useful list needs some constraints—so we created some.
Again, we didn’t want to be overly restrictive with our criteria. But we did want to make sure that the tools we included were relevant to UXRs. So we developed a system for scoring each tool based on popularity (the aggregate number of online reviews; and website traffic as reported by SimilarWeb) and relevancy (was a tool designed for researchers, specifically?).
We wanted to give companies an opportunity to provide input into their placement on this year’s map, to make sure we were accurately representing their products. So, we dug up contacts for nearly every tool on the list and emailed them a form (built in SurveyMonkey) that asked about their tool’s features, its core use cases, and whether or not they offered a participant panel (and if that panel was agnostic), among other things.
We heard back from 25% of the list—61 companies in total. For the rest, we did further research to fill in the information ourselves.
This step involved a lot of anguished spreadsheeting and dragging and dropping things in Miro and Figma. I had an idea for plotting tools based on a unique set of coordinates, depending on their primary, secondary, and tertiary use cases. But I soon realized it was easier said than done, even after validating the concept with a sample set of 25 tools.
Once we had the full list, however, things got more complicated. (There was a point in the process where I got lost in my own qualitative coding.)
But we managed to nail down the system:
We were nearing the finish line… and then threw the whole thing out.
Okay, so we didn’t completely scrap the work we’d done.
The final design features a searchable database with feature tags and additional info for each tool available upon click, as planned.
But at the eleventh hour—after days (weeks, really) of struggling to make the map look the way we wanted (fun and creative, with good usability) while also being mobile responsive, interactive, and launched (almost, kinda sorta) on schedule—we had to admit to ourselves that our reach had exceeded our grasp.
So we pivoted. “Let’s design the [🦆] out of a PDF,” we said.
And that is what we did.
The 2022 UX Research Tools Map is an ode to Tolkien, A Song of Ice and Fire, all the amazing queer, feminist, non-Eurocentric fantasy being published right now, my random Master’s degree in medieval history, my continued frustration about not being able to run CKIII on a Mac, Holly’s design skills and roll-with-the-punches attitude, the tireless teamwork of the entire UI crew, and the age-old art of just totally making up maps.
But before it is any of those things, it is a guide to the tools that matter to UXers, now. We tried to keep the map neutral (can you blame us if our logo just happens to look a little special?), and made no recommendations about which tools we think ought to be in a researcher’s toolbelt.
Still, we have our own go-tos, several of which we reached for in the course of this project. Specifically, we used:
As always, this project was a heroic team effort.
Yea verily! We’ve embedded a searchable database of all 236 tools below the Tools Map. You can search for a particular feature using the search bar, or use the built-in filters to discover a list of tools that meet your criteria.
There could be a few reasons for this. For one thing, while many tools’ primary and secondary categories fall within the same region of the map or in an adjoining region, this isn’t always the case.
For video tools or testing platforms that offer a transcription feature, we prioritized its other features when determining map placement. We were operating under the assumption that UXRs were more likely to buy a tool for its video or testing features and consider transcription a nice-to-have or a differentiating feature rather than the other way around. For example, people aren’t buying Zoom for its transcription capabilities first and thinking of its video conferencing as a nice bonus.
Analysis features ≠ “an analysis tool.” Many, if not most, of the tools on the map offer some kind of analysis feature. Far fewer are actually “analysis tools'' by our definition. We considered a tool an analysis tool if researchers would consider it as a solution for analyzing data collected through research—regardless of which platform used to gather that data. For those tools with analysis features that principally exist to analyze and interpret the results of research conducted with the same product, we did not use analysis as a determinant factor in its logo placement.
We took the same approach to repository/data storage features. Most platforms that produce data or artifacts like video recordings allow researchers to store that data in a library. But unless a tool meaningfully supports importing, tagging, and organizing research results from other sources, we did not consider it a “repository tool.”
Additional use cases and features are included in the interactive database—you can click on any entry to learn more about each tool—and in the full list of tools, which you can download here.
User Interviews currently integrates with the following tools (with more integrations on the way):
On the map, look for logos with a UI-green border—this denotes a UI integration! You can also find this information using the search tool and the downloadable list.
In recent years, there has been a proliferation of “all-in-one” or “end-to-end” research platforms, as established players continue to add new features that address additional stages of the research process.
Many of these tools are closed systems—they are feature-rich and are designed to be used across multiple phases of the research process (if not end-to-end), but are not especially integration-friendly with other tools in the space.
A pre-packaged suite of testing software might be perfect for your team, especially if you’re just getting started with UXR and have the budget for a robust platform. On the other hand, your team may have already found their favorite tools for common use cases. Other tools may simply be too baked into your organization at this point to easily replace. In that case, you’re probably looking to layer in best-in-class solutions for as-yet-unsolved UXR problems.
We strongly favor the latter, ecosystem-based approach—it’s how we do things here at UI, and it’s why we’re committed to building the most open recruiting solution on the market. If you want a slick video conferencing tool, we’re not it. But if you want a best-in-class participant recruitment and panel management platform that integrates with your favorite video tool… Well, you’ve come to the right place.
We’d love to hear from you. To submit a tool for consideration, flag any possible errors, or simply say “nice work, UI team,” please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “2022 UXR Tools Map feedback.”
User Interviews is the fastest and easiest way to recruit quality participants for research. Get insights from any niche within our pool of over 2 million participants through Recruit or build and manage your own panel with Research Hub, the first CRM designed for researchers.
Our tools make sourcing, screening, data consent, scheduling, messaging, incentives, and all aspects of research recruiting simpler. For enterprise orgs, we offer endless customizations and admin features to help large research teams stay coordinated, consistent, and compliant as they scale.
User Interviews is free to start and affordable to scale as your research needs grow.
Content marketer by day, thankless servant to cats Elaine Benes and Mr. Maxwell Sheffield by night. Loves to travel, has a terrible sense of direction. Bakes a mean chocolate tart, makes a mediocre cup of coffee. Thinks most pine trees are just okay. "Eclectic."