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All-in-One Tools vs. Best-in-Class Tech Stacks for UX Research

Can one tool rule them all? Explore the pros & cons of all-in-one tools like UserTesting vs. integrated stacks like User Interviews + Sprig.

Can one tool really rule them all? 🧙‍♂️💍

UserTesting, UserZoom, and other “all-in-one” UX research tools claim to be one-stop shops for your research needs—simple, straightforward, and effective. 

But all-in-one tools aren’t always the best option for UX research teams. Often, they’re not even the cheapest option, even with only one license and invoice. 

In this article, we’ll explore the differences between all-in-one research tools and integrated, best-in-class tech stacks to help you make the right choice for your team. 

We’ll cover:

👩‍💻 Key considerations before you invest in a UX research tool

To invest or not to invest? In order to answer this question, you need to consider:

  • Your current research needs and goals
  • Your budget, ideal timeline, and other available resources
  • The size, expertise, and culture of your team
  • Your expectations (or aspirations) for future growth
10 questions to consider before investing in a UX research tool: Which research methods does your team most commonly use?  What are your core business goals and objectives?  Which tools are already used in your organization?  How long do you have to implement tools and onboard your team?   Cost vs. ROI: What is your budget relative to the potential return?   How many user seats do you need?  What is the technical knowledge and expertise of your team?  Who owns and maintains your research tools?  What is the company culture regarding change and research?  What level of scalability and agility do you want to account for?
10 questions to consider before investing in UX research tools

Current state: Research needs and goals

Adding (or subtracting) a tool can change the way you conduct research for the better, but it should also be harmonious with your current approach. 

🔎 Ask yourself:

  • Which research methods does your team most commonly use?
  • What are your core business goals and objectives?

Because all-in-one tools come pre-packaged with support for specific methods, it’s important to audit your teams’ current practices to make sure they’re aligned with the tool(s) you choose. You may struggle to find an all-in-one that supports all the methods you use—or, on the other hand, you might end up overpaying for functionality that you don’t need. 

For example, an all-in-one solution that provides digital ethnography tools is useless if you know your team never conducts ethnographic research, and doesn’t plan to in the future. Similarly, if you know your organization is focusing on research efficiency and cost savings in the uncertain economic market of 2023, then you’ll need to look for tooling options that align with this overarching business goal. 

Budget, timeline, and resources

Unless your team has unlimited time and resources (if you do, please email me at lizzy@userinterviews.com to tell me how you’ve managed this sorcery), you’ll have some restraints and limitations you’ll need to work within. 

🔎 Ask yourself:

  • Which tools are already used in your organization?
  • How long do you have to implement tools and onboard your team? 
  • Cost vs. ROI: What is your budget relative to the potential return? 

Some tools are quicker and easier to implement than others, so you’ll want to define (and stick to) an ideal timeline to prevent scope creep. You may also find that some combination of your existing tools works fine for your research needs, in which case, a new investment may not even be necessary. 

Obviously, you’ll also want to get your money’s worth no matter the size of your budget, so consider whether or not the probable ROI of each tool is significant enough to make up for the cost. All-in-one tools tend to be more expensive than integrated tech stacks, so you need to seriously consider whether or not an all-in-one meets your needs before allotting a generous portion of your budget to it. 

As Daniel Loewus-Deitch and Leo Smith explain in the Awkward Silences podcast episode, “Optimizing Your User Research Tool Stack for ROI,” choosing a few specialized tools over one generalized, all-in-one tool can be a massive cost saver: 

 “It's kind of like The Cheesecake Factory where you go in and you get this massive menu, and then you know, you've got your burritos and you've got your stir fry and all these different things. And it's like, Oh wow, this is great. I can get anything I want. 

But they're all kind of, eh, you know, a mediocre experience. Whereas if you go to, say a farmer's market, you've got all this great diversity and everyone is like an artisan in their own particular domain, and they're doing the best possible spaghetti sauce that you've ever tasted in your life or, you know, whatever it is.

And so those are the ones where you go and find those specialized tools to target gaps that you have in your process. And sometimes you can come out with a better result that's cheaper overall.”

For help auditing the role, cost, and utility of your existing tools, check out this sample platform audit worksheet by HubSpot. 

Team size, expertise, and culture

Tools don’t exist without teams. Consider who will be using these tools on a regular basis, and what features and functionality they’ll need to put the tool to good use. 

🔎 Ask yourself: 

  • How many user seats do you need?
  • What is the technical knowledge and expertise of your team?
  • Who owns and maintains your research tools?
  • What level of collaboration does your team need?
  • What is the company culture regarding change and research?

The size of your team can have a massive impact on the cost of certain tools; some tools charge extra per seat, while others (like User Interviews) provide unlimited researcher seats to support large and growing teams

Additionally, the culture and technical expertise of your team can limit or expand your options for tooling. Teams with high levels of expertise and healthy, flexible research cultures can onboard and manage complex tools quickly and easily, while teams with less expertise or more reluctance to change may need ongoing support for tools with a high learning curve. 

Future state: Expectations for growth

Successful teams take the long view when investing in platforms and processes. Instead of choosing tools based only on your current needs, consider how your team needs might grow or change in the future. 

🔎 Ask yourself:

  • What level of scalability and agility do you want to account for?

Some vendors have inflexible pricing packages which force you to invest in expensive enterprise plans for essential capabilities. Or, they make it difficult for you to switch platforms, connect new integrations, or add new user seats over time. 

This can be especially true for all-in-one research tools: If you find that some or all of the tool’s capabilities aren’t sufficient for your needs, you’ll need to scrap the whole thing and start over. On the other hand, an integrated tool stack allows you to switch out single tools without having to upend your entire stack. 

If you anticipate dramatic changes in how your team uses certain tools in the future (or simply feel more comfortable with higher levels of flexibility in your tooling choices), then an integrated stack may be the better option.

☝️ Pros and cons of using an all-in-one UX research tool

Now that you have a good understanding of your research team’s current and future needs, you can start weighing the utility of all-in-ones vs. integrated tech stacks. 

pros and cons of all-in-one tools for ux research. Pros: one-stop-shop for all research activity, broad participant panels for gen pop audiences. Cons: one size doesn't actually fit all; weaker, quantity-over-quality features, higher cost, limited flexibility and scalability
Pros and cons of all-in-one tools for UX research

🟢 Pros of all-in-one UX research tools include:

  • One-stop-shop: Managing all of your research activity from one tool is straightforward and easy to manage. 
  • Broad participant panels: Panels provided by all-in-ones may have broader reach and be a faster recruitment option if you’re looking for large sample sizes of gen pop audiences. 

🚩 Cons of all-in-one research tools include: 

  • One size doesn’t actually fit all: Because all-in-ones come pre-packaged with a specific set of functionality, you may end up paying for tools you don’t need and never plan to use. 
  • Weaker functionality: Typically, all-in-one tools focus on quantity over quality, providing a wide range of functions with less power and complexity than purpose-built solutions.
  • Higher cost: Because all-in-ones provide a broad suite of features, they tend to charge a steeper premium than tools that are made for one purpose. Some small fish may try to offer friendly all-in-one pricing, but popular all-in-one tools like UserTesting typically demand expensive contracts. 
  • Limited flexibility: All-in-ones provide a pre-set array of features that can’t be exchanged, upgraded, or negotiated, so they may not be the best option to support your research practice as it scales

🧰 Pros and cons of curating your own tool stack

In comparison, let’s take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of an integrated stack of best-in-class tools for UX research. 

Pros of integrated tech stacks for UX research: Stronger, higher-quality features; lower cost; higher flexibility and scalability; better variety of integrations. Cons: (potentially) more complex management, depending on the stack you choose
Pros and cons of integrated, best-in-class tech stacks for UX research

🟢 Pros of integrated tech stacks include:

  • Best-in-class tools: Because these tools aren’t trying to do everything at once, they typically provide stronger, higher-quality features than all-in-ones. For example, User Interviews is 100% focused on simplifying participant recruitment and management—that’s all we do, and we do it better than anyone else, so you can count on higher-quality participants, more precise targeting, and better screening options with us. 
  • Lower cost: Purpose-built tools provide a smaller, more focused set of features, so they typically have more budget-friendly pricing plans than all-in-one behemoths. 
  • Higher flexibility: A tech stack allows you to switch out individual tools, connect or remove integrations, and evolve one tool subscription without having to change the rest with it. 
  • Better variety of integrations: Individual tool vendors understand that they’re not your one-stop-shop for all things research, so they typically provide a wider variety of integrations. For example, User Interviews’s growing suite of integrations and custom API makes us compatible with any testing tool or method. 

🚩 Cons of integrated tech stacks include:

  • (Potentially) more complex management: Depending on your specific stack, multiple tools (each with its own alternative) sometimes means that you need to spend more time researching different solutions, managing multiple invoices and licenses, and onboarding new team members. However, this isn’t universally true—many tools, such as User Interviews, Sprig, Maze, and Zoom, have free and self-serve options which would actually reduce complexity, so your experience could vary greatly depending on the stack you choose.

Building your own tool stack may sound like more work, but it’s entirely manageable, even for a UX research team of one. See this example of how a lone researcher at xplor was able to create her own tool stack “a la carte” style, including tools like User Interviews, Typeform, Lookback, Optimal Workshop, and more! 

📌 Stacked alternatives to all-in-one UX research tools

Rest assured, all-in-one tools aren’t always your best option for UX research. If you care about:

  • Participant quality
  • Research effectiveness
  • Operational efficiency
  • Scalability and flexibility

… then you’re better off mixing-and-matching best-in-class tools than settling for an all-in-one solution. 

For example, using User Interviews with our Sprig integration can be a better option for teams that need affordable pricing plans, reliably high-quality participants, CRM and panel management features, surveys, and advanced analytics. 

If User Interviews + Sprig isn’t up your alley, here are some other alternatives for an integrated, best-in-class UX research tech stack with User Interviews: 

Best integrations for UX researchTry User Interviews for best-in-class recruitment and panel management & integrate with the testing tools you already use and love.User Interviews is the #1 tool for recruitment and participant management:Recruit starts at $2,100/yearHub is free forever for up to 100 contacts, and paid plans start at $3,000/yearWe’re the best recruitment and panel management option for researchers who:Need reliably high-quality participants for any research methodWant all your participant management in one placeNeed in-the-moment supportConnect User Interviews with Sprig for:In-product surveys, concept tests, usability tests, and other unmoderated methodsTesting across the product development lifecycle (pre- and post-launch)Connect User Interviews with Lookback for:Both moderated and unmoderated methods—remote interviews, usability tests, step-by-step tasks, and moreMixed methods studiesConnect User Interviews with Loop11 for:Both moderated and unmoderated methods—usability testing, prototype testing, A/B testing, true intent studies, and moreConnect User Interviews with Qualtrics for:Sophisticated surveys—anything from simple feedback questionnaires to detailed research studiesEnterprise teamsConnect User Interviews with SurveyMonkey for:Online surveys with a large number of respondentsEasy-to-use interfaceConnect User Interviews with Typeform for:Conversational, one-question-at-a-time-style surveysEngaging design and easy-to-use interfaceConnect User Interviews with Google Meet for:Remote, moderated user interviewsAutomated schedulingConnect User Interviews with Zoom for:Remote, moderated user interviewsAutomated schedulingPlus, User Interviews also offers a custom API, so you can sync user data from any system to User Interviews to add participants securely, keep data fresh, and delete user records for GDPR compliance.
Best UX research testing tool integrations with User Interviews

Best integrations for UX research

User Interviews is the #1 tool for recruitment and participant management, according to G2 reviews. We offer:

  • Recruit starts at $2,100/year
  • Hub is free forever for up to 100 contacts, and paid plans start at $3,000/year

We’re the best recruitment and panel management option for researchers who:

  • Need reliably high-quality participants for any research method
  • Want all your participant management in one place
  • Need in-the-moment support

Connect User Interviews with Sprig for:

  • In-product surveys, concept tests, usability tests, and other unmoderated methods
  • Testing across the product development lifecycle (pre- and post-launch)

Connect User Interviews with Lookback for:

  • Both moderated and unmoderated methods—remote interviews, usability tests, step-by-step tasks, and more
  • Mixed methods studies

Connect User Interviews with Loop11 for:

  • Both moderated and unmoderated methods—usability testing, prototype testing, A/B testing, true intent studies, and more

Connect User Interviews with Qualtrics for:

  • Sophisticated surveys—anything from simple feedback questionnaires to detailed research studies
  • Enterprise teams

Connect User Interviews with SurveyMonkey for:

  • Online surveys with a large number of respondents
  • Easy-to-use interface

Connect User Interviews with Typeform for:

  • Conversational, one-question-at-a-time-style surveys
  • Engaging design and easy-to-use interface

Connect User Interviews with Google Meet for:

  • Remote, moderated user interviews
  • Automated scheduling

Connect User Interviews with Zoom for:

  • Remote, moderated user interviews
  • Automated scheduling

Plus, User Interviews also offers a custom API, so you can sync user data from any system to User Interviews to add participants securely, keep data fresh, and delete user records for GDPR compliance.

🧙✨ Search and discover more tools in the 2022 UX Research Tools Map, a fantastical guide to the UXR software landscape.

👉 Get started with User Interviews and your favorite testing tools today

TL;DR: A carefully-chosen, integrated tech stack can help you do better research at a lower cost. 

User Interviews is the fastest and easiest way to recruit participants for UX research. With a growing suite of integrations and a custom API, we’re compatible with any testing tool or research method.

Sign up free to start recruiting vetted, high-quality participants for your next study. 

Lizzy Burnam
Product Education Manager

Marketer, writer, poet. Lizzy likes hiking, people-watching, thrift shopping, learning and sharing ideas. Her happiest memory is sitting on the shore of Lake Champlain in the summer of 2020, eating a clementine.

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