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After a major public works project, the UX Research Tools subway system is running smoother than ever. See what's new and improved in 2021.
That’s right—we welcomed a full-time designer to our marketing team! Holly Holden joined User Interviews at the end of April this year and, like an absolute champ, dove straight into the 2021 UX Research Tools Map as her first project.
You also may notice that there are fewer logos included this year. That’s not because there are fewer tools out there (far from it), but because we decided to take a more editorial approach in our selection process.
To Seth Godin’s point that “the map is not the territory,” a map is meant to help the reader navigate the territory, not show every pebble in the road. And so in order to keep the UX Research Tools Map navigable (i.e. useful), we simply couldn’t go on adding tools forever.
So whereas last year we added 47 new tools to the map—bringing the total to 137—for 2021, we trimmed that number right back down to 100.
In some cases, we made cuts or merged tools to reflect acquisitions or mergers. For example, Delighted was acquired by Qualtrics, LivingLens.tv and Promoter.io by Medallia, and UserZoom recently acquired EnjoyHQ (integrated product coming later this year).
We also intentionally streamlined things. To do this, we sorted tools into categories based on their core functionalities and tried to limit the number of tools in each category to five. More specifically, we included ~1-3 well-known and broadly popular options, ~1-2 robust enterprise solutions, and ~1 "dark horse" or targeted, alternative option.
When we had more than 5 tools in a category, we narrowed things down based on a combination of:
But just because a tool didn't make it into our final design, doesn't mean it's not a great product. Your perfect dark horse solution might be in the database instead this year. (Which is why we really recommend signing up for our newsletter to get the full, unabridged list of over 200 UX research tools.)
For example, Zoho offers an impressively broad suite of features; Sprinklr is a real unicorn of an AI-powered listening solution for marketing and CX insights; and some folks still organize their lives in Evernote—all of these cuts were tough calls based on adherence to our own criteria.
Even still, there are newcomers in our 2021 map as well. Some, like Cohere or Vowel, are trending tools. Others are robust, enterprise-friendly options like ATLAS.ti or Webex that made an impression in our survey results.
Ironically, this year’s map is more detailed than ever, in spite of having fewer tools. And no, we’re not talking about the friendly pigeon.
We’re talking about the Celtic knot-like intersections in the middle of the map.
This added visual complexity is a result of the fact that on the whole, UX research tools are themselves getting more complex. They're simultaneously becoming more specific in the problems they address and more diverse in the range of solutions they offer.
More “all-in-one” tools = more overlapping lines in our map.
Read this map like a classic subway map. There are color-coded lines, stations, interchange stations, and even a few bus routes.
Each line represents a function that tools on that line offer—e.g. Usability Testing (Line D), Transcription (Line G), or Research CRM (Line K). Closely related lines belong to the same color-coded categories, like “Active Research.”
We’ll go over the definitions for each line and category in the next section.
Some tools are specialized, built to solve one problem really well (Typeform or Google Forms, for example). These tools fulfill one function key to the UX research workflow, so they appear on a single subway line.
Single-function tools are found at stations, either on their own (like Whereby) or with other tools that have the same singular functionality (like Descript, Otter.ai, and Rev at the terminus of Line G [Transcription]). These stations are shown in the same color as the line itself.
Many tools offer multiple functionalities, and so they belong on multiple subway lines.
User Interviews (👋), for example, fulfills four key functions: Participant Panel, Incentive Payments, Scheduling, and Research CRM.
These tools are found at interchange stations, where two or more lines meet. There are lots of interchange stations on this map, because many tools offer similar-but-not-identical solutions.
Interchange stations are shown with a black outline.
So, they are serviced instead by their own bus routes. These routes make stops along the relevant subway lines. The Medallia bus, for example, stops at lines A, B, C, E, F, G, L, and O.
You’ll notice a little green dot next to some tools on the map. This symbol denotes a tool that offers a participant panel, scheduling, and incentive payout only for native user research.
In other words, you couldn’t recruit through Useberry for a test you want to run using Fable.
Sticking with the theme, we’ve called these private shuttles—they offer a connection to Line H (Participant Panel), but only through their own service.
New in town? Not sure which subway line will get you where you need to go?
Read the statements below. If a statement feels true to your situation, follow that line to find the right tools for your UXR needs.
The letters in parentheses (L) correspond to those on the map
For folks who say: “I want to run a study to collect user feedback.”
For folks who say: “I want to store, organize, and analyze the data I collect.”
For folks who say “I want to streamline my research, including recruiting, logistics, and panel management.”
For folks who say: “I want to collect feedback while users interact with my product.”
For folks who say: “I want to create visuals that help me get feedback from participants and my team.”
Even more resources!
The 2021 UX Research Tools Map is the third in a (short but) illustrious line of UX Research Tools Maps. Take a peek at the 2019 and 2020 versions to see how the landscape—and our depiction of it—has changed over the years.
And be sure to check out the UX Research Flex Stack. We’ve partnered with seven industry leaders on a bundle of exclusive offers and discounts. These tools will power your research workflow—from recruiting participants to conducting sessions to analyzing qualitative data—without the expense and constraints of an all-in-one solution.
Our User Experience Research Field Guide is packed with in-depth advice on building your research practice—including a full module on research tools. Already read it? We’ll be updating this chapter for 2021 soon, so stay tuned for the update!
Just can’t get enough of our content? Behold:
Great user research starts with great participants. That’s easier said than done, of course, which is why we built User Interviews—the fast, affordable, and trustworthy research recruiting platform.
Sign up today to start solving that user research recruiting problem you've got going on. Your first three participants are free.
Content marketer by day, thankless servant to cats Frodo and Elaine Benes by night. Loves to travel, has a terrible sense of direction. Bakes a mean chocolate tart, makes a mediocre cup of coffee. "Eclectic."