User Interviews presents

the State of User Research

What does
look like now?

In a few words: Impactful, anxious, bought-in, busy, experienced, evolving.

Scroll through our sixth annual report on the state of user research to find out what we learned when we unpacked this year’s survey data from 759 researchers and UX professionals across the world.

Download the full dataset to explore the results yourself.

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Key takeaways

Research is not an island

Research tends to roll up into another department—most commonly Product, Design, or UX. 

We found that most dedicated Researchers (77%) are embedded in one of those three teams, working alongside “non-Researchers”—who, it turns out, also do a lot of research. 

For every dedicated Researcher, there are 1 to 5 PWDRs (people who do research) on average.

person walking with an oversize magnifying glass and pen tool

PWDRs need Research Ops, too

A single ReOps Specialist supports the work of 10 to 25 people on average (and that number increases with company size). 

Many of those people are PWDRs, who heavily rely on research documentation and resources from ReOps when they have the option. This matters quite a lot—the percentage of PWDRs who felt positively about the amount of research support they received was nearly 2X higher among those with ReOps vs. those without.

Researchers with ReOps report feeling better about the time they spend supporting their teammates, too.

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Research specialists are becoming rarer

Yet internal research support may be harder to come by. A fifth (22%) of the people we surveyed said that their company laid off dedicated Researchers in the last 12 months. Ten percent (10%) said the same of ReOps specialists. This continues trends from 2023—a fifth said their company laid off Researchers then, too.

It appears companies are not backfilling those roles, either—14% now say their company has zero dedicated Researchers vs. 6% to 8% historically (2020 to 2023).

Research Ops—rarer to begin with—is also becoming scarcer: 62% said there were no ReOps specialists at their organization, compared to 50% in 2023.

person surrounded by graphs and charts

Researchers are uncertain about the future

The current climate has many researchers spooked about the future of the field—and whether there is space for them in it.

When asked how they’re feeling about job opportunities and room for growth within User Research, most dedicated Researchers and ReOps specialists responded pessimistically. Folks also responded less optimistically about the future of the industry compared to last year—23% of all participants said they felt negatively, up from 14% in 2023.

And yet most researchers remain committed to their role as professional question-askers: 73% of researchers said they can easily see User Research remaining a core part of their role in 10 years’ time.

icon for LinkedIn share
of researchers
believe research will remain a core part of their job over the next 10 years
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People are trying to level up and stay in the game

Some researchers said they’re feeling under pressure to prove their value—which may be why we’ve seen the percentage of researchers who don’t do anything to actively track the impact of their work fall from 32% in 2022 to 13% in 2024.

Exactly half of our audience are now using KPIs and other quantitative metrics (up from 40% in 2023); 15% even have revenue goals attached to their projects. 

Those anxieties may also be showing up at the individual level—45% of the people we surveyed said they look to a coach or mentor for professional development.

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56% of researchers use AI to support their work

Whether it’s because they’re being encouraged to use these tools by leaders and peers, they’re under pressure to move faster, or they simply feel more comfortable using the technology than they did in 2023, one thing is clear:

AI usage among our audience has increased dramatically from one year to the next.

Over half (56%) of our survey participants said they currently use AI to support their research process, compared to 20% in 2023. 

Given that the percentage who said they had no plans to incorporate AI into their practice has dropped from 26% to 12%, we expect AI will only become more popular among researchers over time.

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Most leaders value user research

From 2019 to 2022, the percentage of researchers who said that lack of buy-in about the importance of research was their biggest frustration at work dropped from 20% to 3%.

When we asked researchers to rate how they felt about buy-in at their org in 2023, 66% rated peer buy-in positively, and 43% said the same of leadership.

Things seem to be in an even better spot today; 75% now said that buy-in is high or very high among their peers. Over half (57%) say the same about their leadership. This means that the majority of our audience work in organizations where research is recognized and valued.

This is huge! It is also, frankly, hard to square with some of the other trends we uncovered. To see how it all fits together, let’s dig into the data…

a person looking at a group of floating pages and documents, looking perplexed

What is a "researcher"?

Is a researcher someone with “Research” in their title? Is it someone who spends most of their time talking to customers to glean insights? Analyzes user data? Googles a topic for hours on end? Can Designers, PMs, or Marketers be researchers?

At User Interviews, we believe that everyone should be empowered to ask and seek answers to important questions—especially when those answers impact and inform the experiences of end users. We also believe that Research specialists are an essential and necessary part of the equation, and that there is no replacement for the deep wells of knowledge and expertise they bring to the table. 

In this report, “researchers” is a catchall term for anyone involved in research—whether they’re an HCI Researcher with a Ph.D. in Behavioral Anthropology or a junior Product Designer at an ecommerce startup. 

When written with a capital R (“Researchers”), we’re specifically referring to people with “Research” in their job titles—in other words, the folks primarily devoted to this work. When we talk about PWDRs (people who do research) we are specifically talking about people who are not capital-R Researchers.

Commonly used terms

With a capital “R,” people whose titles include UX/Product/Design/User Research, or similar terms. Also called “dedicated Researchers.”
people who do research (PWDRs)
Non-Researchers whose titles do not fall into other categories (Design, PM, Marketing, etc).
With a lowercase “r,” a catchall term for people who do or support research at least some of the time (a.k.a. all our survey participants).
Research specialists
Collective term for dedicated Researchers and ReOps professionals.
People whose titles include Research Operations (Ops) or similar terms.
research teams
When written with a lower-case “r,” research teams refers to everyone involved in research at an organization, whether or not they report to a Research department.
Company sizes
  • Solo researchers – individual contractors
  • Emerging – very small companies with 2 – 49 employees
  • SMB – small/medium businesses with 50 – 999 employees
  • Enterprise – large organizations with 1,000 or more employees
  • Agency – a company contracted to do research on their clients’ behalf

Our audience

Total experience
The insights in this report come from
researchers with a combined
6,013 years of experience.
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Research teams

Research is a team sport. Always has been—according to our data from 2020 to 2023, dedicated Researchers typically account for around 40% of all the people who do research in an organization.

This year, we found that on teams with one or more dedicated Researchers, these folks make up 31% to 53% of the total researcher headcount on average.

When we look at the ratio of PWDRs (people who do research) to dedicated Researchers, it seems like this number may be trending up—a typical team has up to five PWDRs per Researcher on average in 2024, compared to 4:1 in 2023 and 2:1 in 2021 and 2022.

In companies with a Research Ops function, a single ReOps Specialist supports the work of 10 to 25 people on average—and that number increases with company size. In other words, Research Ops professionals in large organizations are stretched thinner than their counterparts at smaller companies—and that may translate to less support for individual researchers at scale.

Where do researchers belong?

A plurality (34%) of our audience said that they ultimately report to their company’s head of Product. Design and UX were also frequent responses to this question. Only 5% said that they report to a stand-alone Research department—even among dedicated Researchers and ReOps specialists, the percentage was just 6% to 7%. As with PWDRs, these roles are more likely to be found working within a broader Product, UX, or Design team.

Some folks aren’t happy with this state of affairs:

“I am [worried] about the fact that Research has been unable to establish an independent position at the executive level. We should be part of strategic discussions and groups, but we report to Design or Product for the most part.”

– 2024 State of User Research survey participant

Now here’s the interesting thing: In 2023, when we asked people to describe the way the research practice was structured at their organization, 39% of dedicated Researchers at that time said “It’s centralized. Research is its own department.” An additional 30% said “It’s a hybrid. Some dedicated researchers are centralized in a Research department, while other[s] are embedded in a non-research team.” 

That means that in 2023, at least 39% of dedicated Researchers were part of a Research department. In 2022, as well, 35% of people said that Research was its own department. So why do only 6% say they report to Research in 2024?

The way we phrased our survey question is no doubt part of the story. You see, after analyzing the results from 2022 and 2023, we felt that we still didn’t fully understand where Research fits within an organization. 

We reframed the question on the 2024 survey in an effort to gain a clearer picture of reporting structures. It is important to note that we specifically instructed participants: “If your team “rolls up” into another department, please select the latter. For example, if Research is its own team but the Research leader reports to the VP of Product, please select “Product.””

What we seem to have discovered through this approach is that—among our researchers, at least—Research departments tend to be embedded within another team (most commonly Product, Design, or UX), rather than being standalone departments.  

Supporting the research of others

Remember when we were all talking about democratization? Based on our data, it seems that the “Should we?” conversation has been well and truly settled (for now). “Non-researchers” gonna research—whether they’re ready or not, in some cases:

“As a product designer, I feel like my design superiors expect me to "just know" how to do UX research, and to make it an integral part of every project,” lamented one Designer.

It appears that it’s largely up to trained Researchers to make sure PWDRs do research right. That isn’t new in 2024—last year 73% of our survey participants told us that the responsibility of teaching others about research best practices fell to the dedicated Researchers, even when there was a Research Ops function at their organization. 

This additional responsibility doesn’t always come with additional resources: 3% of the open-ended responses we received (total n = 179) expressed frustration about the lack of time and resources allocated to effectively teaching User Research to PWDRs (on top of doing one’s own research).

“While I understand the value of supporting others' research, I often find it challenging to balance this with my own project deadlines. A more streamlined process or dedicated support could help alleviate the burden without compromising the collaborative aspect that I truly value.”

– 2024 State of User Research survey participant

We were curious: Exactly how much time do Researchers spend supporting the research of PWDRs? And does having ReOps make a difference?

The impact of Research Ops

A plurality (37%) of dedicated Researchers spend 1% to 9% of their time supporting PWDRs—that’s just a few hours per week. And 12% say they never do this at all. 

But a third (33%) are spending around 4 to 10 hours doing this work (10% to 24% of their time). It seems that Researchers without ReOps are more likely to spend 10% or more of their time supporting PWDRs than Researchers with ReOps (54% vs. 44%), though the percentage who say they spend 25% of their time or more on PWDR support is about the same with or without ReOps.

Our data suggests that the presence of ReOps doesn’t have a dramatic impact on the actual amount of time Researchers spend on research support and education.

But—and this is a big but—Researchers with ReOps expressed positive feelings about the time they spend supporting PWDRs more often than Researchers without ReOps (74% vs. 65%—a statistically significant difference). 

Perhaps even more importantly, both Researchers and PWDRs who have ReOps report significantly higher satisfaction with the research support they receive than those without.

In other words, having Research Ops doesn’t let Researchers off the hook when it comes to time spent supporting the research of others. But it does improve the quality of support and education that PWDRs receive.

In this open-ended response, one ReOps professional who took our survey compellingly summarized the need for and value of Research Operations to both dedicated Researchers and PWDRs in a democratized practice (their words have been lightly edited for clarity).

"Most of the UXRs I have worked with and supported want to "get out of middle research"—meaning smaller-scale evaluative/tactical research. Some are happy doing this work, but many have a desire for more strategic, visible (to senior leadership) work.

While things like usability testing and validating design decisions are essential work, we can enable PMs, designers, and other roles to self-serve in different ways like:

1. Providing access to tools and resources to get PWDRs 90%+ of the way there with things like unmoderated testing. This puts Researchers in a consulting role and frees up time for projects that they want and are uniquely qualified to do.

2. Setting up a UX Research program with strict requirements where PWDRs can submit designs and/or questions for both unmoderated and moderated sessions. The project setup and legwork is the responsibility of the stakeholders, while conducting and analyzing research is the responsibility of Researchers.

As ReOps, we support these types of initiatives through recruiting, tooling, incentives, etc. [We enable] well-established systems to fully support a UXR team, allowing Researchers to prioritize larger-scale projects."

This all begs the question—how common is ReOps among our audience? And is it enough?

a person climbing a lader

Research maturity

Most folks in our survey (86%) said that their company employed at least one dedicated Researcher. That doesn’t mean most companies have Researchers, of course—we’re talking to a research-heavy bunch. 

Yet even among our audience, fewer than half (47%) of those in emerging companies (under 50 employees) said there was a dedicated Researcher on their team. And only 38% of our entire sample say their company has a ReOps specialist (just 8% of folks on emerging teams).

Research Operations—where it exists—tends to be a newer addition. While nearly half (48%) of those with ReOps say their first ReOps Specialist was hired 2 to 5 years ago, only 14% report having ReOps before that time (compared to 32% who say that Research has been around for 6 years or more).


“Buy-in isn’t the problem it used to be,” we declared in our 2022 report, citing the diminishing numbers of researchers who named buy-in as their biggest frustration—down from 20% (2019-2020) to just 3% in 2022. And our data suggests that buy-in about the importance of research has only improved since then.

In our two most recent surveys, we asked people to rate how they felt about the level of buy-in at their organization on a scale from 1 to 5. Three-quarters (75%) of researchers said that buy-in among their peers was high or very high (4 or 5). Over half (57%) said the same about their leadership. 

By comparison, in 2023, 66% said peer buy-in was high or very high, and just 43% said this of their leadership.

Research Ops specialists, in particular, report feeling positively about the level of buy-in at their companies—perhaps unsurprisingly, since the presence of ReOps would seem to indicate a higher degree of research maturity and investment in research more generally. 

Dedicated Researchers and Design/UXers, on the other hand, were the least likely to rate leadership buy-in highly (55% to 57%), with the latter also the least likely to say that peer buy-in is high or very high.

When we break things down by department, we can see notable gaps between the amount of people who report a high degree of peer buy-in and those who reported high buy-in from leadership—in several cases, a difference of 20 percentage points or more.

We also find this pattern at the industry level: Peer buy-in is generally considered high (by over 60% of folks in most industries), while ratings of leadership buy-in lags behind. The gap between the two groups seems especially wide in healthcare, media, and retail industries.

Interestingly, the percentage of people who consider their peers bought-in doesn’t seem to vary meaningfully from one company size to the next (between 73% and 81%). But perceptions of leadership buy-in do appear to vary by company size.

As you can see in the chart above,  reported leadership buy-in for research seems to decrease as a companies grow in size..

Why might this be? While we can’t be totally sure from our data, we can think of a few plausible reasons. For one, the bureaucracy (so endemic to large companies) might be getting in the way of research processes. Or it may be that limited access to leadership means fewer opportunities to “sell” research to those at the top. 

It may even be that buy-in from leadership doesn’t actually vary from one company size to another—but that lack of contact with leadership results in more researchers feeling that their work is unseen and therefore undervalued.

All that being said, our data indicates that buy-in overall is high—and getting higher each year.

Researcher experience

What about researchers themselves? How seasoned are they, both in terms of actual years of experience and their comfort with different types of research? How do researchers learn and grow?

When it comes to their origin stories, the majority of our survey participants (53%) first picked up their research skills as part of a university degree in a program such as UX, human computer interaction (HCI), anthropology, psychology, sociology, or statistics.

Dedicated Researchers were more likely than PWDRs or Research Ops specialists to be formally trained in this way, while the latter groups were more likely to have learned from another researcher on the job or taught themselves using books, podcasts, and online resources.

But regardless of how folks first acquired their research skill sets, there’s no teacher like time: Collectively, the researchers in our survey have over 6,000 years of research experience under their belts. At the individual level, we’re looking at between 4 and 12.5 years on average.

How do researchers grow?

“The field of User Research offers expansive opportunities, but staying ahead in a rapidly evolving tech landscape is daunting. Continuous learning and adaptability are essential, and I feel that more resources could be dedicated to training and development.”

– 2024 State of User Research survey participant

In 2023, we hosted a panel discussion called Will You Be My Mentor?  to address what we’d identified as a growing interest in mentorship and coaching in the research community. 

It appears that many folks may have found the mentors they were looking for: When we asked about how they prefer to continue growing as a researcher, 45% chose “coach/mentor” as one of their favored means of professional development.

of researchers
choose to continue their professional development with the help of a coach or mentor

But where do researchers go for in-the-moment support when they have a question related to a project (e.g. how to create a good screener survey, improve an interview script, analyze survey data, etc.)?

The answer depends, in part, on whether or not they have any ReOps pros at their organization. Both Researchers and PWDRs are significantly more likely to refer to internal documentation when Research Ops is on the scene. 

Researchers are also less likely to ask an AI chatbot like ChatGPT for help—much less so, in the case of PWDRs (who are 42% more likely to rely on AI chatbots when ReOps is not around).

This data supports what we already learned about the relationship between having ReOps and how positively PWDRs feel about the support they receive.

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Doing research

How many studies did you conduct or support in the last six months? Among our audience, the median number was 8 studies (mean = 12), half of which were strictly qualitative. That’s 4 studies per Researcher, per quarter. PWDRs did nearly as much—a median of 3 studies per quarter (mean = 5.5), similarly leaning toward the qualitative side.

Meanwhile, each Research Ops Specialist supported a median of 19 studies (mean = 33) over the last six months—or about 9 to 10 per quarter.

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Median number conducted per Researcher
a cluster of 10 icons of a document with a pen
Median number supported per ReOps Specialist

In terms of the type of research folks are doing, the majority (81%) reported doing a mix of both discovery and evaluative projects over the last six months; 44% say they conducted continuous research in that time.


There are a handful of tried-and-tested methods that researchers use more often than not—notably interviews, surveys, usability testing, concept tests, and literature reviews. These are also the methods that folks seem to feel most comfortable with in general. 

In their 2024 Future of User Research Report, Maze concluded that familiarity with certain methods may play a role in discouraging researchers (especially PWDRs) from trying new methods. Morgan Mullen, Lead UX Researcher here at User Interviews, is quoted as saying:

“Collectively, more people are running interviews, usability tests, and surveys, so this is what people see and hear about most often… As research coaches, we need to be aware of it. We don't want people choosing the wrong method because they were scared or thought it'd take too long to try a different approach.”

For some of the less familiar methods, we can chalk up researchers’ overall lack of experience to the fact that there are simply fewer opportunities to engage with things like tree tests or diary studies. Tree tests, because this method tends to be used in IA (information architecture) research—and most teams don’t muck about with their IA very often. Diary studies, because they are time-and-effort intensive, are often used as part of very early discovery research—so again, it is likely that the need for this method arises less often.

Of all the methods listed, the fewest researchers reported having experience with eye-tracking (37%). A higher percentage of researchers say they have conducted accessibility tests in the past (50%), yet the percentage who say they are comfortable conducting accessibility research is actually the lowest of any method (44%).

of researchers
say they are comfortable doing accessibility research
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Tracking impact

“Research impact is when the knowledge generated by UX research influences a person, product, strategy, or organization… It’s always the influence your work has, not the work itself.”

Victoria Sosik, Senior Director of UX Research at Verizon

Since 2022, the percentage of researchers who said they weren't doing anything to actively track the impact of their work has fallen by 59% (13% in 2024 vs. 32% in 2022). Some researchers seem to be feeling under pressure to step up their reporting game: 

“Continuously trying to prove value and show impact is very exhausting,” said one person.

Exhausting or not, the uptick in the use of KPIs and other metrics (from 40% in 2023 to 50% in 2024) and the fact that 15% of our survey participants have revenue goals attached to their research suggests that more researchers are trying to speak to business leaders in their own language. (That is, the language of cold, hard, ARR.) 

If the rise in peer and leadership buy-in over the years is any indication (and we think it is), the extra effort folks are putting into tracking their impact is paying off. 

That said, qualitative methods for tracking impact still outweigh quantitative goals; it looks like many companies still have work to do in order to tie research goals and outcomes back to the bottom line. 

“I think research is such an important and valuable function to companies but I don't think companies truly understand what we do and why it is so valuable—so that is what we need to strive for in the coming years!”

– 2024 State of User Research survey participant
a magnifying glass scanning over profile cards

Finding participants

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain—except death, taxes, and the fact that research recruiting is, like, really annoying.”

– Benjamin Franklin

Okay, so that’s not exactly what Ben F. said—but the point is that finding and recruiting quality participants is a perennial challenge for qualitative researchers.

That’s true whether you’re recruiting external users or your own customers—although the challenges (and solutions) can look different depending on who you’re trying to talk to.

Recruiting pain points

Researchers who primarily recruit their own customers report higher rates of frustration with things like timelines and scheduling, while those who primarily recruit external users are more likely to experience pain around cost and participant quality.

When we compare this year’s data to 2023, it seems like more researchers are struggling with the time it takes to find participants (61% vs. 45%), and the cost of recruitment (32% vs. 25%). 

As we’ll explore below, many researchers seem to feel that their research bandwidth is stretched thin at the moment. Our hunch is that increasing demands for research—coupled with shrinking or stagnant budgets and fewer Research specialists overall (more on that later)—is putting strain on researchers’ finite time and resources and exacerbating some recruiting pain points.

The sorta-maybe good news is that slightly fewer people said they struggled with participant quality (57% vs. 64%) and finding enough participants who fit their criteria (62% vs. 70%). But given that these pains are still felt by the majority of researchers, it’s clear that recruiting remains a problematic part of the research process—and that insights-hungry companies would be smart to invest in solutions for both customer and external recruiting.

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Recruiting methods

People try to solve their recruitment problems in all sorts of ways—in our earliest surveys (2019 to 2020), 4% of the people we surveyed were even using Craigslist to find participants!

Currently, email is the most popular method for recruiting customers and external users alike. Among researchers who conduct a majority of their research with customers, 74% use email to recruit, as do 49% of those who primarily conduct research with external users.

Those numbers seem to represent a big shift toward email since last year—in 2023, 51% of people said they used email for customer recruiting and just 15% said the same for external recruiting.

And nearly a quarter (24%) of researchers who predominantly recruit their own customers said they tap into a customer forum or community (managed by their company) to find participants. In 2023, only 12% said they recruited customers this way.

By contrast, the use of social media for recruiting trended in the opposite direction. In the years since our 2019 survey, the percentage of people using organic social channels has ranged from 16% to 21%. This year, only 13% of researchers said they used social media for participant recruitment. 

What’s driving the shift in tactics? It’s hard to say from the data alone, but it’s possible that researchers are casting smaller, more targeted nets in their search for qualified, highly engaged participants—and that they’re choosing more direct channels for doing so.

Tools for finding & recruiting participants

Among our audience, User Interviews (UI) is unsurprisingly the most popular tool for recruiting overall—of the folks who use recruitment software, 44% said they use UI. We’re also the most popular primary solution when it comes to recruiting users for qualitative studies (30% of our audience said UI is their go-to tool).

For quantitative recruiting, researchers primarily rely on built-in panels offered by survey and testing tools: a plurality (22%) primarily use Qualtrics, 12% use UserTesting/UserZoom, and 10% use SurveyMonkey. (9% use User Interviews.)

Almost half of the people we surveyed (48%) said they didn’t use any software to manage a panel of their own participants. Of the 393 folks who do use such a solution, 14% primarily rely on User Interviews.

But a plurality (28%) are sticking with a DIY Excel or Google Sheet.

And look, we love a good spreadsheet—but not for this, and certainly not at scale.

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Must-have tools for research

We asked about tools a bit differently this year. Instead of providing survey takers with a long list of options, we asked them to list 3 to 10 of their “go-to research tools”—the ones they could not (or would not like to) do research without. 

Note that we asked about recruiting and panel management solutions (clear must-haves in our book) separately, and these are largely absent from the chart below.

Multipurpose tools and suites like Microsoft Office, Google Workspace, Figma, and Miro appeared in more researchers’ “must have” lists than any made-for-research tool—though Dovetail, Qualtrics, and UserTesting are up there.

Miro in particular is a real Swiss Army Knife for the 181 people who listed it among their must haves. Common use cases include analyzing research data (n=149) project planning and management (n=114), note taking during sessions (n=85), sharing results (n=74), and even as a centralized insights repository (n=41).  

Dovetail was the most commonly listed made-for-research tool—152 researchers said it was a go-to for analyzing data (n=131), transcribing audio/video (n=124), and as a centralized repository (n=108) and tool for sharing results (n=73).

And—not-so-humble brag coming atcha—although we had already asked about recruiting and panel management tools in an earlier question, 141 researchers also listed User Interviews as one of the tools they can’t imagine doing research without.

What about AI?

Last year, 20% of researchers said they were using AI (artificial intelligence) in their research practice. An additional 38% said that they were planning to incorporate the technology into their work.

It seems like the latter group kept their word, because a whopping 56% of our audience said they are now using AI to support their research practice. Of the 179 people who left an open-ended response, 18 (10%) expressed optimism that AI technology will enhance the field of User Research and help it to evolve:

“AI won't replace jobs,” predicted one person, “but those skilled with AI will likely emerge as more efficient and better workers.”

That doesn’t mean everyone is on board. Three percent of researchers who left open-ended responses called out that AI is currently an unreliable tool for qualitative analysis.

Others (15%) expressed anxiety about AI being a risk to their job security. In the words of one participant:

“[AI may be seen as a replacement for researchers] not because it's better or as good as we are, but because stakeholders who are not proficient in our profession will think that it [is].”

Some shared their concerns, even as they acknowledged its usefulness:

“I am both excited by how much of my workload can be done by AI and also nervous about what that means for my career in the future.”

In spite of these qualms, over half of the researchers in our audience have incorporated AI into their practice. That’s a remarkably fast rate of adoption for a technology that only came onto the scene a couple years ago.

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a neutral expression facea cluster of smiley facesa cluster of frowning faces

Vibe check

Where have all the researchers gone?

Buy-in about the importance of research is way up—and yet Research specialists seem to be becoming rarer.

“It’s a strange time where we are needed more than ever, and business leaders acknowledge the value of our work, yet there is resistance to investment,” said one survey participant.

— 2024 State of User Research survey participant

In a brief survey involving 73 self-identified UX Researchers—conducted by Lawton Pybus in January 2024—almost half of those Researchers felt that their teams needed additional resources (and researchers) to meet the demand for research. At the time, 56% were optimistic that their teams would hire in the first half of 2024.

And a separate survey by the UX Design Institute—which ran for six weeks in January and February of this year and involved 537 people in UX more broadly—found that 68% of UX professionals responsible for hiring expected demand for UX skills at their company/organization to increase over the next one-to-two years. Of those who anticipated hiring, half expected to hire a UX Researcher in 2024.

Yet word on the street (LinkedIn) is that there just aren’t as many job listings for Research and ReOps roles as there once were. 

Anecdotally, it seems like many teams are de-emphasizing research specialists and over-indexing on generalists (like research-savvy UX Designers) in a bid to do more with limited headcounts.

This year, 14% of our survey participants told us there was no dedicated Researcher at their company. That is twice as much as last year and the highest percentage since 2020. Research Ops—rarer to begin with—is also disappearing from some companies: 62% of people said there were no ReOps at their organization, compared to 50% who said the same in 2023.

It’s not hard to guess why: Nearly half (49%) of the people we surveyed said there were layoffs within their organization in the last 12 months—22% reported that Researchers were laid off, and 10% said the same of ReOps pros.

All of these layoffs occurred in the wake of 2023 losses—22% of people said their company laid of Researchers then, too.

And we don’t have to take it from the grapevine: In 2023, 10% of our audience told us they had personally been laid off. This year, 13% said the same.

Those folks include 70 Researchers (14% of that segment) and 9 ReOps specialists—nearly a fifth (18%) of all ReOps in our survey. Of these people, 22 Researchers and 4 ReOps specialists were still looking for a new job at the time of our survey.

This has, understandably, made quite an impact on their colleagues. One ReOps professional mentioned feeling “survivor’s guilt”:

“As the sole remaining ReOps member of a team of 10 UXRs and 3 ReOps… [now] I'm just doing my solo-ReOps-best, and I really miss our research team. The whole [UX] department regularly feels and expresses the impact of losing that expertise/support.”

How are we feeling today?

“One word: uncertainty” quipped one researcher.


“I feel a lot of uncertainty when it comes to the future of User Research as a role, but I know the skills that I'm building will be transferable/useful no matter what the future brings,”  explained another.

These two aren’t alone—many researchers in our audience seem to be questioning what the future of User Research will look like, and whether there will be a place for them in it. Some are outright pessimistic—and yet there are positive signals to be found in the data, too.

To make sense of the current mood, let’s start by looking at how folks feel about the situation close to home.

Regarding the path for growth at their current company, people have mixed feelings: 46% rated their feelings positively, while 36% rated their feelings negatively. 

One researcher says they generally feel good about their career pathways but that “the visibility into future roles and the steps required to reach them could be clearer. More structured mentorship programs would be beneficial.”

On the less positive side, more than one researcher expressed feeling trapped by the state of the job market:

“The current state of hiring makes me think of the phrase "golden handcuffs"; I feel very trapped between the comfort of my current role, the wish to start a new role that would afford me much more career growth, and the fear at finding myself in a worse role—or of even losing this existing comfort altogether.”

Similar anxieties were expressed by other researchers—30% of open responses expressed concern over lack of growth opportunities in the field, researcher layoffs, and a tough job market for aspiring and senior Research professionals alike. 

Dedicated Researchers and ReOps pros are especially pessimistic about job opportunities and room for growth in the industry. Among Research specialists, less than a third said they feel positively about their growth potential in the industry at large. 

“The field of User Research offers expansive opportunities, but staying ahead in a rapidly evolving tech landscape is daunting. Continuous learning and adaptability are essential, and I feel that more resources could be dedicated to training and development.”

People are also less optimistic about the future of the User Research industry itself than they were last year. 

Again, Researchers were the most negative group on this topic—27% rated their feelings negatively, 48% rated them positively, the lowest percentage of any group.

It seems that negative feelings about the future of User Research are more common among researchers in larger companies. This may be related to the higher occurrence of layoffs in larger organizations—slashing teams does have a way of lowering morale, after all.

There also seems to be a connection between seniority (that is, how high up folks sit within an organization) and optimism about the future of the industry, with more senior researchers expressing higher rates of optimism than individual contributors.

Now for the good news…

In spite of how they scored themselves on these topics, 73% of people said they agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “I can easily see User Research remaining a core part of my role in 10 years’ time.”

of researchers
believe research will remain a core part of their job over the next 10 years

And among ReOps specialists, the rate was 80%—that’s despite being less optimistic than other groups when it comes to job opportunities and paths for growth. 

What this suggests is that although our audience is feeling uncertain about their immediate future, they still feel passionate about the work they do—and want to continue doing it. 

(It is also worth noting that PWDRs in general rated their feelings more positively than Research specialists. This supports the findings from UX Design Institute’s 2024 State of UX Hiring Report (which skewed heavily toward the “non-Researcher” side of UX) in which 92% of people said they were satisfied with their career and 88% said they felt positive about their future.)

a person looking at a painting of a landscape

A glass half-full

Look, we won’t dance around it—there’s a lot to be nervous about in 2024. Tensions are high, and the future is always uncertain. 

But there is a future—and some, like this one researcher, are staying optimistic by thinking long term:

“[At the moment,] User Research is unfortunately getting the short end of the stick from companies who are finding it harder to see the value of research. 

I really see this as a near-term problem, as companies know they need UX research to create the best products possible, and will hire researchers back eventually. Riding out this wave has been tough for many researchers, but [these things] take time... In other words, this sucks but we’ll make it through.”

Another person pointed out that the future of this industry has yet to be written:

“Right now, we are redefining who, what, and how UX Research will play a role in companies over the next few years. It is a wild but exciting time!”

Just how are these things being redefined? Well, let’s take another look at what we’ve learned…


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For starters, some themes seem evergreen. Just like last year and the year before (and the year before that, etc.), researchers frequently reach for tried and true methods like interviews, usability testing, and surveys. 

Similarly, multipurpose tools like Figma and Miro remain at the top of many researchers’ tool stacks. In short: when it comes to executing research, most folks favor the familiar and flexible…

Or do they? AI usage went way, way up—even among the groups that expressed skepticism about the new technology in 2023. Feelings about AI remain mixed, but that hasn’t stopped most researchers from at least trying to figure out how to leverage AI into their workflows.

More researchers are also trying to figure out how to track and show their impact, with an increasing number using quantitative metrics like KPIs and even revenue goals to do so.

Those efforts may have something to do with the fact that buy-in around the importance of research has been improving from one year to the next. It’s also possible that buy-in has increased as more PWDRs join in research, exposing them and their peers to the value of this work. 

Whatever the reason(s), more and more researchers believe that their peers and leaders recognize the importance of the work they do. Which is a great thing…

…except that buy-in for research doesn’t seem to translate to buy-in for Research specialists.

There appears to be an imbalance between the high value companies place on research outcomes and actual investment in Research. We’re seeing more reported layoffs and fewer dedicated Researchers and ReOps specialists in 2024—but seemingly just as much demand for user insights. 

This is putting pressure on specialists and PWDRs alike—many of whom expressed feeling frustrated and under-resourced.

Now, we’ve been saying it for years: Research is a team sport. But like any team, you need players with different skill sets—can imagine a World Cup played entirely by goalies?

Or, to put a less athletic point on it, in every ecosystem there are generalists and specialists. Generalists are adaptable and boast broad skill sets, making valuable assets in fast-paced, changing environments…

Specialists, on the other hand, are really, really good at certain things. They are the rare songbirds, snow leopards, and axolotls of the world—species that co-evolved alongside other native plants and animals, and are uniquely suited to their context. In UX, specialists (like dedicated Researchers) bring a refined set of skills and depth of knowledge to their craft. 

Both generalists and specialists are necessary for the health and sustainability of natural ecosystems and UX teams alike.

Besides, remember what happened when we “moved fast and broke things”? Things broke! 

Yes, velocity is important—but it should not be reckless and undirected. Pushing non-Researchers to do more research without giving them the resources and expert support they need to do it right is a recipe for bigger mistakes down the line. In the words of one participant:

“I am concerned about the firing of expert Researchers and [ that] their core [responsibilities] are being foisted onto Designers who don't know how to do them. I don't mind “democratization” but I mind it if there is no Researcher involved at all.”

In short, we love that more people are doing more research. The more the merrier, we say! But it concerns us that experienced Researchers are being sidelined at a time when research demand is at an all-time high.

The good news is that Researchers and ReOps specialists remain passionate about what they do and have a strong desire to continue on their current career path. PWDRs, too, see research being an important part of their work for years to come. 

Organizations—especially those that place an emphasis on innovation and customer centricity—  should be tapping into this energy.

That looks like: investing in ReOps (which we know PWDRs benefit from at least as much as Researchers), providing the right tools, and giving both generalists and specialists the chance to grow into the experienced, efficient, and impactful researchers companies say they need.

And that's all she wrote (for now)

We learned a lot from this year’s participants, and are enormously grateful to everyone who took our survey and contributed to this report. 

As with all good research, the results of our survey raised just as many questions as they answered: How many of the Researchers in our survey had taken up coaching themselves? Which AI tools are people using? What exactly does buy-in (or the lack thereof) look like, in the eyes of our researchers? Most importantly—what’s next? Where do we all go from here?

We love meta user research here at UI, and plan to do lots more of it  to answer questions like the ones above.

If you found this report insightful and want to stay informed about future UI research, you can subscribe to Fresh Views, our weekly newsletter, to get notified when the next data report drops. (We’ll also send you a copy of the State of User Research 2024 dataset so you can explore it yourself.)

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More on our methodology

We are extremely grateful to our partners who shared the survey with their audiences and contributed to the success of this report. Special thanks to: Learners, Lookback, Marvin, ResearchOps Community.

Above all, we are indebted to the participants who took part in our survey. Thanks again!

a flow chart surrounded by stars, curls, and a thumbs up icon

The 2024 State of User Research survey was conducted by Katryna Balboni and Morgan Mullen. Analysis was carried out in Mode and Google Sheets with the support of Jessica Hays Fisher. 

This report was written by Katryna Balboni, with contributions from Morgan Mullen, Nick Lioudis, and Benjamin Wiedmaier. The webpage was designed and built in Webflow by Holly Holden.

From April 4 to April 17, 2024, we collected 759 qualified responses via social media, our weekly newsletter (Fresh Views), and an in-product slideout; we posted the survey in research-related groups on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Slack; and members of our team and friends within the UX research community shared the survey with their own professional networks.

Go back in time

Check out our previous reports to read more about how things have changed over time and understand how the State of User Research has evolved since 2019.