UX research is delightful. It gives us insights, those sudden little Eureka moments that later, being implemented into apps and websites, resonate with plenty of folks. But research can also be a total bloody nightmare provided that you dig into a ton of raw data with your bare hands.
UX research tools can make your study feel more like a “delight” and less like a “total bloody nightmare”.
Looking for your perfect UX research tool stack? Well, you’ve come to the right place.
Eleken is an agency full of UI/UX designers working for brands of all shapes and sizes. We’ve tried dozens of research apps, and handpicked the ones that are the most helpful, creative, unique, or exceptional. Below you will find the top 8 of our favorite online user research tools –– hopefully, they will be useful for you too.
UX analytics software
Some projects fall into our hands to be designed from scratch, others come for a redesign. For the latter, a design audit process is a must, since we need to figure out what chunks of the current app work smoothly and what are covered with dust. Google Analytics and Hotjar always help us with such insights.
To improve the overall user experience, at the UX audit step we want to surface as many trouble spots as possible. For these tasks, using Google Analytics for UX is indispensable as ever. It helps to understand how long users stay on a website, what pages they visit and what pages they are missing, what are typical user flows, etc.
Some might argue that Google Analytics for UX designers is overwhelming, but if you know what specific information you need and where to find it within, it is not exactly as unbearable as it seems. You can check it right now — Google has a demo account that you can access and explore the possibilities of this tool.
- Free trial: a full set of basic features is free
- Pricing: a paid version of Google Analytics, known as Google Analytics 360, starts at $150,000 per year
Hotjar, as our designer Maksym calls it, is a “standard in the market of UX analytics”. What does Hotjar do? This tool is all about qualitative data. With its famous heatmaps, Hotjar shows you how users are really experiencing your site without drowning in numbers (this tool teams up perfectly with Google Analytics’ scary quantitative graphs and tables).
Hotjar analytics enables you to look at users’ behavior and to see where they get stuck — those are the UX problem areas that require your attention. You can even run surveys on spot to collect users’ feedback.
- Free trial: Hotjar offers a 15-day trial
- Pricing: starts at $99 per month
UX documentation tools
For designers, the discovery phase of research is the stage of clarifying a lot of things before they start the actual design process. Here are four main questions that usually require attention:
- Do I understand the business and its goals?
- Do I understand the users and their goals?
- Do I understand the market and competition?
- Do I understand the product, its value, and its features?
At this step, the research itself boils down to googling and talking to users and stakeholders, so research tools can hardly help here. However, they can be useful for systematization and visualization of surfaced insights into UX research artifacts.
Notion is our command center, where we store and constantly update our agency's aggregate wisdom. It is a super-flexible tool that helps to organize project documentation, prepare for interviews with either clients or their product users, accumulate feedback, or simply take notes.
- Free trial: freemium tier limited by 5 team members
- Pricing: for unlimited team members use, pricing starts from $8 per member per month
Google Workspace (Formerly G Suite)
Like any other remote-first company in the world, Eleken uses G-suite products, especially Sheets and Docs, for notes, and for some frameworks.
While most of us have been using Microsoft Office tools for decades to draft everything from school homework to job reports, Google’s web-based toolkit became a total game-changer. You don’t have to download any software or purchase a suite of programs. Simply log in to your Google account from any browser to create a new document, and that’s it.
Needless to mention how convenient is it to access your cloud-based docs online, share and edit them within your team. If you're a personal user of Google, you have probably tried Google Docs, Slides, Forms, etc. They all don’t cost you a dime, which is pretty awesome.
However, if you need over 15 GB of drive space for storage and a custom domain for your email address, you’ll need to pay for a business version called Google Workspace.
- Free trial: free for personal use with basic tools and drive storage of 15 GB
- Pricing: Google Workspace starts at $6 USD per user per month, with extra features and drive storage of 15 GB
Usability testing software
When you’ve just designed anything, you’re a little biased. You need someone to tell you the truth about your results.
Surely you have your team or your customer, your friends, and your mom, but if you want actual users to test your prototype, you may need tools for user testing, like Maze or Lookback.
Maze is a-mazing remote user testing platform for unmoderated tests. With Maze, you can create and run in-depth usability tests and share them with your testers via a link to get actionable insights. Maze also generates a usability study report instantly so that you can share it with anyone.
It’s handy that the tool integrates directly with Figma, InVision, Marvel, and Sketch, thus, you can import a working prototype directly from the design tool you use. According to our designer Maksym, Maze is his top pick for prototype testing precisely because it works so smoothly with Figma.
Besides unmoderated usability testing, Maze can help with different UX research methods, like card sorting, tree testing, 5-second testing, A/B testing, and more.
- Free trial: there’s a freemium tear for 1 seat and 1 active project
- Pricing: $42 per month for individual designers and $25 per seat per month for teams
Lookback is a user experience research platform great for moderated tests, where you're talking to your testers, seeing their reaction to your prototypes, guiding them through the tasks, and getting their feedback in real time.
The tool allows you to broadcast your researches and sync all your customer feedback on a collaborative dashboard to share it with your team and stakeholders. The best part is the ability to add comments right on the seekback while watching and examining the videos.
- Free trial: 14-day free trial
- Pricing: starts at $99 per month
UX research presentation tools
We at Eleken are people who earn a living making brilliant product ideas shine brighter through design. So we’re pretty obsessed with how to present UX research findings in a favorable light.
Our research results can take the form of an empathy map, customer journey map, user flow, value proposition canvas, etc. To create all those visual artifacts nice and quick, sometimes we use Google Slides and Pitch, but most frequently — Miro and Figma.
There is a lot of magic in the Miro UX tool. If you’re a visual person, like most designers, this app will make the visual parts of your brain shake with delight. We at Eleken love this tool, we even included Miro’s website to the list of our favorite landing pages.
It is a simple and pleasing to the eye collaboration whiteboard that works perfectly as a free-form ideation tool. We use it at the discovery phase of UX research for mood boards, user flows, customer journey maps, UX audit, competitors and feature analysis.
Daria, our UI/UX designer and Miro’s advocate, says she prefers this tool for her research because it’s “cut out for making schemes and models, with an ideal balance between default features and flexibility”.
- Free trial: there’s a freemium option that gives you 3 editable boards
- Pricing: for an unlimited number of boards, prices start at $8 per member per month
Just recently, Figma enabled switching between different accounts and workspaces, and now, everything about Figma is lovely. Everything.
Since the beginning of (design) time, Photoshop was a universal design tool. About a decade ago, an interface design community packed up their stuff and migrated from Photoshop to Sketch, a product created specifically for collaborative product design teams. Sketch’s preview feature made it easy to showcase prototypes and get feedback. Sketch's autosave feature has given us a sigh of relief.
A bit later Figma arrived to revolutionize the way that design teams collaborate one more time. Figma started very similarly to Sketch, but with one significant difference — the freemium tier. Later, Figma began adding unique killer features, like live collaboration or the before-mentioned feature for switching between different accounts.
Much like Google Docs, Figma allows multiple designers to work with a single document, and it’s probably the main reason why Figma clearly surpasses Sketch now.
We use Figma for UI/UX design, for drawing illustrations and logos, and for almost everything else. Moreover, we use Figma to present the results of UX research. Those presentations may be shown in a prototype view or saved as pdf sequences.
- Free trial: freemium tear for 1 team project
- Pricing: for an unlimited number of projects, the price starts at $12 per editor per month
Wrapping up best tools for UX research
Your best UX research tools are always with you, and for free. That's your ability to think and your ability to talk to users and stakeholders. (Almost) all the rest, called to make your life easier, is available for trial or in a freemium version. So, if you’ve met anything new on our list, why not try now?
For more on UX research in all its glory, read our in-depth post about the UX research process that teaches designers, product owners, and anyone who is not a full-time researcher how to perfectly fit studying activities into your product design context.