The Complete Guide to User Research Software & Tools

Are you overwhelmed trying to collect, analyze, and share customer data and feedback to inform your strategy, and trying to find user research software to support your efforts?

If so, you are not alone — it is a daunting task. A task that becomes increasingly tricky the more data you have. Most companies — even small ones — today have reams of customer data, feedback, and research.

Yet until recently, most researchers and product managers were stuck analyzing, storing, organizing, and sharing customer insights using either frustrating or expensive solutions (or both).

Options such as:

  • Excel – easily accessible, but has the jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none problem
  • Academic tools like Nvivo or Atlas that aren’t built to be used in commercial contexts
  • Expensive custom in-house solutions like WeWork’s Polaris

User research software is a market ripe for innovation and, luckily for all of us, today we have a multitude of customer research software options to gather, analyze, organize, store, and share customer insights.

Given the range of customer research tools out there today, finding the right product for your team can be tricky and time-consuming.

To ease that process, we’ve compared and contrasted some of the top user research software options, drilling down into key features.

One thing to note is that most of these tools differ substantially. In any one category, at least half of the products we examined omit key features your product management or user research team would likely consider critical.

Please note in this piece we use the terms user research, UX research, and customer research interchangeably.


Key User Research Software Features We Examined:

1. Gathering & Amalgamating Customer Research Data

2. Organizing & Analyzing Customer Research Data

3. Sharing Customer Research Data


For those of you who prefer reading the ending first, we’ll start with our findings. If you’re looking for the full, in-depth examination of these user research software on every functional area, you’ll find that below.

If you’re still not entirely sure how you should be doing user research in your role or organization, consider reading our Ultimate Beginners Guide to Actionable User Research first.


EnjoyHQ and Aha! Stand Out On Top

EnjoyHQ and Aha! are our top picks, although the definite edge goes to EnjoyHQ for their best-in-class search function and ability to handle video uploads.

For reference, we examined 9 popular user research tools (full list below).

Most tools specialize in one or two functional areas but lack the key capabilities to serve as a full-stack user research tool. For instance, productboard excels at organizing data, particularly if you’re a product team, while JIRA, Dovetail, and Google Docs excel at gathering data.

Only two tools — Aha! and EnjoyHQ — provide good features across all three functional areas for user research: gathering, analyzing, and sharing customer research data.

While both Aha! and EnjoyHQ are both great picks for your customer research tool of record, one place we hope all tools improve in the future is in qualitative coding features.

Semi-structured customer interviews tend to generate the most game-changing customer insights for our clients, so we turn to this methodology often.

Yet, we find it is still easier to code customer interview transcripts when we don’t have a preset list of codes/themes using Excel or an academic tool such as a Nvivo before we then translate those themes into tags in a dedicated user research repository for clients. 

That said, both Excel and academic tools like Nvivo don’t serve the business goals of customer research, and we can’t recommend them as your tool of record.

We find using dedicated user research software such as EnjoyHQ or Aha! is a game-changer for most organizations, and for now, a little extra Excel use on top is a small price to pay.


List of User Research Software We Examined (in alphabetical order):

A. Aha!

Aha! offers support for automation, segmentation and user properties features, and native integrations. 

If you’re a product team and not using other product roadmapping software, Aha! could be a great choice. While it lacks a robust search function and video uploading abilities, the roadmapping feature tied to healthy user research functionality is a good mix. We found the product to be more oriented towards customer feedback/feature requests than user research.

However, if you’re looking for user research software to serve as your repository of customer research and to share insights across functions and departments, Aha! is probably not your best choice. It’s also likely not the best choice for heavily research-oriented product teams needing good search functionality, which mature research teams will likely need.  

B. Airtable

Where Airtable really excels is storing and sharing a database of already discovered customer insights.

However, it does not work great as a customer research tool to gather and analyze your data to find and validate those insights in the first place, which is two-thirds of the problem.

C. Aurelius

A committed search function and support for visualizations make Aurelius useful for performing basic analysis and tagging. However, it lacks native integrations and even a Zapier integration, which severely limits its usefulness for modern product and user research teams who need to gather reams of data to analyze in the first place and need robust search and auto-tagging abilities.

It does have a cheaper price point and no minimum number of users, which means plans start for as little as $49/month, so this could be a good option for freelancers or early-stage startups looking for a simple solution to tag and gather insights.

D. Dovetail

A decent search function, nice UX, and support for visualizations make Dovetail good for performing analysis and sharing data. The big con is the lack of native integrations; however, Zapier is supported.

Its basic pricing plan includes 5 users and starts at $125 a month, making this a cheaper option than both EnjoyHQ and Aha!.

E. EnjoyHQ

While the UI takes a bit to get used to, EnjoyHQ stands out as the top customer research tool for us.

It offers native integrations, user properties, segmentation, and automation features. The strong search and automation features, along with the numerous native integrations with many tools that product and user research teams are already using, make it a winner.

EnjoyHQ is priced less than Aha! on the basic plan ($200 monthly for 5 users), but the downside is the limit on the number of native integrations you can access before moving up to the next pricing tier.

F. Google Docs

Google Docs, like Excel before it, certainly suffers from the jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none problem. We really wouldn’t recommend using it as your customer research tool because it lacks critical features for gathering and organizing customer research, although it does well on the sharing data side of things.

Since it’s a free product, there are risks when it comes to data security and privacy, and the lack of customer support is problematic should bugs or more serious problem arise.


JIRA, most often used by developers and IT for project management, has native integrations, video uploads, and is compatible with Slack. This makes JIRA useful for gathering and sharing data. However, without well-developed user properties, segmentation, and automation features, it is not suitable for organizing and analyzing customer data.

Important to note is that JIRA is less plug-and-play and user-friendly than some of these other SaaS options since it’s primarily built for and used by developers.

H. Optimal Workshop

Similarly to Aurelius, Optimal Workshop offers decent search and visualization features, although only Optimal Workshop also allows video upload like EnjoyHQ. However, it also shares Aurelius’ lack of integrations and lack of advanced analysis features, so similar feedback applies.

I. productboard

With native integrations, committed user properties and segmentation, and sharing with Slack, productboard offers a few features in each area but does not excel in any one. It cannot upload video and lacks comprehensive automation tools and, most importantly, a robust search function.

As you can likely tell by its name, productboard, like Aha!, is focused on the product management lifecycle. It’s great to see some user research features, but it lacks several critical functions to serve as a real solution to customer research needs and the democratization of customer insights across the company.

If you’re a product team, using both productboard and EnjoyHQ together would be a dynamo technology stack, as we really like the product roadmapping features in productboard. Future native integration, anyone?

Productboard’s basic plan is also more expensive on average (starting at $250/month) than many of the options we examined, most of them better equipped to handle your customer research teams.


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Full Feature Analysis of User Research Software


1. Gathering & Amalgamating Customer Research Data


No matter the service you provide, data on your customers will come in all shapes and sizes. Your product management and/or user research team is like dealing with reams of customer data, from customer purchase histories to live chat/support ticket logs to NPS scores to survey responses to one-on-one customer interview recordings.

Most user research software we examined offered some third-party data collection features to make your customer data gathering and warehousing easier.

Most teams will use a whole battery of third-party applications to handle various parts of their business, from Dropbox for storage to services like Lever for recruitment. Data integration allows those third-party applications to talk to each other and import data from one application to another.

Seven of the nine solutions we examined at a minimum allow data integration through Zapier, a popular third-party tool that allows users to pass data automatically between other products.

JIRA and EnjoyHQ have the broadest capabilities to gather and amalgamate customer data, including native integrations, which in some instances means a user research or product manager can get the integration working without engineering or IT, which is a huge benefit.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Optimal Workshop and Aurelius do not support third-party integrations at all, not even through Zapier.

Zapier, while a good solution, isn’t as good as a native integration, the gold standard. At Instratify, we use Zapier a lot, but the set up can sometimes be tricky, and because there are three applications involved (as opposed to just the two applications a native integration involves) there can be more issues.

This feature frees your team from dependence on third-party software, meaning you will not be at the mercy of whatever developer sold you that software. If Zapier decided to drop support for an application your team uses or to raise its price above your range, your team would be stuck.

EnjoyHQ, productboard, JIRA, and Aha! offer native integrations, in addition to integration with Zapier.

Most user research and product teams absolutely need to amalgamate customer data to drive better decisions and effectively understand their customers’ behavior, which means this lacking any third-party integration features is likely a deal-breaker for most teams.  

That said, if your team does not need to share data between applications, this aspect of Optimal Workshop and Aurelius will not matter very much to you.

Video Uploading

All nine of the top user research software allow text and image uploads, but your team may need to upload video as well.

Of the four products that offer native integrations — EnjoyHQ, productboard, JIRA, and Aha! — only JIRA and EnjoyHQ allow video uploads. EnjoyHQ supports most video file types, including .mp4, .mov, and .avi. JIRA allows your team to upload a similar range of file types, although it uses HTML5 to display video, so which file types users can view will depend on what browser they use.

For the cheaper of EnjoyHQ’s two plans, your team is only allowed 20 video uploads per month, while the more expensive plan permits unlimited video uploads. Similarly, the monthly cost of JIRA varies based on the size of your team.


2. Organizing & Analyzing Customer Research Data

Once you have customer data amalgamated in your customer research tool, having the right capabilities to organize and tag data is essential to discover a broad range of insights you might miss with blunter instruments.

In this regard, EnjoyHQ, productboard, and Aha! stand out with superior tagging and segmenting abilities, as the other six user research software have only rudimentary data-organizing features.

All data in aggregate is crap. Segment or die.” – Avinash Kaushik

Among those three options, EnjoyHQ and Aha! further stand out because they allow your team to tag feedback automatically based on rules, as well as break data into segments and sort feedback by user properties.

User Properties

When your team is dealing with a large base of customer data, the ability to track and segment by user properties is vital. This feature would allow you to segment, compare, and contrast data from certain groups of customers.

You define these groups of customers by a common characteristic (i.e., user property) such as average customer value, customer age, active user, churned customer, etc.  Each customer then can have many user properties associated with them.

Only EnjoyHQ, productboard, and Aha! allow you to assign user properties to customers in this way.

For us and many teams, the ability to be able to segment our customer research based on different customer groups is critical. We think Avinash said it best: unsegmented customer feedback isn’t useless, but it’s much harder to drive effective business decisions on unsegmented customer feedback.

For example, your team might have just rolled out a sweeping update of your user interface and want to know what your users think of it.

Because your users might disagree about what works well and what does not, feedback from different types of users should carry different weight in your analysis. You may want to prioritize feedback from the users with the most expensive plans or have shown the lowest price sensitivity, as they likely have a heftier impact on your business than the others do.


Tagging qualitative customer data, whether it’s from a customer interview, open-ended survey response, on-site poll, support ticket, or NPS response is critical. Having the ability to create, customize, and modify your own customer tagging taxonomy is essential for most teams.

Some tags come pre-created, such as sentiment, but the ability to customize your tagging to what’s important to you will be a deal breaker for many teams.

Tags can be used anything to define insights, group bugs, and feature requests, UI issues, and emotions, just to name a few.

At Instratify, we like to use tags on a per-project basis to analyze open-ended feedback from customer interviews, and use tags across all research projects to grow our database of shared customer understanding across all of our user data (e.g. paint point, driver, great copy, bug, feature request, UI issue, etc).

Most of the user research software we examined allow you to create custom tags, except Google Docs and Airtable. However, while there is no specific tagging feature in Airtable, given its nature as a cloud-based spreadsheet database, there are alternative ways to accomplish the job of tagging.

The real difference between the tools comes down to the next category of features we will explore — segmentation.

In other words, how powerful is the slice-and-dice feature of the tool to segment and analyze customer data and feedback, including by your own custom tagging taxonomy? For this, as we detail below, Aha!, EnjoyHQ, and productboard come out on top.


For similar reasons, the ability to break up your data into segments will be a must for most product management or UX research teams. This allows you to isolate the data you need, avoid wading through reams of irrelevant information and compare and contrast customer data.

A segmentation feature allows you to assign certain action(s) to a segment you name, and then the user research software will group all users who fall within the defined segment together.

This defined segment can be saved for future reference and analysis, as well as compare and contrast against one or more segment(s).

EnjoyHQ, Aha!, and productboard allow you to create customer segments based on user properties and tags, but also on your internal team’s actions (e.g. which of your team members have viewed or updated a document).

For example, this could mean separating customers by age or location or separating documents based on which team members have viewed them.

EnjoyHQ, Aha!, and productboard’s segmentation features allow you to layer multiple actions in a single segment, meaning you could spotlight people under 30 who live in the northern United States, or feedback tagged as expressing negative user emotions. More importantly, this segment, once created, will automatically update as new users and new actions are taken.

Automation Abilities

Automation allows your team to establish rules to automatically tag and sort feedback as it comes in

Aha! and EnjoyHQ set themselves apart here by offering automation features. Google Docs also includes automation and rules features, although it does not support user segmentation or allow your team to organize feedback along user properties.

Rules in EnjoyHQ or Aha! can work along with any user property or tag.

With automated tagging features, you can write a rule to delete every document that has been viewed by a team member after two weeks or to label any document that uses certain keywords or phrases expressing negative sentiment.

Further, you might, for instance, want to flag every response you get that mentions a bug or a certain competitor.

Moreover, one of our favorites is to set rules to automatically categorize incoming customer support and live chat tickets based on keywords into the tags of UX Problem, Positioning Problem, Product Problem, or Feature Request.

Automatic tagging can save you hundreds and thousands of researcher hours. Having a team member(s) comb through hundreds or even thousands of responses to tag items like these is a massive waste of time with the technology available today.  

Feedback automatically tagged for you can also help keep things consistent across everyone using and inputting data into your customer research tool. You might, for example, want to highlight any survey response that uses the names of certain competitors, and, over time, you decide to either add new names to the list or take old ones off.

Using the automation features in Aha! or EnjoyHQ, you would not need to worry about manually combing through all of the responses before you found the ones you wanted.

Changing your criteria would be a matter of tweaking a few rules rather than giving your staff new instructions and hoping for the best.


3. Reporting & Sharing Customer Research Data

Reports and Visualizations

For the data savants on your team doing the meatiest bits of analysis, raw numbers might be a convincing way to tell a story about your customers. For everyone else, though, a well-designed chart or graph will almost always be better.

Except for Airtable, all of the top user research software allow your team to create reports and visualizations. Those reports can display the change in conversions over time or the share of customers who are sticking with your product year after year in a way that make the trends apparent to your team.


The ability to collaborate and share insights with your team can multiply the value that your user research software has, especially as teams are increasingly spread around the country and the world.

Collaboration is a big category. To simplify things for now (we might update this post at a later time), we defined collaboration across two dimensions: the ability to share data outside of the tool, and the ability of team members to comment within the tool.

For sharing, we looked at whether the tool can share info directly to Slack (we used Slack as it’s one of the most dominant office messaging tools) as a proxy.


EnjoyHQ, JIRA, Aha!, Airtable, and Google Docs all enable your team to share information with Slack, but the rest of the pack does not.


In one way or another, all the user research software examined allow team members mechanisms to comment in one way or another.


When it comes to your user research needs, having a customer research tool with a robust search engine is something most teams are looking for, so you can easily find exactly what you need within a few minutes, especially when the top brass asks you what you know about X and expects an instantaneous answer.

All the software tools we examined have, at the minimum, a basic search function.

While JIRA and Aha! lack a dedicated search function to deal with user insights, Airtable and Google Docs have neither a dedicated search function nor particularly usable sorting and filter features.

For example, Google Docs only allows your team to search along a few hard-wired options such as phrases included in the filename or date modified.

Both Dovetail and Aurelius offer search function with text querying, decent sorting, and minimal filters. productboard and Optimal Workshop offer dedicated search, but nothing beyond basic filtering and sorting.

EnjoyHQ has the most robust search function, allowing you to search and sort across multiple criteria at once. It uses an “AND/OR” structure to allow your team to combine as many filters as you need in your search and to search any combination of user properties, documents, segments, date, tags, or insights.

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Then subscribe to our email updates. Don’t miss our detailed content on growth strategy and customer insight. We publish infrequently, every two weeks at best. No spam. No fluff. My work’s been featured all over the interwebs including in HuffPost, Foundr, Copyhackers, Product Habits, and HelpScout .