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):
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.
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.
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.
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!.
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.
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.