There is no excuse not to test your designs with so many excellent apps available and more being added daily. Here are the best UX design tools I have found to date.
This post is a list of the best UX design tools I have found for testing the user interfaces we build, and better understanding our users. I intend to update this post regularly, so if you have a suggestion, please contact me.
Okay, so let’s jump in!
I have tried a lot of different tools for recording usability testing over the years and Lookback is my current preference. It supports in-person and remote sessions. It also allows you to run both facilitated and unfacilitated sessions.
One feature I particularly like is that it makes it easy to edit highlights or lowlights from your sessions into short, punchy videos that you can use to present to stakeholders.
In the early stages of a project, you often have nothing more than a sketch or design visual. However, even these are enough to start testing with users.
Best of all, Usability Hub also offer the option to recruit testers for you.
Eye tracking always used to be expensive and time-consuming, making it unrealistic for anybody but the biggest of my clients. However, more recently, things have begun to change thanks to advances in technology.
For example, facial recognition allows Real Eye to carry out eye tracking studies with nothing more than a laptop’s webcam. That means you can carry out eye tracking studies remotely, either by sending participants an automatically generated link or by getting Real Eye to recruit participants for you.
However, it is not just the advances in facial recognition that has opened up opportunities in eye-tracking. Machine learning is also enabling some pretty impressive innovations.
Eye Tracking Prediction
It would seem that eye-tracking prediction software is becoming increasingly sophisticated, and there are now several players in the sector.
Eyequant uses machine learning to predict the results of eye-tracking on any design you upload. They claim an accuracy rate of 80 to 90% when compared to eye-tracking studies.
Although Eyequant is not as reliable as eye-tracking, it does allow you to simulate the kind of results you would see from a large study. That is something out of the reach of many UX teams.
Although Eyequant is less expensive than a large scale eye-tracking study, you cannot call it cheap. The cost per report varies depending on the number you signup for, but it can cost as much as $20 per review.
A free option I came across recently is a Mac app called Eyetato that claims to do very similar things to Eyequant. However, unlike Eyequant, Eyetato is a bit vague about the data upon which they have based the app, and it’s level of accuracy. That said, if budget is an issue, this might be an option.
Perhaps the sweet spot is a tool called Feng-GUI. They have the credibility of EyeQuant (in fact they are supported by MIT and claim a 92% accuracy rating). However, unlike EyeQuant, the prices are much more reasonable.
Ultimately nothing beats carrying out real eye-tracking studies, and even these only tell part of the story. That said, these tools can help validate, and hopefully justify, a design direction to sceptical stakeholders and that makes them worth considering.
I have written before about how usability should be one of the key performance indicators we measure to track the effectiveness of our websites.
However, to make that happen, we need an easy way of gathering hard data on the ease-of-use of our websites. Fortunately, Maze makes this possible by allowing us to periodically run un-facilitated testing that monitors metrics such as time to complete a task, misclick rates and the percentage of users who fail to complete a task.
I have not been particularly impressed by any of the tools I have used over the years to run card sorting exercises. Most of them are just damn ugly, and the results are hard to understand for anybody but an experienced UX researcher.
One tool that looks like it might fill the gap is Userdrive. This card sorting tool is clean, simple to use and doesn’t overwhelm you with too much data. It is also being actively developed, having recently added closed and hybrid testing as well as more control over the data you gather.
One of the biggest challenges with usability testing and user research is the recruitment of participants. Although some services like Usability Hub, Userzoom and Real Eye will help you recruit participants, that is no help if you do not intend to use their service.
That is where Ethnio comes in. Ethnio allows you to intercept people using your website and ask them to participate in a user research exercise. It handles everything from calendar invites to paying participants. But, most importantly, it will help with the prequalification of potential participants so ensuring you end up with precisely the right kind of user.
Not that Ethnio is your only option. You could also go to a company who find users that meet your requirements for you. One such company is User Interviews. They have a pool of over 125000 vetted participants from over 500 occupations. Best of all, they can get you participants in only a few hours. However, similar claims are made by Testing Time, so you have shortage of options.
There is no shortage of survey tools available when carrying out user research. However, few of them are configured to the needs of a user experience professional.
The one exception I have found is User Reports, which, although I have not used it yet, does look interesting.
That feature makes it a useful tool for completing something like a top task analysis or just understanding what content users care about.
All in One Solutions
Of course, many of us are seeking to integrate user research and testing across every aspect of our development workflow. That means we want to do everything from usability testing or card sorting to benchmarking and surveys. In such situations, it makes sense to find one tool that will provide all of these features.
One such tool is Userzoom, although there are others such as User Testing. These tools are ideal for enterprise customers who want a one-stop shop that they roll out organisation wide. However, you will often need an enterprise sized budget and you are not always getting the same level of refinement as you would get from more focused apps.
You can’t talk about user research and testing without talking about A/B testing. Also known as multivariate or split testing, A/B testing is essential to how most organisations seek to optimise their conversion rates.
Visual Website Optimiser is a popular choice among many UX professionals, but Google Optimise is a good starting point for those new to A/B testing because it is free of charge.
Visualise Your Research
Of course, carrying out all of this user research is not particularly useful if stakeholders are not referring to it regularly. That is where Evolt may help. Evolt allows you to visualise your data about your users as storyboards or personas.
I can’t say I have used this tool myself as with my design background; I am perfectly capable of creating a persona design. However, if you lack the confidence with design packages, this looks like an interesting option for creating professional looking visualisations.
Let’s Discover Need Tools Together
So there you have it, the best user research and testing tools I have found. However, I am sure this is just the tip of the iceberg. As I said at the start of this post, I would love to hear your suggestions so I can update this list regularly.
Stock Photos from everything possible/Shutterstock