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Artificial intelligence (AI) isn’t seen as a key consumer trend or something that will be a game-changer in market research. But, it will be one of the most important online trends affecting user experience in the next 5 years, according to UserTesting’s 2017 UX and User Research Industry Research Report [download page].

The study asked more than 2,200 professionals across a wide range of industries which of several online trends will be the most important in affecting user experience in the next 5 years. AI and multi-device interaction were tied at the top of the list, each cited by 51% of respondents.

The internet of things (IoT) was next, indicated to be a top trend by almost half (47%) of respondents. Recent research finds that IoT will have one of the biggest impacts on customer experience – and that IoT is one of CMOs’ most important future technologies.

Voice interaction (rapidly reaching the mainstream) is also high on the list of trends impacting UX, with virtual reality / augmented reality (which has various applications for brands) rounding out the top 5.

User research budgets appear to be on the upswing, according to the report, which found that more than one-third increased their budgets last year. Those budgets were most commonly earmarked for usability testing (79%), surveys (65%) and interviews (59%), with other methodologies such as first click testing (22%) and diary studies (14%) less commonly used.

As for usability tests, exactly half of the respondents reported running them at least monthly, with a slight majority saying that their frequency of testing rose last year. Looking forward, three-quarters expect a significant (23%) or moderate (42%) increase in the frequency of their usability testing this year.

Meanwhile, the most popular area on which companies are performing user research is the website (70%), with prototypes (54%) next. The study reveals that the 50% performing user research on their competitors is more than double the proportion from a year earlier. There seems to be less appetite for user research on mobile apps (41%), mobile sites (37%), marketing campaigns (30%), email (27%) and social media marketing (18%), though.

Overall, a majority (56%) of respondents strongly agree that user research improves the quality of their products/services. Almost half (48%) likewise strongly agree that user research helps them create effective marketing campaigns.

Previous research has indicated that UX is marketers’ biggest digital skills gap.

About the Data: The report is based on a survey of 2,238 professionals across a wide range of industries, with business high tech services and software (19%), advertising and marketing (12%) and consumer high tech services and software (12%) the most heavily represented. A majority (57%) of respondents are based in the US, and two-thirds have in-house roles. Design/UX is the primary job function for 38% of respondents, with research (20%) another prominent role.

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