We recently invited user researchers, UXers and other members of the user experience industry to take part in a survey and share how the pandemic changed their research and testing routines, as well as what they expect from the rest of 2021.

Here are the 10 takeaways from our study.

🥢 Routines changed for most researchers

Although 76.2% of participants in the survey confirmed that they continued to run user research “as normal” throughout the pandemic, the session format changed quite a lot, with 63.9% of researchers being forced to shift from face-to-face user interviews to remote research.

Besides changes to the way we engage with users, other members of the industry also mentioned budget cuts, an increase in quantitative research and a shift in priorities, with some teams even moving away from UX.

Only 11.1% of user researchers said that the pandemic had zero or minimal impact on their research schedules.

🥢 Growing focus on accessibility

While 52.8% of user researchers said their target audience did not change significantly since the start of the pandemic, 11.1% of participants in the survey want to focus more on accessibility during the recruitment and research stages. In line with this takeaway, 82.4% of participants in the survey are already prioritising accessibility recruitment in 2021.

Similarly, 21.4% of researchers want to expand the diversity levels in their user recruitment.

🥢 Over 17% of products & services have become more digital

When asked if their products and services had changed due to the pandemic, 17.1% of researchers and UXers have said their product has become more digitised and 14.3% said they now have a bigger variety of services.

The industry where change towards digital is happening quicker and more deeply is banking and financial services.

🥢 Zoom and Miro are the new hot research tools

30.6% of user researchers mentioned the pandemic has forced them to start using new tools, with the most popular ones being Zoom (now used by 41.7%) and Miro (adopted by 22.2%). Other popular tools that more researchers are now using include UserZoom, Mural, UserTesting or Figma.

Only 8.3% of clients said they had made no changes or adopted any new technology because of/during COVID-19.

Another relevant find: 19% of professionals are now using some kind of unmoderated research tool (such as card sorting platforms like Optimal Workshop), which they weren’t using before the pandemic.

🥢 Turnaround times have shortened

When working with a user recruitment partner like People for Research, 41.2% of professionals still believe that the most important element of user recruitment is the quality of the participants delivered. A close second priority is the ability to provide a quick turnaround, with 38.2% prioritising speed of recruitment.

In third place, 35.3% of professionals highlighted the importance of regular communication between researcher and recruiter.

🥢 19% of researchers feel like they need additional support

In our survey, we asked if researchers felt like they needed any kind of additional support from their user recruitment partner: 19.4% confirmed they felt that they needed advice on best practice.

Other popular answers included a wider ability to source niche participants, ability to help manage incentives (especially if recruiting and running research with participants in different countries and requiring incentives in different currencies) and being able to advise on remote research tools that work for both researchers and participants.

Based on this, we are working on another report that will detail our community’s preferences when it comes to video tools like Zoom, so keep an eye on the blog or sign up to our newsletter to make sure you don’t miss it.

🥢 One in four researchers are unsure about their target audiences

While a significant number of researchers confirmed they are looking to boost their accessibility and diversity numbers when recruiting for user research in 2021, 25% of professionals are not completely sure who they will need to recruit and run research with over the next few months.

One group that is getting a lot of attention this year, however, are business owners. With pretty much every service going remote and with Brexit becoming a reality, entrepreneurs and sole traders have become a hot commodity when it comes to user research and testing.

🥢 More remote sessions = higher attendance rates

The majority of researchers who answered our survey mentioned they had noticed lower drop-out rates since the beginning of the pandemic as a result of remote sessions being easier to attend for the participants.

However, the longer we are forced to live with COVID-19, the more these professionals are noticing the phenomenon of ‘Zoom fatigue’ when speaking to participants.

🥢 One in five researchers wants to go back to face-to-face in 2021

Approximately 19% of professionals are planning (or hoping) to run face-to-face research before the end of the year. In line with this, we are starting to see a growing number of user recruitment enquiries from existing and potential clients mentioning in-person sessions.

🥢 Remote research will be the norm for a while

Despite the roadmap announced by the Government and the possibility of all restrictions being lifted by 21st June, 88% of researchers plan to continue with remote moderated in and after 2021, while 45% plan to continue running remote unmoderated sessions.  

According to our survey, 38% of professionals are planning to run diary studies as part of their research schedule over the next few months.



Maria Santos, Head of Digital Ops & Data Protection

If you would like to find out more about our in-house participant recruitment service for user testing or market research get in touch on 0117 921 0008 or

At People for Research, we recruit participants for UX and usability testing and market research. We work with award winning UX agencies across the UK and partner up with a number of end clients who are leading the way with in-house user experience and insight.