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The best design and user research tools for startups

Illustration of a different writing instruments.
16 December 2019
Lucy Denton

Startups’ top priorities are often validating their minimum viable product (MVP) and finding product/market fit, and these design and research tools will help startups do exactly that. The list includes some of the usual suspects as well as some fewer known tools that we love including Vitally, Milanote, and of course Dovetail 😉.

10. Typeform

Base: Barcelona

Founded: 2012

Typeform creates forms and surveys that people actually want to fill in. The platform increases the conversational nature of a form to get more out of respondents. Like many SaaS platforms, Typeform is not overly prescriptive in how their users interact with their product. Instead, they provide loads of example projects that ultimately direct their users by highlighting various use cases.


G2: ★★★★★ 4.5 / 5

Users seem to love how easily Typeform interacts with their other product suites. From all accounts, engaging respondents to answer all questions within a questionnaire or survey has always been a super hard task and Typeform tries to solve this problem through an intuitive and enjoyable UI with a bunch of great features.

Christina Coviello, Head of UX Research, Noom says:

Typeform is the most modern, aesthetically pleasing, and user-friendly way to create surveys and collect responses from audiences of any size.

9. Lookback

Base: Palo Alto

Founded: 2013

Lookback is a cloud-based platform that enables organizations to run usability tests like live moderated testing, unmoderated testing and in-person apps for your lab. It offers real-time collaboration through live notes and annotation capabilities.


Capterra: ★★★★☆ 3.7 / 5

G2: ★★★★★ 4.5 / 5

People say that Lookback helps them run their research sessions with ease. They particularly like that everything is centralized and can be completed from start to finish in the one platform and are fans of the live stream, chat, and video editing capabilities.

Frances James, User Experience Researcher, Netflix says:

Lookback is an invaluable tool for getting insights from our users and their real lives.

8. Zapier

Base: Sunnyvale

Founded: 2011

Zapier is all about integrating apps and automating work without having to write any code - what’s not to love! Zapier connects more than 1,500 apps to give their customers a helping hand via the power of automation. The move away from manual and time-consuming tasks allows for increased productivity and, ultimately, business growth.


Capterra: ★★★★★ 4.7 / 5

G2: ★★★★★ 4.5 / 5

It’s impressive to have such incredible ratings on Capterra and G2. Reviewers say they can’t live without this “data wizardry” and that Zapier is the glue that holds their business together. I can’t shake the feeling that Zapier is the sort of tool that has changed the lives of many business operators and has systematically improved growth as a by-product.

Dave Kerpen, Founder and CEO, Likeable Local says:

Zapier helps maximize productivity by eliminating time spent on mundane, thoughtless activities. This frees up time, which allows you to focus on more important and meaningful work during the day.

7. Notion

Base: San Francisco

Founded: 2011

Notion is the hipster new age flexible project management tool that tries to combine all the different apps people used historically into one collaborative workspace. It works as a place to hold documents, databases, tasks, projects, etc. Notion has created a bunch of templates to help their customers experience success.


Capterra: ★★★★★ 4.7 / 5

G2: ★★★★☆ 4.4 / 5

Users are fans of Notion, with a particular love for the ability to centralize and organize everything into the one platform, ultimately ensuring improved productivity. The platform has loads of features and is referred to as ‘powerful’ in multiple reviews.

Steve Huffman, Co-founder & CEO, Reddit says:

Notion is so good it makes a devilishly complex problem seem simple.

6. Milanote

Base: Melbourne

Founded: 2016

Milanote is positioned as an intuitive tool, useful for organizing your creative ideas and projects into visual boards. Milanote allows you to arrange things in the way you want to and enables you to collaborate on projects with your team.


Capterra: ★★★★★ 4.8 / 5

G2: ★★★★★ 4.5 / 5

Milanote users love the simplified UI of the product, how easy it is to organize ideas, and the ability to share concepts with the team. It’s a creative workflow asset that enables you to position pictures and text wherever you want. The platform is super appealing to a creative audience, especially as an alternative to utilizing project management tools that aren’t, in any way, fit for purpose.

Brendan Kearns, Product Designer, InVision says:

Milanote is an amazing place to organize my ideas and make sense of them as they grow

5. Slack

Base: San Francisco

Founded: 2009

Slack sells itself as the central place that brings everything together. The company tagline is “where work happens”. Slack is centered around a communication tool, connecting people and the information that they need to do their jobs. Slack enables you to instant message people and chat openly within groups that you have joined to mitigate the need to use email as your default comms method.


Capterra: ★★★★★ 4.6 / 5

G2: ★★★★★ 4.5 / 5

The massive Slack user base enjoy how easy it is to use with features that enable their teams to maintain reliable, on time, and searchable communication. Some users have even indicated that the tool doesn’t make workplace communication feel like work, and love the convenience of the iOS and Android apps.

Levi Allan, GM Product, Xero says:

Slack is ingrained in the way we communicate and work at Xero. It has enabled faster and more transparent information sharing across our teams, improving employee engagement and ultimately making it easier to build beautiful products.

4. InVision

Base: New York

Founded: 2011

InVision is the go-to tool for digital product design. The strength of InVision is in its online and shareable capabilities. It enables you to rapidly design, prototype, and iterate collaboratively on products before the concept ever needs to be realized in code. The tool is intuitive and easy to pick up, standardizes the process of creation and enables you to see how designs will appear in their organic environments.


Capterra: ★★★★★ 4.6 / 5

G2: ★★★★☆ 4.4 / 5

The community of InVision fans love that they can fully prototype a concept and present it to the broader team / organization for feedback and make live changes. Designing prototypes is very simple and InVision enables you to easily import elements from Photoshop and Sketch, collaborate with feedback, and manage projects.

Joshua Taylor, Design Director, Evernote says:

Design isn’t necessarily about the space on the page, but a user’s walk through time with that product, and that’s where InVision helps

3. UsabilityHub

Base: Melbourne

Founded: 2008

UsabilityHub offers a range of testing tools including first click tests, design surveys, preference tests, and five-second tests. These tests enable you to collect authentic user data and ultimately validate design decisions. This speedy feedback loop helps you make agile decisions and iterate quickly and efficiently - pretty sweet if you ask me.


Capterra: ★★★★★ 4.6 / 5

G2: ★★★★☆ 4 / 5

By all accounts, people love UsabilityHub because does exactly what it says on the box, and that the platform enables them to gather real-time data and feedback they need to make good product decisions.

Rick van de Ven, Digital Marketing Analyst, Philips says:

We use UsabilityHub tests to help us make decisions for various projects. From web and mobile design to marketing activities.

2. Miro

Base: San Francisco

Founded: 2011

Miro (formerly RealtimeBoard) is a visual collaboration and digital whiteboarding platform. Miro has broad appeal but really comes into its own for remote teams that need to collaborate visually. To enable users, Miro provides a bunch of customizable templates to help build out a solution in the way you want to. It’s super easy to integrate a range of different media types so that everything is in the one spot - the goal being, to have a single collaboration hub.


Capterra: ★★★★★ 4.8 / 5

G2: ★★★★★ 4.7 / 5

People have fabulous things to say about Miro. The endless list of integrations is a big hit among users and they love the sharing capabilities. Users have shared stories of how the tool has revolutionized their digital collaboration efforts, especially in remote teams.

Richard Davidson, Agile Project Manager, Skyscanner

Miro has helped us work across multiple sites around the world and has enabled us to be far more productive than before.

1. Dovetail

Base: Sydney

Founded: 2017

Dovetail enables companies to understand their customers and make better decisions as a result. The intuitive cloud-based platform helps people inside businesses store and make sense of this unstructured user research data, capture and summarize their findings, and share that with relevant people inside the organization.


Capterra: ★★★★★ 4.6 / 5

Fans of Dovetail indicate the company has done a “great job of understanding how UX researchers work and aligning the software to these needs.” The UX research community is keen on Dovetail’s ease of use, feature set, and data analysis capabilities. They love the ability to share the insights out to the wider organization.

Tash Keuneman, Senior Designer, Intuit says:

Clear analysis, ease of use, tagging is fantastic. Saves hours of the qualitative research process.

There you have it, a list of design and research platforms to help you brainstorm, test your ideas, talk to customers, and learn exactly what they want.

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