2013 UX Industry Survey Results the Good Bad and Ugly


2013 UX Industry Survey Results from UserTesting; the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

2013 UX Industry Survey Results the Good the Bad and the Ugly image from UsefulUsability.comThe 2013 UX Industry Survey produced by UserTesting.com was recently published and contains highly interesting news for UX practitioners everywhere.  Kudos to UserTesting for creating this useful survey. This is exactly the type of information that helps the UX community learn, leverage their combined expertise and grow together.

The report is 14 pages long, is packed full of useful UX insights and well worth reading.

The survey had over 1,300 responses, which I believe is one of the largest, if not the largest number of survey responses received for a UX practitioner survey that I am aware of.

Below are highlights of a few of the results that I think UX and usability practitioners will find particularly interesting; the good, the bad and the ugly. I urge you to read the report to review the full set of results (a link to download the report is provided at the bottom of this article).

UX Practitioner Age and Education

The majority of survey respondents are relatively younger (26-34 age group, as seen in the red circle in the image below) and are well educated, with almost half having a College degree, and over a third having Master’s degrees. Assuming this survey sample represents the larger UX practitioner population, this means that most UX practitioners have the education and expertise to play an important role in helping firms create better, more efficient, and more satisfying user experiences. And the younger crop of practitioners should be producing their work for another 30-40 years. Good news indeed!

Age results from 2013 UX Industry Survey image from UsefulUsability.com
Respondent age results from UserTesting UX Industry Survey results

But note the lack of UXers in the 18-25 year old range. The chart below demonstrates that less than 10% of respondents are in that age range, a range which represents the future of UX. The only group smaller than that is the 70 or over!

I hope the reason for this is that most in that age category are still studying in College, with intent to eventually become gainfully employed in the UX field. But certainly further study is necessary to see if high-school and college age students are informed about and interested in pursuing a career in the UX field.

The UXPA and other UX or IA associations may have an opportunity to potentially augment their high-school and college level awareness programs at the local and national level.

UX Job Function and Company Value

The vast majority of respondents indicated they work in-house (almost 70%), and most work in a UX department or team.  This is encouraging as it demonstrates that more firms are realizing the importance of UX and are including that type of function in their organization.

Oddly, about 2/3 of respondents report that they do not have a dedicated usability testing team. I assume this means they wear more than one hat, conducting testing as well as filling other UX functions for their organization.

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The bad news is in who finds the most value in UX as reported by the survey respondents.

As seen in the image below the majority of respondents said UX teams get the most value in usability research, as represented by the over 40% response. This makes sense considering the number of UX practitioners completing the survey.  More  good news is the relatively high number of Product teams that respondents report find the most value in usability research. I would hope that this number (roughly 30%) will increase over time as more and more applications are built using UX testing and optimization.

2013 UX Industry Study Results Value of UX image from UsefulUsability.com
Who values UX the most results from UserTesting UX Industry Survey results

 Still, the ugly news is the lower numbers reported for Marketing and Engineering (note the red arrows I added).

As a group I happen to be part of the Marketing area, and I would have hoped that survey respondents would have thought Marketing teams would find great value in usability testing, as I do. As a group, I think Marketing can greatly benefit from on-going testing and optimization using usability research.

Worse, it is very disappointing to see the extremely low number reported for Engineering. I can’t imagine a more important need for usability research than those in a firm who are responsible for building, maintaining and improving software and or hardware. If the UXers that completed this survey feel like Engineering departments do not find great value in user research, that is concerning. Ugly indeed!

Unfortunately, my own experiences working in-house and with agencies would seem to agree with this sentiment. I have found that in general the engineering community I interacted with had a tendency to live or die with Use Cases that were written by internal teams, but not tested with users using usability research. And they were more likely to complain (loudly) about missing deadlines if presented with an option to test early and often. In an Agile environment this may not be as common a concern, but still I’ve noted plenty of resistance from this group. I wrote about these and other reasons people say “no” to usability, with suggestions for how to overcome those issues in the article 7 reasons why you can’t sell usability.

If these numbers are accurate, then more work is needed by the UX community to get the word out among our Engineering brethren of the benefits of UX and usability research.

Usability Testing Budget

Usability testing budgets in 2012 versus those of 2013 were also a source of good news. Over 95% of Respondents reported their 2013 budgets were about the same, or increased versus 2012 budgets. And over 50% reported that their budgets were either moderately or significantly increased from the prior year.

2013 UX Industry Survey Results Budget Comparison image from UsefulUsability.com
2012 vs 2013 usability testing budget results from UserTesting UX Industry Survey

This is certainly good news for practitioners AND the end users who will eventually have to use whatever the device, website or application is. Vendors of usability testing research and tools should also be cheerful about this news, as more budgets typically mean more purchases of tools or services.

And even more good news budget-wise, the reason for the overall increase in budgets as reported by the respondents was mostly due to a change in attitude towards usability testing.  A little over 40% of respondents said that attitude change was the primary factor, with the next highest group (about 25%) indicating there was a change in number of projects. This once again provides evidence that education and information about the benefits of usability testing are being heard and accepted by those in the company with budget authority.

Percent of Time Spent Testing

In terms of the percent of time respondents said they spend actually doing usability testing, the vast majority (almost 80%) reported they only spend between 1-25% of their time conducting testing. That seems rather low, and not at all what I would have expected. What is not clear from the data is if this is caused by the fact that they have someone else test for them due to their UX role, or whether they are busy doing other things like administrative, reporting or other work.

2013 UX Industry Survey Results Percent of Time Testing image from UsefulUsability.com
Percent of time spent testing from UserTesting UX Industry Survey results

 How Many Testers Do You Recruit?

The age-old usability question of “how many testers should I test” can potentially be answered by looking at the results of the survey. The majority of UX respondents (about 40%) reported that they recruit between 6 to 10 users per study.

2013 UX Industry Survey Results Number of Testers image from UsefulUsability.com
Number of tester recruited results from UserTesting UX Industry Survey results

Close behind that is 1-5 users recruited, an interesting number that could potentially reflect conducting more Agile or Ad Hoc types of testing.  However, I’ve note before that there are significant benefits to conducting usability testing with just one person, and that a properly created test with just one tester is better than no test at all.

Forecasting Future Testing Frequency

In terms of forecasting the remainder of 2014, the majority (about 70%) of UXers report they expect moderate or significant increases in the frequency of testing. This is good news and I hope a sign of continued growth in UX optimization across the globe.

2013 UX Industry Survey results future testing frequency image from UsefulUsability.com
Future testing frequency from UserTesting UX Industry Survey results

What would have been interesting to know is whether they also expect a budget increase with the additional work load they are forecasting.

I’m also wondering if this expected increase in frequency is caused by using new tools or techniques that improve efficiency and thus the frequency of testing, or is it caused by having potentially more projects, or both?

Either way, this is good news. We’ll have to look to (hopefully) next year’s survey to see if the expectations are fulfilled.

Future Online Trends and UX Research

Survey respondents were asked what they think will be the most important online trends impacting UX research in the next 5 years. As you might expect, top answers included Multi-Device Integration, Global UX Design and Touch Interfaces.

2013 UX Industry Study Results future trends image from UsefulUsability.com
Trends affecting UX results from UserTesting UX Industry Survey results

I find it interesting that Wearable Tech also came up very high. Seeing the popularity and growth of Nike Fuel and other wearable gadgets for tracking health, it this seems likely that this will be a high growth area for usability testing over the next few years.

Conclusion: 2013 UX Industry Survey Results from UserTesting, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

So that’s my take on the good, the bad and the ugly results in the 2013 Industry Survey Results study. But what do you think? There is much more data available in the report, so I urge you to download it and read it in full.

And if UserTesting decides to do this report again, I have a few suggestions for questions that might be added to the survey to make it even more informative, including…

  • Salary
  • Number of years in the UX field
  • Budget forecast for next year, going up, down or staying about the same?
  • Conduct own testing, have someone in their organization test, or hire testing out?
  • How many moderated versus un-moderated sessions conducted last year, and expectations for the coming year?
  • What percentage of testing is usability testing, feedback, click-tracking or analytics analysis?

To download the report visit the UserTesting.com 2013 UX Industry Survey Report page (free download, but registration required).


  1. Nice summary of the report Craig! I also found it disturbing to see who uses the research that UX practitioners produce. One question that I would ask those folks that took the survey is How are you communicating your UX research findings?

    A) Blog
    B) Social Media
    C) Intranet
    D) Presentations
    E) Other

  2. Great point Keith, because creating research, and distributing / leveraging findings are two different things. I’m wondering how many times this has happened…

    1. Team creates great research which identifies optimizations that can be made
    2. Findings are distributed to a limited internal audience (probably via method D above as you mentioned)
    3. Some of the Optimizations are made
    4. Research findings are quickly forgotten and quickly filed away in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’ (sorry, just had to put the reference to Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy there, it seemed appropriate)

    I’ve found that most firms have a tendency to have a very short attention span and half-life to UX research. Instead of findings being used across the firm, and even outside the firm, results become ‘yesterday’s news’ and are thus not leveraged to their full potential.

    Bit of a shame, really.

  3. Hi Craig, love your insights on our report! I’ve taken a few mental notes and have included your recommendations on additional questions for our next survey – which we definitely intend to run again.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.
    Stef, UserTesting

  4. Thanks Stef, I appreciate the nice feedback. And thank you for putting together a very helpful resource for UX teams. I’ll look forward to participating and reading the results of next year’s study!

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