Uncover online behavioral patterns, new initiatives, and strategic direction with open research studies.

Before building can even begin on a website or app, there has to be a product strategy and vision in place that informs what you’re building, for whom, and why it’s needed.

This foundational research is important because, without understanding user behaviors and needs, even the best strategies are still just guesses. Open research coupled with remote unmoderated usability testing gives you a powerful tool that helps inform product strategy with feedback from real users. This is why open research studies are a valuable component of the user-centered design process.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what constitutes an open research study, list a few of the many benefits, and give a real world example of an open research study UserZoom conducted on how consumers research and purchase smartphones.

So what is an open research study?

Many of you are familiar with the concept of a task-based study where a participant is started on a specific webpage or application and asked to complete a task on that site or app. In contrast, open research studies start users on a blank webpage and don’t offer any guidelines for participants to follow in order to complete an online task.

By taking an unguided approach, users behave much more organically, which enables you to better understand the user journey and how users behave both on and off your primary website.

What are the benefits of an open research study?

There are many benefits to using this kind of approach in conjunction with remote unmoderated usability testing, as this will reveal patterns in online behavior, which can in turn define new business opportunities and inspire improvements to the customer experience.

Other benefits include:

  • Understanding opportunities for new products, services and resources based on gaps in the process or user experience
  • Identify and overcome barriers for acquiring and retaining new customers
  • Optimizing SEO, if your open research includes search data (i.e. typing a word or phrase into a search engine such as Google)
  • Building and understanding personas of your current or potential target markets
  • Following users over time in order to understand their behavior across various points in the customer journey
  • Researching any topic in any industry and for any brand – even your competitors

UserZoom’s Open Research Study

As an example of how beneficial this approach to research can be, UserZoom ran an open-ended research study on how consumers research and purchase smartphones during the upgrade process.

Click here to download UserZoom’s Open Research Study on the consumer smartphone purchase process.

During the course of this research study we sought to answer:

  • What factors drive a purchase decision?
  • What features and functionality are important to users?
  • How does the Internet aid users in making these decisions?
  • What types of sites do users visit during this process?
  • Which sites do users prefer to purchase a smartphone from?

Interestingly, one of the main takeaways we learned from this study was that general search terms (e.g. “best smartphone”) are the number one way participants began their research online.


Open research studies are a great way to reveal patterns in online user behavior that can uncover new opportunities for your organization and inspire improvements to the customer experience. This is particularly insightful when doing foundational research that helps define the product vision and strategy, but is also beneficial to run at any time to ensure there are no gaps in your user experience.

Download the free study to learn more about open research studies and how consumers research & purchase smartphones during the upgrade process!