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7 ways to elevate your UX research

Written by Alida

Published February 23, 2024

As UX researchers gain a seat at the decision-making table, the question becomes: How can they consistently drive impact? 

In other words, UX research success isn’t just about pulling up a chair and sitting down, but about what you bring to the table. 

UX research can be instrumental across the design and development process, not just as a tactic to find and fix issues in prototypes. The most advanced teams embed UX research at every stage, from discovery and ideation to evaluation and validation, and ultimately to monitoring and continuous improvement. 

“Doing research in multiple altitudes helps companies create experiences that customers would not think to ask for and they better follow emerging behaviors in specific markets that will guide business decisions long term.”

        • Senem Guler Biyikli, Forrester Analyst

In each of these stages, UX teams are under pressure to deliver meaningful results at a fast pace. But, hidden tasks included in the research process – recruiting, scheduling, budgeting, vendor management, and training – slow things down. Those bottlenecks destroy trust and confidence in the UX research process and can erode the partnerships that UX teams have worked so hard to build. Therefore, UX researchers need strategies and tools to make operations more efficient, so insights from users command the attention they deserve.

Alida’s Paul Hagen sat down with Forrester Analyst Senem Guler Biyikli to discuss how UX teams can be more productive, even as demand for their expertise grows. Read on to learn their recommendations to help you scale. For a small UX research team, you’ll learn where to start and how to set yourself up for success. UX research teams at larger organizations will get tactical recommendations you can put into play as the volume and depth of your work increase.

Seven keys to scaling UX research operations

1. Prioritization

To move from “order-taker” to proactive partner you must take an active role in planning a research cadence that fits the needs of your business and your constraints. Assess the importance, urgency, effort, and resources required for each project. Studies that address the most urgent business problems and have the greatest potential for business impact are the ones that should rise to the top. Narrow down the scope of your studies to focus on questions that must be answered to avoid the biggest risks.

2. Iterative research 

As Senem Guler Biyikli notes, “some research is better than no research.” Instead of taking on an extensive study with multiple components, you may choose to break the work into portions or conduct smaller rounds. Then you can fit into an Agile process and make iterative changes based on what you learn. Share your plan with your stakeholders to set expectations.

3. Integrated research platform

A disjointed tool stack slows down many studies because UX researchers need to manually manipulate data which is gathered and classified in different ways. Senem Guler Biyikli recommends using an experience research platform to help coordinate research efforts. Regardless of what tools you use to conduct your research, a user experience research platform stores information in a single repository, which makes it easier to bring together data from different streams and tell a story. Plus, when you don’t have time or resources to field a new panel of participants for a study, you can go back to your research repository to see what insights you already have to address a business question. 

4. Recruitment 

Recruitment is one of the most time consuming and difficult aspects of UX research. Some UX research teams rely on third-party panels to field participants that match certain criteria, but that process can be slow and expensive. What’s more, third-party samples can be disappointing when it comes to quality of participants. 

In contrast, customer communities provide a ready group of research participants that can be accessed on demand. Highly profiled members of a customer community can easily be segmented into different cohorts based on buyer behavior, demographic data, psychographic data, etc. That way, you don’t have to manually match lists of users to ensure you’re asking UX questions of the right people. What’s more, you can recontact people in your community so you can engage with them across the design process, follow up as needed, and track changes in their attitudes and behaviors.

5. Ease of collaboration and sharing 

Communicating across teams is vitally important to the research process, but often difficult, as people have different levels of understanding of UX research and may want to be involved in different stages. UX researcher need to build cross-functional teams with product managers, engineers, designers, and other business leaders so they can make decisions together. Rather than cooking up research behind the scenes and then having a “big reveal,” bring stakeholders into the process early and often. 

Communicate results in their language, by connecting your findings to the questions that matter most to them. Put your reports and even your interview notes and recordings in a central location where stakeholders can access them. Allow them to participate in interviews and discussions so they can hear direct feedback from users. 

6. Automation and Generative AI 

To reduce manual tasks and save time, UX researchers can leverage automation and advancements in AI. Consider how you can apply technology to things like:

  • Text and sentiment analysis
  • Transcribing interviews and videos
  • Summarizing interviews and diary studies
  • Translating feedback
  • Scheduling interviews, sending reminders and thank you notes
  • Creating survey questions or prompts
  • Drafting a story based on your research results 

     

7. Democratization of UX research

If you have a small team and the demand for research far outstrips your resources, you may want to consider a self-service model. Democratizing research allows non-researchers to engage in research activities, even select a panel, create questions, and conduct interviews. Democratization requires the UX research team to educate others on research user experience research best practices and put governance rules in place, so results are accurate and participants aren’t asked to join multiple studies at the same time.

“When it’s done well,” Senem Guler Biyikli says, “democratization increases understanding of research in the organization and frees up research professionals to focus more on strategic questions.”

Listen in for more advice

Watch the full recording of our recent webinar with Paul Hagen and guest speaker, Forrester Analyst Senem Guler Biyikli to learn more recommendations to make your UX research operations more efficient and scalable.

 

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