Along the process of designing and developing a digital product, research is employed at multiple times. But “just” doing the appropriate research at a given time during then development process might not be enough if you want to evaluate your data thoroughly while keeping the research process lean and efficient. Having realized that research simply needs to be done, the next logical step is to develop a research system that is accepted throughout your team and company.
Why you should implement a UX Research System
A research system defines the way in which your User/UX/Usability research is conducted. The goal is also to keep an overview of all the research you conducted by storing data in a searchable location that can be used by all relevant stakeholders. Having a structured procedure similar to a research template that can be shared with your whole team will give everybody a clear idea of how research is done at your company along with some additional benefits:
- Information is stored in a consistent and searchable way. This ensures that information doesn’t get lost, everybody knows where to look for the needed piece of knowledge and searching for research data and results becomes more efficient
- Clearly defined structures and processes for gathering, storing, evaluating and sharing will help you to scale up your research in the long run
- Results can be communicated more efficiently: Presentations are not really suited for trackable or searchable research. While they contain a lot of information, they are usually hard to navigate and you hardly ever need all of that information at once.
What usually happens during product design and development is that a given person tries to find a certain piece of information they know or suspect is available somewhere within the past research results. Most of the time that information is needed to answer a specific question that might not even have been the focus at the time the data was gathered. This is why instead of writing elaborate reports you should figure out a system that lets you and your team enter and share data and thus eliminates the need for reports completely.
Doing this, one of the first things you will need to consider is how you can store and archive your data in the most efficient and usable way. At the same time, you may want to find a more open (more on the importance of openness in qualitative user research here) and collaborative way to do research and communicate findings more clearly and easily. That way, everybody who is interested in your results can simply access them.
As a result, product managers can make decisions backed by facts more easily, designers and developers can plan features and sprints according to users’ wishes and marketing can learn more about their target group and as a result, communicate more efficiently. Having all data in one consistent place also enables you to create new insights by combining all kinds of research that were ever run in your company, be it qualitative or quantitative. Also as mentioned above, when doing research you sometimes discover insights you didn’t specifically look for. By keeping track of the things that have been observed during user tests but haven’t been used you may be able to contribute to answering future questions. At some point, they will most likely come in handy.
Systematically evaluating the gathered data
Ideally, you should be able to record your findings in the same system you use to store your raw data. That way you can directly connect new insights to the underlying data that fuelled them. If possible, try to break your insights up into small pieces-our data becomes more searchable and discoverable and can be used in a more flexible way. You can also separate the insights from the research session from which they were gathered. That way you can put together pieces from different times during your research and use them to generate new knowledge.
Don’t only look at the initial numbers and directly employable results of your research. Think about your research’s long-term effect: the more research you conduct and connect, the more holistic your overview will become. Using small, modular pieces of insight to generate your knowledge also means that you’re free to rearrange and reconnect pieces of insight as you please.
In order to make your data searchable, you need to tag research results in an appropriate way that makes them useful for future research. The most efficient way to do this is using a tool that enables you to define your own tags, remembers tags you did already use in the past, lets you tag single words as well as whole phrases or paragraphs and enables you to compare and connect tags within as well as across sets of data.
Implementing a UX Research System
How do research systems scale? Ideally, you want to implement a research system that ensures you get a consistent inflow of user feedback. In order to realize this, you can’t rely on testing sessions as your only source for feedback. There are multiple departments within your company where information related to users and their experiences is gathered. Usually, hardly any information is used, viewed or reviewed by anybody outside of the team that gathered them. As a result, information silos will start to form.
The key to overcoming this problem and gaining access to a more constant inflow of feedback is using one collaborative system for storing and evaluating data across the whole company. On the one hand this will help you collect all the existing data (or even more ideally, gathered data is directly documented at one central, accessible location) and the other hand it helps you spread the insights you gained across the whole organization.
Sometimes you might want to get answers to specific questions you have and that can’t be answered using data from the teams responsible for marketing or customer support. There actually are (quite) automated ways to go about this: Simple surveys can be sent to users via e-mail or you try adding a question for users to answer to your newsletter.
By using data from all available sources for your research you are able to use quantitative methods to answer the question of what is happening as well as qualitative methods to figure out why those things are happening. Of course, it can be hard to gather all available data, make sense of it and communicate it to the right stakeholders. This is why making defining a research system and storing all of the companies user-related data in one place is extremely helpful.
Automating certain parts of your research process as much as possible reduces the manpower needed for every individual research cycle. This enables you to do more research in the long run as it reduces the chance to unnecessarily duplicate work that has been done before. On top of that the collective insights and knowledge gained by using all user-related data that is gathered and consistently doing research backs impactful decisions with facts.
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