Along the process of designing and developing a product, research is employed at multiple times. But “just” doing the appropriate user research at a given time during the development process might not be enough. If you want to evaluate your data thoroughly and continuously while keeping the UX research process lean and efficient, you need a system behind it. So the next logical step is to develop a UX research system that both your team and your company adopts.
What is a UX research system?
A research system foremost is a process that defines the way in which you conduct user/usability/UX research. A research system serves as a framework of how to carry out research and store its results. It brings clarity about your research approach within your team. New UX’ers and user researchers can quickly jump on board and use your system as a template for their work. Having implemented a research system, everyone within the company gets a clear picture of where and how knowledge about the customer is generated – and where to look for it.
Such a system should cover documentation about gathering data and insights management. Ultimately, it defines a UX research repository that contains raw data, insights, conclusions, and general knowledge about your customer.
Why you should implement a UX research system
What usually happens during product design and development is that someone tries to find a certain piece of information. They know or suspect that it is available somewhere – buried between the previous research results that are stored as PDF or PowerPoint files within an ambiguous folder structure. 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 thereby eliminate the need for reports completely.
One key goal of a UX research system is to keep an overview of your research by storing data in one searchable place. This way that all stakeholders have access to it.
Additional benefits of a UX research system are:
- Storage of information in a consistent and searchable way. No more losing of information and learning the same thing over and over again across an organization. You will know where to look for the particular piece of knowledge you need. This leads to more efficient research and faster provision of results.
- Scale up your research by defined clear structures and processes for gathering, storing, evaluating, and sharing research findings and conclusions. A good UX research system will provide documentation implicitly, so no more vanishing PDF reports on shared drives.
- Communicate results more efficiently. The common presentations contain lots of facts and data. They are usually hard to navigate when searching for one nugget of information. Having a UX research system implemented you can present handy self-contained conclusions with always the right raw data at hand.
Discover valuable insights within your research data
When implementing a UX research system, one thing to consider is how to store your data in a consistent and searchable way. In order to make your research data searchable beyond simple text retrieval, you need to apply appropriate tags. The most efficient way to do this is by using a tool that lets your team define its own consistent taxonomy of tags. Ideally, it lets you tag single phrases as well as whole paragraphs and enables you to compare and connect tags within as well as across sets of data.
At the same time, you may want to adopt a more open 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.
This benefits various groups in your company:
- Product managers can make fact-based decisions more easily.
- Designers and developers can plan features and sprints according to users’ preferences.
- Marketing can learn more about its target group and thus communicate more effectively.
Having all data in one consistent place enables you to create new insights by combining all the findings that ever were created in your company. When doing research you sometimes discover insights you didn’t specifically look for. Keep an eye on these, they might help to answer future questions.
Evaluate research data across multiple studies
Ideally, you should be able to record your findings in the same place you use to store your raw data. That way you can directly connect new insights to the underlying data that fuelled them. Connecting hypotheses with contributing nuggets of information is also a crucial step in frameworks like Atomic Research.
If possible, try to break your insights up into small pieces. Your data becomes more searchable and discoverable and therefore 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, the more dots you 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.
Scaling a UX research system within your company
How do research systems scale? Ideally, you 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 several departments in your organization that collect information about users and their experiences. 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 helps you to collect all existing data and, on the other hand, to disseminate the findings across the entire company. A better option would be to document the data directly at a centrally accessible location.
Furthermore, automating parts of your research process 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 from all user-related data back impactful decisions with facts.
Of course, it is not an easy task to gather all available data, make sense of it, and communicate it to the right stakeholders. This is why utilizing tools that provide enough flexibility for your individual research approach is extremely helpful. While spreadsheet-like tools like Airtable enjoy great popularity, they still remain general-purpose tools not tailored for UX research.
When we created consider.ly, we had UX teams and their individual needs in mind. If you’re looking for an easy to manage UX research repository, give it a try! We’d love to hear your feedback!