If you're not running UX research and learning about your customers, you're not evolving. The problem is that UX research can often be hampered by process:
- research is conducted on a project-by-project basis
- research deliverables are shared in one-time reports
- research lives in silos
This can often hamstring the effectiveness of UX research in an organization. This generally disorganized way of conducting UX research means you fail to capture a lot of key UX insights—and what insights you do glean will be discovered very inefficiently.
UX researchers are reimagining their process by building UX research pipelines that are:
- centralized, in a single database
- focused on sharing all information across a variety of teams
- automating as much of the research pipeline as possible
This shift to a single, collaborative environment is making UX research more powerful and efficient. And there's no reason why you can't institute this new kind of UX research in your own work.
What follows is a collection of our favorite articles on everything about the new way to conduct UX research: how to build a centralized, maximally efficient UX research system; which UX research tools can help improve your process; how to troubleshoot your existing UX research methods; and deep dives into the work of prominent UX researchers on the field's bleeding edge.
Evolving your research process
UX research methods are constantly evolving and improving, and your own process shouldn't be an exception in that regard.
Especially at a time when the entire philosophy of UX research is evolving from siloed to centralized, you need the resources to critically interrogate your own methods and see how they can be improved. These articles on UX research improvement will help you out.
We've set out to democratize UX with a system we call Polaris. Our intentions are to meet three needs of WeWork team members:
1. Prioritize: Decide whether one project is more important than another based on data rather than passion and gut feeling. Polaris helps with identifying valid and reliable user needs.
2. Educate: Polaris helps with getting insights from actual users about a project that is already in progress.
3. Allocate: If a team is looking for its next project, big or small, Polaris helps deciding what that project might be.
For all that we gain by being embedded in project teams, we risk losing our ability to challenge the team’s direction and strategy. The project’s goals become our goals....One of the aspects of research that I value the most is helping teams see where the challenge surfaced today fits into the larger context of our users’ worlds. These are not the challenges we’ll solve this week, but weeks, months, and even years down the road.
UX research isn't just something you do: it's an integral part of product development and improvement, from start to finish.
These how-to guides will give you clear and direct methods for building UX research directly into your overall development pipeline, letting you get high-impact feedback on your product every step of the way.
This article gives you a step-by-step framework for automating your UX research, allowing you to rely on a consistent stream of user feedback without investing continuous time and effort in soliciting and aggregating that feedback.
There's a danger in UX research: many teams produce this research in the form of one-off reports, which keeps the research siloed and makes it difficult to learn about UX as a team. This article presents a method for ensuring that your entire team is a part of your UX research workflow from start to finish.
Ready to go beyond UX research on your own product? One of the best ways to improve your own product design is by researching your competitors' UX. This guide shows you how to improve your own product through competitive UX research.
There's so much potential data you can extract from user interviews, and so many ways to organize and analyze it. While this makes interviews a powerful tool, it also means there are a lot of ways to go wrong or simply get overwhelmed during this part of UX research. This article shows you how to separate signal from noise and get the most out of those interviews.
With so many stages to UX research, it can be hard to aggregate, analyze, and just keep track of all the moving pieces in an efficient way. This article uses Zapier as a case study of how to make the interactive cycle of soliciting and incorporating user feedback more efficient.
Tools for getting started
There are a million tools out there for “UX research,” but having a tool isn't enough—even if that tool's a good one. You need to create a system of UX tools that work well together in order to get the most out of your research pipeline.
Ideally, your tools won't just give you data on a particular part of UX: rather, each tool will contribute to a big-picture understanding of what's working and what isn't in your UX, where that big picture is backed by much more granular data at each stage of the pipeline.
These articles collect the best tools for every aspect of UX research, telling you what software you can use for which purpose, and what kinds of plans (free, enterprise, and everything in between) are available.
If you need a quick and easy collection of templates to get started codifying your UX research, take a look at this guide that offers three examples of Airtable UX templates—built by professional UX developers.
User-experience research methods are great at producing data and insights, while ongoing activities help get the right things done. Alongside R&D, ongoing UX activities can make everyone’s efforts more effective and valuable. At every stage in the design process, different UX methods can keep product-development efforts on the right track, in agreement with true user needs and not imaginary ones.
If you want even more templates to use as a foundational structure for your UX research, take a look at the following bases that have all been designed for that very purpose.
Developed by Zapier, this base focuses on streamlining the user interview process to make it as easy as possible to quickly gauge user reactions to adding new product features or changing aspects of the existing product.
Developed by WeWork UX, this base structures user experience into “nuggets” designed to let analysts easily test hypotheses about basic questions like “Why do people use our product?” and “What makes people stop using our product?”
Developed by Zapier, this base focuses on making user research scalable. It prioritizes turning large amounts of user research data into actionable recommendations through four data views: People, Studies, Sessions, and Issues/Feedback.
Developed by UX strategist Sarah Henry, this base provides the resources to integrate the emotional responses of users—a dimension of UX that's commonly neglected—into your overall UX research program.
Developed by Vernon Fowler, UX specialist for Deakin University Library, this base represents the library's efforts to leverage UX research to improve the experience of a wide array of stakeholders—students, academics, alumni/ae, and community. It's notable for including resources for measuring the effectiveness of blogging and social campaigns.
Examples and case studies in the wild
Maybe you prefer learning through a good case study—after all, there's something especially informative about studying cases of something done well when you're trying to figure out how to do it well yourself.
In this section, we cover articles that highlight particular people and companies doing noteworthy work in UX research.
This interview with the lead UX researcher of Autodesk covers everything from the best UX conferences, to the best strategies for user interviews, to advice on how to manage teams across multiple time zones.
Taking the time to build a principled, unified UX research program will make sure that the right people are finding, using, and getting the most out of your product. And there's no reason for this to be a guessing game: there's already a lot of great research on what the next wave UX research will look like!
So get reading—your users will thank you!