3. Compile a Research-Participant Database
Next, partner with other teams to compile a list of research participants. Connect with the Sales, Marketing, and Customer Support teams and see how they can help. When meeting with these teams, introduce yourself, give them an overview of UX research, and show them how your research can benefit everyone involved. I’ve found it helpful to discuss concrete successes that have come out of my research in the past. I also created a one-page summary of how clients benefit from participating in research.
Account managers might be hesitant to hand over their carefully cultivated client contacts to you without knowing more about what your research sessions might entail. Be flexible and accommodating, and involve them in all your communications with clients, if necessary. Be sure to communicate your session criteria and goals clearly, describing how the research will ultimately provide value. Keep in mind that you may need to start small and work on gaining your coworkers’ trust. Listen in on a few of their calls with clients and tag along on some client visits, even if they’re marketing or sales focused. Just being present and having the opportunity to introduce yourself to clients can lay the foundation for a successful partnership.
Over time, UX research will ultimately prove its own value. Clients love to feel heard and to have a voice in product development and design. Product Management appreciates receiving high-quality feedback to guide product prioritization and decision making. Sales and account managers love having a great excuse to reach out to clients and strengthen their relationship with them.
4. Conduct an Exploratory, Internal Background Study
It often takes a few months to get fully up to speed on a new job. In this case, I needed to wrap my head around a completely new industry, a new suite of products, and a new set of users. To expedite this process, I conducted high-level interviews with members of key teams such as Sales, Product, Partner Services, and Marketing to get their thoughts on the company and the industry overall. I asked about their perceptions of the company, what the company is focusing on, how we fit into the industry, who our clients are, what’s working well, where we can improve, and where they think our future opportunities lie.
I found these interviews to be a great way of introducing myself and UX research in general, getting to know the various teams with which I’d be working closely, and gaining a much better, multifaceted understanding of the company and where we’re headed. Plus, I was able to learn about interesting trends, as well perceptions and painpoints across teams. I prepared a research report and, shared it internally, then worked with the relevant teams to address key issues.
5. Educate and Enable Others
Take advantage of every opportunity to teach others about UX research. If you’re a UX Research team of one, you’ll need all the help you can get. Explain the UX research process and its benefits. Get people in other disciplines involved in and excited about your research. Demonstrate steady progress and tout your successes widely.
I hosted a lunch-and-learn with our Engineering team to give them an introduction to UX research, describing what it is, why it’s important, and how they can work with me. I’ll also be hosting a company-wide talk to provide a similar overview of UX research and highlight what I’ve accomplished in my first few months, what I’ll focus on next, and how anyone can reach out to collaborate with me.
I’m building an internal site to house all of my research documentation and resources, including processes, best practices, notes, reports, and outcomes. Anyone in the company can view this site to see what I’ve been working on or peruse the research resources. I’ve included sample screeners, research plans, and research reports, as well as UX research best practices. By educating, involving, and enabling others, I can expand my reach and foster a more rigorous, analytical research culture.
6. Conduct Usability Testing on Key Products
I next focused on conducting usability-test sessions for our key products. How do the products work? Which products are people using? When and how frequently? How do the products interact, if at all? What is and isn’t working for users? What are their key bottlenecks and painpoints?
Running these sessions has given me a much better understanding of our products and how they all fit together. I asked users to walk me through their daily workflow, detailing what products they’re using and for what purposes. By chronicling the general user flows, I was able to see the larger context of the products’ usage rather than just seeing the individual tools being used in a vacuum. I was also able to identify key painpoints and bottlenecks in the flows, which I discussed with the product team to help determine next steps.
7. Work Collaboratively to Determine Future Priorities
Once I had conducted foundational user research, created personas and user journeys, and done some usability testing, I collated my findings and discussed them with the relevant stakeholders. Now that we better understood our users and how they’re interacting with our products, we can prioritize high-touch, high-impact areas on which to focus, thus ensuring we’re using our resources wisely.
To successfully build a UX Research practice, you need to spend time and energy up front to understand your industry, company, and its products. Focus on building relationships—both internally and externally—and educating others about the wide-ranging benefits of UX research. Share concrete examples of your past impact and be transparent about your goals, projects, and initiatives moving forward. Encourage others to get involved. Building your network and your rapport with other disciplines will help you to be more effective in your role. You’ll ultimately need to rely on collaborating with other teams to gain research buy-in and achieve shared ownership of product outcomes.