Democratizing UX: how to spread user research education and insights throughout your organization
One of the emerging trends of 2019 is the democratization of UX. It’s something we talk about a lot internally and with our customers, but what does it really mean?
As demand for UX insights continues to grow, UX practitioners old and new are facing a need to deepen their knowledge. But how do you spread user research education beyond the walls of your design team? What is the value of everyone having access to UX insights?
User research is amazing. It fuels curiosity. It provides snippets into people’s lives and how they perceive the world. It’s these stories that influence our design decisions the most, and in some cases, helps us form business strategies, requirements and priorities.
So, it makes sense that we share these user stories outside of the UX team; and not just with our stakeholders, but with the whole organization, including developers, quality analysts, product owners and managing directors!
However one major challenge we face, as revealed by our State of UX in the Enterprise survey, is that the demand for UX research is outgrowing the capacity of every organization and its team of researchers. Even if your company has dedicated user researchers, it’s highly likely they don’t have enough capacity to deliver on every single question that a designer, product manager, or marketing manager has.
Therefore it’s vital to train people from other teams around the business to help contribute to research. This will not only help free up a dedicated user researcher to carry out more discovery work, but you’ll find those same people building empathy with users, who would otherwise not hear the voice of the customer.
At UserZoom we truly believe in the value of shared insight, and that’s why we’ve been hard at work developing the UserZoom Academy, a free, online place of learning for all, designed to equip UX practitioners with the skills and knowledge needed to create better digital experiences, advance their professional development, and promote UX awareness across their organizations.
UserZoom Academy is live right now, so why not take a visit, enrol in a free course, sharpen you UZ platform skills and let us know how we can further help you create better digital experiences.
How to share user research with your organization
Democratizating UX isn’t just about empowering people through easy access to UX resources and education, first you also need to communicate the value of UX to the right people at the right time via the right channel, in order to get everyone onboard.
You can do this by sharing your user research throughout the company.
In the following five tips, Elizabeth Chesters, an independent UX designer, consultant and writer, offers practical advice on engaging stakeholders and people throughout your organization.
There are plenty of business cases for sharing user research. Firstly, for whatever product you’re developing, you have to understand its value based on factors such as what your user’s need and therefore what they’re willing to engage with or pay for. Marketing teams need to know the language of their users, so that they can speak relevantly and respectfully in promotional material. Quality Analysts need to understand the different ways in which the platform is used to test those use cases.
Research may be part of our design responsibilities, but so many of your colleagues rely on your discoveries.
1) Share early research planning
One way to begin sharing research is by starting early and communicating with colleagues what you’re planning to explore.
For those in-house, use standups to say what part of the product you’re going to be interviewing users on. A brief “This week, we’re testing the search functionality of the tool with users” will suffice. This way you not only let the stakeholders know what you’re working on, but you also let the developers know that there might be future changes to a part of the product or service. This also opens up the space for others to suggest questions that their own team might like to ask of users.
For agency folks who might not have stand-ups, discuss your thinking with other designers, clients or account managers. Ask about which parts of the client’s products or services have been tested before or collate suggestions of what to test.
Capturing the right questions means you’re capturing the insights your stakeholders are more interested in reading; which makes sharing the research more purposeful and engaging.
2) Involve teams in research
You can involve other teams in the research as it is happening. As researchers and designers we tend to learn more and build greater empathy in the moments we share with users. We also know there’s nothing more gut-wrenching and motivating to make changes than when you see someone struggle through a usability test. But the most impact comes from being there in that moment with that person. So, inviting others to share that invaluable user time increases the emotional impact of research.
A great way to involve stakeholders in the room with users is to ask them to take notes on what they’re experiencing. This doesn’t mean you sacrifice best practice – you still need to make sure you communicate the expectations of a note taker, for instance, let them know you will allocate time to ask questions, but they should not derail the conversation.
Of course, none of you have to actually be in the same room. If you are able to conduct remote moderated sessions you can invite stakeholders and team members in as silent observers too! For more information, check out UserZoom’s ebook: Remote Moderated 101.
3) Share user insight summaries
So, at this point you’ve shared your plans, you’ve involved a selected few to join in with research. But your research was amazing and you want to share your story with a wider audience. One of the best ways to do this is via email, because it provides you a non-intrusive way of sharing research with a wide audience. (As opposed to those who use @channel on Slack – you know who you are!)
Start within your teams, then ask different people if they would like to be on the mailing list. You’ll be surprised who’s interested in your research!
The email for example, could include:
The project and designs of what was tested
Briefly explain what part of your product or service you were testing or exploring, and include links to prototypes or screenshots of designs. This way, if you have multiple stakeholders, they can quickly recognise which research relates to their products. Also including screenshots of designs makes the email visually appealing and not a wall of text.
A brief profile of who tested the product
Stakeholders need to prioritise who said what, sometimes depending on the type of user, so include a one-line demographic summary of the user along with their insight.
Highlights and insights from each user testing the product
Then comes the meaty part of the email! Include bullet points of insights and highlights from the testing. Stick to what happened and avoid assumptions. Allow those who read the research to take insights direct from the user and apply it to their own thinking.
A funny user quote of the week
We say users but we work with people. Sometimes those people are serious. Other times they can can be hilarious. So, why not include those snippets of humour and lighten up your colleagues’ inboxes?
4) Post small insights in your messaging clients
But what if you have a lot of research to share? Who has time to collate all that research in an email? Instead as a quick win, share key quotes and insights on platforms such as Slack or HipChat. (Just save the @channel notifications for life or death situations).
Here you can share research snippets such as non-identifiable user quotes and insights in your communications. This keeps insights to the point as no one wants to read a novel on Slack, and you don’t want type a novel on there either.
Also, learn to share only the most important research to reduce the number of times you’re pinging people on a platform which can sometimes be quite invasive to people’s workflows.
5) Give access to stored research
So far, we’ve looked at the longer and shorter ways of sharing research insights. But your research is so detailed and you cover a lot of different aspects in individual sessions. All the methods so far means you’re sharing different amounts of research with different people, which adds so much admin to research.
At this point, consider providing access to stakeholders to where the research is saved.
This allows stakeholders to search through research in their own time and doesn’t add to your workload. Stakeholders from different projects can then take what they need from the research, without you guessing as to what the most interesting highlight is from a session.
UserZoom recently worked with News UK on their remote user research studies, and Claire Dracott, Deputy Head of User Experience, revealed how she won stakeholder buy-in and eventual UX champions throughout the business.
Claire made sure she regularly sat down with stakeholders and presented back what she was doing, telling them about the methodologies, why she was doing the testing. And then really going into detail about what they were finding, and what that ultimately meant for the business.
People were seeing the successes, and more and more people were coming to these presentations because they were really interested in them. Claire built a network of allies around the business, who were all saying “Oh, we could do that! or “We could test this!”
So despite struggling to find traction at first, Claire found that by sharing her insights with as many people and teams as possible, this helped democratise user research throughout the company and created many advocates for UX testing.
Sharing research and education with your colleagues is key to to the success of any business and team. The more people striving to integrate user research, the more insight you’ll have and therefore the more successful your product.
UX teams are so diverse, and each team has to find how they fit in with the wider organisation. The amount of research you share and how you share that research can depend on your company, your workload and team dynamics, but everyone can benefit from learning about user research and its value.
Whether it’s a structured email of all your research projects, or simply inviting non-research focused colleagues to see the research unfold in real-time. Share early, share often. And leverage your users’ stories to build empathy as much as possible.
Christopher Ratcliff — Content Marketing Manager
Christopher is the Content Marketing Manager for EMEA, which basically means the skipper of the good ship ‘UserZoom blog’. So far his requests for changing its name to the ‘USS-erzoom Blog’ have been rightfully denied. In his spare time, Christopher is a filmmaker and the editor of wayward pop culture site Methods Unsound. He used to be the deputy editor of Econsultancy, editor of Search Engine Watch, staff writer for ClickZ and features editor of CMO.com.
Elizabeth Chesters — Guest writer
I’m a UX researcher in London. When I’m not pestering users, you’ll find me coding. Specialising in localisation, I’ve set out to discover how technology can have the biggest impact around the world.
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