UX democratization programs are a great way to reduce researcher workload and spread knowledge of UX to non-researcher roles. However, training needs structure in order to better plan, assess success, and determine who is ready to do quality research.
In a past blog post, I discussed who should be trained to perform UX research. For all potential trainees, the key thing is to set up a training program with no surprises and provide opportunities for research practice with clear guidelines.
When training teams and roles in the past, I’ve observed that being more rigid with goals and measurement has aided both trainers and trainees. Even if flexibility is necessary, it is clear what adjustments were needed which can aid in updating the program in the future.
Outlining “who is who” is also important. In creating a program structure, responsibilities should be outlined and agreed upon prior to starting.
I’ve pulled together a few key tips based on my experience here, which should help you better understand how to set up, run and succeed with your own research democratization program.
If you are a consultant or an external trainer, you need someone on the inside who is dedicated to the cause. This person can be any role, but needs to be able to work with managers and other stakeholders to generate their interest and have their support in identifying and motivating trainees.
Client partners can assist with internal tech hurdles such as emails going to spam, ensuring the trainer uses company-approved meeting software (e.g., Zoom, Teams, WebEx), and any other IT-related needs.
Having an internal voice ensures trainees identify the program as being an internal endeavor and not just an outside-vendor workshop. This individual can help reiterate the goals of the program and what is expected.
While you hope to never have a scenario requiring this, someone has to be the “bad guy.” There is always the potential to have trainees who do not adequately participate in the program and thus cannot be deemed as completing it. Using the client partner as this voice will enforce that it’s not the trainer alone determining completion, but the company that will not accept someone not fully trained and trusted to do quality work.
A thorough UX research training program for non-researchers should include both learning sessions and exercise assignments. The exercises ensure trainees have hands-on experience in not only creating studies but following best practices.
Obviously, this requires a significant time commitment which can even take multiple hours a week depending on the program.
Only non-researchers who are committed to actually doing future research and highly interested in UX should be invited to training. Simply assigning a full design team may create more work for the trainer, the client partner, and even managers as they have to do assignment reminders and take time to address removing unmotivated trainees.
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Before a training program kicks off, both internal stakeholders and the trainer need to determine what training success looks like. This will help set parameters for determining completion and gauging who can be trusted to do future quality research.
Examples of end goals can be doing practice studies with multiple research methods or doing a full, real project with guidance. It can also be taking some sort of certification from an external vendor or an internal quiz on best practices.
Everyone has busy work schedules. That is why it’s best to plan the schedule for a full training program before the first session. Blocking trainees’ calendars for sessions in advance can help ensure they remove conflicts or plan around PTO.
A rigid schedule is actually helpful in installing a rhythm to the program. Having sessions on the same day of the week and exercises due the same number of days after a session creates structure trainees can familiarize themselves with. This also removes any need to question when they should work on assignments and allows them to raise any concerns regarding their own work schedules (e.g., release dates, holidays, PTO).
Trainees will need to know what processes to follow in order to enhance the company’s UX research versus creating potential chaos. Without documented processes, non-researchers might store study insights in the wrong locations, not follow protocol (e.g., JIRA tickets), and other practices researchers already know to follow.
Create one source of truth. Non-researchers need a singular place to find any protocols or research resources (e.g., study guide templates, branding guidelines).
Providing approved study templates, screeners, etc. can help ensure non-researchers are following similar practices to researchers and have documents already following best practices.
The goal is to reduce varying quality by reducing the need for non-researchers to create their own research from scratch or make guesses on the correct research steps.
This list has so far covered a need for rigid structure and “bad guys.” However, it is important for trainers to develop a kind tone. Non-researchers will have different levels of UX knowledge and typically will not be devoted to in-depth research or discovery research. Keep in mind the scope of what research will be performed and the program’s end goals.
A trainer’s goal is to motivate and enable research best practices. An unrealistic training schedule or short timelines for assignments may decrease interest and potentially make trainees regret the time they’ve spent starting the program.
If you work closely with a client, it might be beneficial to continue the training endeavor past the core program. Trainees may not do their first research project for a month or two. While they should have protocols, resources, and training to fall back on, having the trainer available again to either review their first test can alleviate quality concerns and ensure trainees follow company guidelines.
The client partner can also be asked to do a research audit. Setting a time period and checking if trainees have done research will help determine the success of the program.
Is it also beneficial to follow up with the client partner and other stakeholders in order to debrief on the program and assess if any changes should be made for future training.
This can take a number of forms, but whether you are working internally to set up a training program, or are actively running sessions yourself, you should allow a “no stupid questions” expectation.
Building an environment where trainees can be vulnerable will ensure they ask questions that pertain to their needs and can often shed additional light on the wider needs of the team.
Remember, non-researchers might be afraid or uncertain about asking internal researchers questions, as they want to maintain their confidence. In situations like this, an external trainer can be a great resource who can provide much-needed mentorship without fear of judgment.
If you take anything away from this article, it should be plan, plan, plan, and be kind.
Ready to learn more about democratizing UX in your organization? Make sure you check out our list of expert tips from UX professionals working at Uber, Capital One, and Charles River.
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