In this post I will share the insights I have gained on which approaches best promoted UX research within my organization.
1. Move from a “consultant” approach to a “fellow soldier in the trenches” approach
I am not referring to the nature of the professional contract between you and the organization you are working with. Rather, I am referring to your attitude. If you find yourself thinking “I did what they paid me for, it’s their problem if they don’t use it” you have got a problem. In fact, even using “me” and “them” is an indication of a problematic attitude. Start using “we”. Familiarize yourself with the organization’s most difficult challenges and figure out how you can help. I have found that the UX research bag of tricks always has something to contribute and the UX skill-set is helpful in all stages of product development as well as many different departments within the organization. Remember, the company’s goal is not to have the best user experience practices. The company’s goal is to achieve it’s business goals. Everything you do or share should have a clear path into how it may promote those goals.
2. Don’t be afraid to get too technical
Each company has its own world of expertise relevant to the industry it is part of. In my experience, the more you understand every technological aspect of your organizations industry, the more relevant will your research results be. Not only will you gain more respect from co-workers and management but the quality of your findings will increase, as will your understanding of where your customers are coming from.
3. Continue to explore: What is the best way to communicate your findings?
I used to write long reports. They included EVERYTHING. Problem was only a small bunch of people actually read them. They were effective in establishing my professional reputation but not so much in actually being used. Then I moved towards presentations which definitely had a more engaging side to them, but tended to disappear in the thousands of presentations produced everyday by each person in the organization. Then I realized, most of the people in my organization do not have the opportunity to see the customers’ work up close. Talking about what I saw is fine, but actually showing it, well that’s a whole different story. I compiled video clips from customers I visited, editing and grouping them by subjects and incorporating my conclusions in the movie itself. Surprisingly the effort was only low to medium but the effect was very strong. Not only did the videos reach a wide audience, but they proved to be very engaging and thus become more memorable.
4. Combine quantitative information with customer quotes
The information collected by the UX researcher comes in all shapes and forms. In fact, how to compile it is a whole challenge in itself which deserves it’s own post. But when it comes to delivering the information to management and engineers I’ve found there are two main types of information that make the biggest impact: quantitative information and customer quotes. Although inherently different, both types are regarded as credible, representing “reality” and within lays their power. But with great power comes great responsibility. If you are a good researcher you also know that both can be easily manipulated. Choose wisely. Present a quote only if you have validated it as representative of a group of customers. Use numbers with the highest data integrity.
5. Preserve the knowledge and evangelize it
How do you preserve all this knowledge that you have gained? How do you make it accessible to people outside your head? There is not one answer here. The thing is, you should be constantly finding ways to preserve the insights and incorporate them in the organizations DNA. Whether it is through requirements specifications, posters, workshops, meetings with internal stakeholders, managing databases or any other way you may find, preserving the knowledge and facilitating its use is one of your main goals as a researcher. Bottom line is you are not only providing information. You are responsible of managing it within your organization. Do not expect others to do the work for you. Evangelizing your findings is not a one time show but an ongoing process.
Share your thoughts, have you other “tips” on how to promote UX research’s impact? There is a whole recommended book on the subject.