It’s essential to make sure people are thinking about user research, even when you can't be next to them, or in a meeting. Reminding people about the value and capabilities of user research is especially important when you are just starting a research practice at an organization or trying to get research integrated into teams.
But you can’t be everywhere at once—so you need the research to speak for itself. There are a few ways I do this. Some of them take more time to create, but some are easy to implement right away.
Less time-consuming ideas:
Keep open office hours
Having open office hours makes it easier for people to know when they can come to you and can help mitigate the number of disparate slack conversations. I have these every week, and they are a time for teams to check with me about research needs or any questions they have.
I also host a bi-weekly meeting with each group to check-in about research needs. Open office hours are another way to collaborate between official meetings. Also, it is a great indicator when colleagues start coming to you for research questions, as opposed to you to them!
Set up a user research Slack channel
At my last few companies, I set up a Slack channel dedicated to user research and posted regular updates in there are sessions I was holding or any reports I wrote. Next time I do this, I will sync with Google Calendars and a few other apps to make it easier for anyone in the channel to join the sessions.
I also posted Q&A sessions on the channel. I once worked with data scientists to start making it more "smart," so people could search for specific keywords, and they would get directed to one of my reports.
In the past, I have kept two anonymous jars (far away from my desk), where colleagues can put in any questions, comments, concerns, or requests for user research. I go through the jars every week and post any answers on the slack channel. I got so much great feedback from this on how to improve my deliverables.
Create templates for teams to use
Creating research templates is my number one piece of advice for user researchers. By creating models of research plans, reports, or recruiting emails, you can streamline your work.
Also, when you create these templates, teams can use them, which means they are thinking about user research without being around you. It is lovely when teams start filling out their research plans.
Hang your artifacts/deliverables around the office
Whether they are personas, journey maps, job maps, experience maps, or anything in between, print out huge deliverables and put them all over your office. Next to each deliverable, put an area to describe how to use it, and a place for feedback.
At one office, the personas were in the bathroom and kitchen. It was creepy, but it got people looking at them! Another option is to bind them and put them in a magazine format for people to read.
Moderately time-consuming ideas:
Make your artifacts/deliverables interactable
Making deliverables interactable is the next step from above. One way to do this, which I am currently experimenting with, is to hang transparent paper over your deliverable and allow people to mark up or draw on this. Additionally, you could layer your personas and journey maps (or other deliverables) together.
Another interactable format for deliverables is a Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) format. You can also turn your personas into "real people" with Facebook and Instagram accounts.
A demo desk is an excellent way for colleagues to interact with user research, and it helps them understand one aspect of how user research works.
It allows for the whole company to interact with any prototypes, or take surveys we have, and to give feedback to the product team.
Set legitimate KPIs for research projects
Setting KPIs for user research is essential, regardless of whether it helps you scale a research practice. However, if you can consistently tie together research projects and a positive impact on business KPIs, colleagues will attribute a higher value to research.
Some of the most common KPIs are conversion rate, revenue, click-thru rate, customer acquisition cost, and retention rate. Of course, these all depend on your organization's goals.
Very time-consuming ideas:
Create a taxonomy of insights
As more people get involved in conducting, searching for, or using research, you will want to make it as discoverable as possible. One of the best ways to do this is by creating a taxonomy of insights.
These guidelines ensure there aren't repeated studies or insights and allow colleagues to discover research. One of the easiest ways to start a taxonomy is by using the ten heuristics. Some of the common insight taxonomies I use are:
- Usability issue: A problem with the usability of the product/service and an abnormal experience that confuses users. This issue often breaks usability heuristics.
- Pain point: Something that frustrates or blocks the user from doing what they need to or want to do.
- Goal: What the desired outcome is for the user when they are using a product/service
- Motivation: The reason behind why someone is trying to accomplish a goal
- Need: A concept or an idea the user mentioned which helps them achieve a goal
- Task: An everyday task users are performing that helps them get to their goal
Including user research work in Jira tickets is the most complicated and controversial part of this piece. A lot of times, teams don't know what user researchers are doing and what work is dependent on research.
Generally, researchers work on a dual-track scrum set-up, where the research gets done before designs, and then before coding begins. Ideally, user research work would get attached to a story, from early phase backlog validation to refinement to shipped/done.
In each Jira ticket, there would be a separate area to complete about the need on the customer's side, and what problem the feature/EPIC/what not is trying to solve (versus just looking at a solution).
JTBD maps and Job stories
Jobs To Be Done deliverables, such as job maps and job stories, are a great way to keep colleagues' minds on research. Job maps are entirely focused on users, not on the organization, and are a fantastic deliverable to introduce.
Since the deliverable is just about the user, colleagues can start to see the users outside of the context of a product/service. Additionally, I put an area for job stories in tickets, and ask the teams to fill them out.
To write a job story, the person needs to have a clear understanding of users. Having this as a requirement to fill out prompts them to think about the user, and to ask me if they are having trouble.
These are some of the tricks I use to keep an organization's mind on user research when I am away and to start building a culture of user research. If you give these methods enough time and patience, you will see a distinct mindset shift in the company. People will start thinking about user research at a strategic level, and start bringing you into more conversations.