Optimize your UX Research Team
Over the past few years, organizations have built large UX Research teams, only to find it necessary to cut back. Where did they go wrong? They were not focused on ensuring a direct connection between Research and Business Value.
We can bring our expertise and experience to bear on your individual situation by evaluating how well your UX Research organization aligns with your overall business strategy, and where gaps and opportunities exist. We'll work with your internal stakeholders to identify areas for improvement, and make actionable recommendations based on how well UX Research is serving your business strategy.
UX Research Should Tell You Something You Don't Already Know
Organizations just starting out with UX Research tend to focus on immediate, known problems with their app, website, or customer experience. "Fix this, people are complaining" tends to be the priority.
Most UX Researchers will delve into problem-solving mode, examing the experience for usability, findability, and suitability issues. She may investigate competing products with similar experiences, looking for differences. Content and UX Audits can often be applied here, helpfully.
As an organization grows, UX Research usually takes on a more exploratory, formative mode: looking for as-yet-unexpressed customer needs and goals, and looking for ways to fulfill them.
As a team's UX Research skills expand and develop, inevitably other parts of the organization take notice; there's competition for that expertise, and demand for the insights the team has provided.
And yet: we've seen this quickly grow out of control. Eager to prove they are "listening to the customer", product teams may engage UX Research to "validate" their feature concepts, and attempt to coat preconceived ideas with a veneer of "customer validation."
A year later, when a feature is rolled out to market, and no one wants or needs or likes it, teams may wonder where they went wrong.
A Well-Tended Garden Needs Constant Pruning
With growth comes many challenges:
- Which product teams should be given priority?
- Which customers' needs are most valuable to solve?
- How should a UX Research team be structured, and integrated into other practice lines?
We've helped clients like Capital One, Volkswagen and others navigate this path before. No two situations are identical, but there are some guiding principles that can ensure a team is well-sized, well-aligned, and appropriately focused.
Size and Scope
While we shy away from prescribing cookie-cutter approaches, we've found that across hundreds of organizations large and small, UX Research teams should comprise about 10% of headcount. This can vary by industry (software services tend to need more; manufacturing may need less), but serves as a good approximation for a start.
We've worked with organizations that relied on a single UX Researcher - as well as those who've had hundreds. Centralized teams, as well as "federated" practitioners with a Center of Excellence. Much depends on how the organization sets and disseminates its strategy, and how it holds individuals responsible for working towards that strategy.
While UX Research often resides within a Design team, this too can vary depending on the structure and strategy of an organization.
Where a market is ill-defined, or customer needs are rapidly evolving, UXR should play a more prominent role in overall Strategy, helping to "define the path" which Design should travel down. A centralized team can share a ballooning workload as more practitioners are brought on board, and can work more closely together to ensure practice consistency and operational excellence.
Elsewhere, in mature organizations or those with a history of successfully integrating UX Research throughout the product development lifecycle, UXRs may be integrated within product-line and product teams, while a Center of Excellence is maintained to provide a reference point to which dispersed teams may refer.
A well-developed UX Research team should be sized to allow researchers to concentrate on the appropriate mix of formative and evaluative testing dictated by the organization's overall strategy. In well defined markets for a mature product, UX Research may tend towards "improvement at the edges" - making sure that an experience is well-crafted for the broadest possible market, ensuring a wide range of needs and abilities are accounted for.
Startups, innovation-oriented firms, and established firms seeking to define new markets need a UX Research team that's more focused on uncovering undefined customer needs, charting customer attitudes and market contours, and providing a specific definition of what a successful product should do.
We Can Help Your UX Research Team Prepare for the Future
We Just Have a Few Questions to Start.