You Don’t Need More User Research

Don’t freak out, but just hear me out. It’s very likely that you don’t need more user research but rather, you need to be getting more out of the user research you already did.

Spending more quality time with the data and insights you collect is one of the biggest challenges in our industry, particularly if you’re already doing user research regularly. Think about it, when was the last time you honestly felt that you spent enough time really analyzing and synthesizing (read…”figuring out what you learned) from the data and information you gathered from a research study?

Quality Over Quantity

Often you do research and then remember all the high points from the sessions or interviews. When it comes time to share what you learned with the rest of your team and company, you make a presentation or summary of some kind that includes all of those high level themes that immediately come to mind. Basically, you share what you remembered was most important.

Sharing only what you remember was important from research leaves huge gaps, which in turn introduced risk to the design and development of your products and services. Sharing in this way isn’t the biggest problem to have as any good designer or researcher will still share some pretty insightful stuff from this approach.

The real problem has two parts. First, all the data that doesn’t answer your immediate questions gets lost, never to be revisited. Second, when you only share the obvious insights to answer a question today, all that other data never gets the chance to inform future strategy and decisions. So, in short…you never look at the data again and it never gets to tell another story to improve the experience for your customers.

Eventually you get asked a new question, one that prior research answers, but the information is lost or hard to find. Then you go and do a new research study because (in the words of one of our Aurelius customers) “It’s often faster and easier for me to do new research than it is to find what I learned from past studies”.

That sucks.

Your Mileage May Vary

Most research projects start by someone (probably a stakeholder or executive) asking a question. The sad news is that you already have an answer to that question, but the tragedy is that you don’t have quick access to the answer. When you tell everyone you need to do a new study, folks may not have the appetite to spend time, money or resources for new research. The result if moving forward with decisions, uninformed and based on someone’s best guess.

Teams have (and are) trying to tackle this problem in various ways but most of it comes down to the knowledge in a someone’s brain. Despite dumping all your research data into Confluence, Google Docs or *shudder* Sharepoint, it’s hard to find, probably incomplete (remember only sharing the “relevant insights”?) and not easy to make sense of to generate new insights.

Fairly new movements and communities around things like design ops and even more specific sub-niche research ops are discussing how to solve these challenges at scale in large organizations, but everyone can benefit from getting more out of user research.

Call to Action

We built Aurelius to help people, just like you, get more out of their user research and customer feedback. Aurelius helps you add, tag, organize and search your research notes and data to quickly find patterns and themes, so you can create and share those key insights that help inform better designs, products and features.

You can learn more about it here. I’d love to hear what you think.