User experience (UX) research can be incredibly impactful when you use it to inform how your product evolves. The design choices and feature enhancements that result from this user feedback can add sparkle and delight to an otherwise ordinary experience. However, advocating for UX research before it’s part of your product team’s process can feel overwhelming, especially if only a few team members champion this type of work.
Building upon your team’s established habits, rituals, and relationships is an achievable way to begin elevating UX research as a core part of the process. Gaining alignment with your product and development teams about this process addition is imperative, and can ultimately result in research outcomes being used as a primary tool for making successful decisions.
Start with your product roadmap
Pairing research efforts with commitments that the team has already agreed upon is an essential part of folding UX research into product design and development decisions. Consider having a working session that includes representatives from each discipline of your product team (such as business stakeholders, design, development, and deployment) to discuss where there are opportunities within the roadmap to employ UX research. Some topics to collaborate and brainstorm about may include:
- What needs to be learned to make these enhancements effective for our product’s primary user group(s)?
- What current blockers is our team facing that user research could help resolve?
- What features do we anticipate being a significant investment and will benefit from UX research to ensure a successful final product?
Ideally, this working session results in excitement and vested interest from the team to integrate UX research and harken back to the findings when making decisions. However, if your team is still skeptical or resistant to change, don’t be discouraged. Try to identify the reason for their hesitation. It may take a few more working sessions to convince them of the value of UX research, and they will likely come around once they see the benefits.
Leverage existing planning processes
Working within your team’s existing product and development planning process is a seamless way to champion UX Research and give your team the opportunity to weigh in. If you are part of an agile product team, treat UX research tasks the same way you treat development sprint work:
- Allocate tickets in your team’s task management tool (e.g. Jira) specifically for the UX research effort that’s tied to a feature.
- Include UX research as a topic in retrospectives to reflect with the whole team on what went well, what could improve next time, or what still needs to be learned from users.
- Be mindful of how much capacity UX research is consuming and know that it may not be needed in all instances. For example, established best practices may answer a design question without needing to devote hours to collecting user feedback.
Housing UX research plans within a familiar process eliminates unintentional siloing that can happen when it’s living off on its own and has to be searched for. An additional benefit is that norms for collaboration within the current framework that your team is using will naturally carry over as well.
Be continuously transparent and inclusive
Building trust in a new workflow takes time, but regularly sharing and documenting the work that is being done will help propel it forward. Tracking UX research in familiar contexts (e.g. frequented kanban boards and wiki pages) provides others on the team permission to be involved. A few considerations for maintaining collaboration include:
- Instead of just distributing UX research findings in an email to be reviewed individually, schedule time or use an existing meeting to present findings and foster a team discussion about recommended next steps.
- Maintain recurring roadmap collaboration sessions every quarter to continue to evolve the UX research plans alongside the product plan while preserving team alignment.
- As research is being planned, make an effort to intentionally ask others on the team to weigh with their own questions that could be answered as part of this work.
If you find yourself sneaking in UX research and feel the need to conceal plans from the broader product team, you need to reevaluate your approach to be more inclusive. This could mean identifying what or who is causing the desire to keep efforts hidden and taking steps to gain more cross-team awareness.
The more team members feel involved and informed about the UX research process, the more allies you will have when pushing the work forward—and therefore the more likely the research findings will inform product decisions. While the journey to incorporating a UX research cadence into your product cycle may be a winding one, your team and product will be stronger in the end.
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