User Research is a Team Sport

Team players at the Design Games 2017

Over my years working as a user researcher and UX practitioner, I’ve learned that the most impactful research outcomes happen when the whole team is involved in the user research.

This means rather than just reading a research report, it involves taking part in the research and having time with our end users, being part of the analysis and synthesis and the decisions on what we need to do to have value for our users and our organisation.

I was involved in a project last year where we were trying to simplify complex legislated language involving taxation and business so that the everyday person can understand their obligations. We were having some difficulty getting everyone on the same page, until our whole team, including our lawyer, was involved in the research.

Our multidisciplinary team managed to transform a 171 word summary with a Flesch Kincaid reading level of 22 to a 91 word question with a reading level of Year 5 — making information accessible to a wider set of our users so it’s easier for them to comply with government obligations.

As Jared Spool noted back in 2011, the number of exposure hours that a person has to real end users has a direct impact on the end product or service. He recommends two hours every six weeks for every member of the team.

This helps to create:

  • A shared sense of ownership of the design process, as everyone in the team is involved in the end to end process
  • A shared understanding of the people we are designing for
  • A shared understanding of the data we have gathered, analysed and synthesised together.
  • Faster decision making as everyone has a shared understanding of the problem space and the user needs.

My challenge to you: in 2018, aim to get your whole team involved in at least two hours of research every six weeks, and see how that affects your product development 😊


Ruth Ellison

Ruth Ellison

Ruth is a design researcher and design leader from Canberra, Australia. In the last 16 years, she has worked across a range of industries, from airlines, to banks and government, doing research and design. She loves design research as she's fascinated by why people do the things they do, and how technology integrates into people’s lives. In her spare time, she makes science and geek themed jewellery under her Crankybot design label, using her lasercutter in her workshop.

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