Advocating UX Research Repository

Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn in “Everything Everywhere All At Once” (2022) Photo Credit:Allyson Riggs

It may sound a bit far-fetched but UX research repository can be an analogy of having the power to access your other selves’ power in multiverse like in the movie Everything Everywhere All At Once, that is if you are aware of it. Information can flow in parallel from multiple channels and what if you can use a well-built UX research repository as the portal to unlock greater potential?

Conducting a user research is great but do people actually have time to read those research reports? Or have you ever wondered, “Some team must have done a research on that topic before, but where can I find it?”

Research repository is an effort in democratizing research and ultimately enhancing the efficiency of the organization by aligning different teams to make better decisions. In other words, your input can transfer across company, interacting with different perspectives and drive a critical impact.

In order to understand the basic principle of how a research repository works, we need to know what the Atomic UX Research is.

You’ve probably heard of Atomic UX design. Design elements are broken down into pixels and colors for them to be reusable and easily be scaled. Atomic UX Research model shares the same idea but on user research. The term was first coined by Tomer Sharon who launched a user insight repository system called “Polaris” while he was at WeWork. You can read about his philosophy and the process behind building Polaris at his Medium post. There is even a readily available Airtable template from Polaris.

The Atomic UX Research can be best understood by taking a look at the framework diagram by Daniel Pidcock, a User Experience designer and an advocate of Atomic UX Research.

The first step, experiments, describes “where we learned it”. This means, that you start the process with studies that have been carried out. They could be user tests, surveys, and anything else that creates facts.

The facts you’ve gained from the experiments are unbiased. Because they are not something like “the user said X” but a snippet of the user saying X. This step’s description is “what we learned”.

From facts, you get insights (“why we think that is”). Insights are facts considered in context. That way you can interpret them easier.

The last part is identifying recommendations from what you’ve found (“how we’ll proceed”). These new hypotheses can then be tested again to be verified or falsified as shown by the arrow in the diagram. Thus you should formulate them in a way that makes them testable.

If you take a look at Pidcock’s ‘Atomic research in practice’ diagram, you can see how Atomic UX research can be used in practice and what benefits it can create. Through this approach, UX research is not linear anymore and insights and conclusions are backed by multiple evidence.

To recap what we have learned so far and to clarify the needs, here is a set of objectives we could consider when building a UX research repository.

  • Provide a clear, transparent overview of all previous research projects.
  • Allow people outside the research team to search through research findings and insights.
  • Keep all documentation, material, videos, images and tasks in one single place.
  • Allow for a quick kick-off of new projects and collaboration with stakeholders.

But where and how do we start? EnjoyHQ, a user research platform has compiled an ultimate checklist to help teams get started with instruction and templates. Below are the topics covered in the checklist and from personally researching through this topic for a while, I find it massively helpful to get an overview of how the actual process would be like and to plan your own.

  1. Internal Research and Defining Success Together
  2. Mapping Feedback Channels
  3. Taxonomy: Define a common vocabulary
  4. Access & Empowerment
  5. Maintenance: Documentation and policies
  6. Tools: Selecting the right tool
  7. Metrics and Impact: Design an initial set of metrics

Once the benefit of research repository is evangelized throughout the organization and we have stakeholder buy-in, the process can start from the top of the list, conducting an internal research and defining the success together and follow through the rest of the list adjusting them to your own settings.

I remember being very excited when I wrote and shared this post in my company with the conviction that research repository is more than a tool but a kind of mindset that helps an organization work together better towards a more customer-centric way. It also helped me to set up my UX research process in a more systematic and strategic way looking beyond, thinking how today’s research effort will affect the future.

To be honest, at first I was captivated by the notion to build the perfect UX research repository. I hope this post can help you get a grasp of what research repository is and how you might approach it. Start by talking with your team and understanding the common needs and looking at your past research projects to find patterns. You can make many small experiments in which you can learn along and help you get to the ideal place you haven’t even thought of before.

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