Roll up your sleeves and convince your manager that UX Research is key

“My manager does not believe in user research — thats why we don’t do it.”

I have heard this statement so many times! Some managers may still believe that doing research is purely connected to academia. Student research projects can last from a semester (approximately 6 months) to almost four years (PhD). Don’t get me wrong — I understand where they are coming from. And it is true in a sense, research is still very predominant in academic circles, but not completely.

Like other things in life that evolve and adapt, so does research. And user research, especially in tech startups, did refreshed the view on traditional ways. Being here, you probably know why research needs to be done — but how to convince others might be a bit tricky. So here are a few tips on how to convince your boss, specifically your lead or manager, to do user experience research.

1. Research can be fast and iterative, like design.

User research still is and will be about understanding humans, their behaviour, interactions, trying to figure out why some things work better than other, etc. Doing it in a company means being iterative throughout a cyclical process in which you identify a problem and propose solutions or trends. From these proposed solutions, insight are made and delivered to the design and development team. There follows the process of sketching, prototyping and designing. These are at the end tested on a target group or internally, depending on the problem statement.

Main takeaway: Explain to your manager that UX Research can be fast and iterative, done by one person, and most importantly — that it can fit in a two-week cycle.

2. Success stories never fail

Now tell me, who doesn’t like a good example of a successful company? There is nothing wrong with telling your managers that other companies find values in doing user research — see it as a source of inspiration.

I like this example from Uber’s design researchers: “Do it early and often. When we are building products at Uber, usability and visual design helps shape the product’s story. Testing at different stages helps us refine the story by uncovering user motivations, behaviours, as well as validating the assumptions we make during the creation process.”

Main takeaway: Take examples from successful stories, study them and be ready to answer questions!

3. It’s far less expensive to prevent a problem than to fix it later

For me it’s funny how we show facts, which come from research itself. Of course, researchers write about how beneficial research is. It’s really simple, we need to find out what people want, need or wish in order to build it. Right?!

Now for a second, try to think like a manager — and this is where it gets curious. Try to talk about how much more efficiently you would work if you had the right insight insights, or how much time of post-release fixes would developers save.

There is a really good book by Clare-Marie Karat from IBM, where it is explained how every dollar spent in usability returns in development and post-release maintenance.

Main takeaway: Talk about efficiency and time put to work that prevents fixing post-release.

4. Roll up your sleeves and strategise

In this phase, you need to put your skills on the table and in a table, LITERALLY. I had to prepare in advance and think strategically what I can offer. Be prepared to use the experience from previous work and cover the details — because this is where it gets interesting. If you perhaps do not have any practical experience and you are an aspiring UX Researcher, I hope this table helps you as well.

Firstly, I made explicit the methods I feel most comfortable with, diving them into quantitative and qualitative. I additionally inserted a column differentiating the number of users that need to be involved, number of weeks, researchers and designers from the team, time, place and money (the prices are purely an indication that the more time you spend with a user the more incentive you need to provide). Of course, incentives are something that needs to be run through more people in your company so be open for those to change.

Takeaway: This is the time to show your skills and explain the work you can do with appropriate tools.

5. Show your previous impacts

Often times we (user researchers) forget that other people might not exactly get what we do. So try to show examples from previous work that YOU have directly worked on. This way you can show the details of the research: such as methodology used and time, money and resources; problems that users face and actionable insight on solutions, etc.

Keep in mind that showing examples from your previous work might stimulate others to think of their own examples. It is important to open a discussion.

Takeaway: let your manager connect to your work by showing previous examples, where you had a direct impact.

I hope this read will help and I hope to hear some of your stories as well. 🙂

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