Whose Job is User Research?
We have a small, centralised Research Team at Monotype and most research takes place across the business in product teams, corporate teams and channels. It’s always refreshing to hear that we’re not the only company who structure research like this as this short article points out:
“…the different people involved in the research frequently are not even from the same department. Company org structures vary widely: researchers might be their own group or they might be part of marketing, product, or even engineering. The people requesting research and using the results might be product managers, ux designers, or marketers. That’s not even addressing the times when research is done by outside firms or by team members who aren’t trained in research.”
We are often grappling with how to support teams who are trying to be nimble and work quickly but ensure our research is conducted with rigour and best practice. Rather than replacing or duplicating research already happening across the business, we’re aiming to enhance and improve it. By acting as a research consultancy, we hope to facilitate better communication of research data and insights across the whole company.
The article’s author, Laura Klein (a silicon valley UX consultant), outlines some of the challenges we face as a team and as a company. It’s good to hear that we’re not alone!
“Unfortunately, you still don’t see much agreement about who owns user research within companies. Whose job is it to make sure it happens? Who incorporates the findings into designs? Who makes sure that research isn’t just ignored? And what happens when you don’t have a qualified researcher available? These are tough questions, and many companies are still grappling with them.”
Laura has interviewed Steve Portigal and quotes some of his views alongside her own. As a UX consultant he has worked with many companies across the USA helping them conduct user research. He talks about who should ‘own research’:
“At a minimum, somebody needs to determine which business questions should be answered. Somebody needs to figure out how to get those questions answered. Somebody needs to figure out what to do with the results of the research. It’s not often the same somebody.”
Steve and Laura talk about when to talk to an expert rather than do your own research.
“The more help you need in connecting the business problem with the research approach and connecting the observations to the business implications, the more expert help you need,”
I'm in agreement with this stance. Research is definitely everyone's job but you still need researchers in your organisation to help do the best possible job.