UX research is vital to the successful design of a new product or when launching a key new feature. However, even though UX research is an essential part of an effective design process, it can be time consuming when you do it correctly. Research operations, or ResearchOps, is now playing a developing role within UX design. ResearchOps can provide UX researchers with the necessary frameworks and tools to gain valuable user insights efficiently, thereby enabling UX teams to do their finest work.
What Is ResearchOps?
ResearchOps refers to the staffing, procedures, methods, strategies, and tactics that enable effective, large-scale UX research across an entire organization. Its goal is to optimize the impact of UX research at scale. An organization must scale research operations along with its UX research practice.
Why ResearchOps Matters
Creating products and services that meet your customers’ needs is necessary if you want them to have significant impacts within their marketplace. User research lets you validate your product concepts, gather information and insights about your target market, and get helpful feedback from existing or prospective customers. ResearchOps makes the research process more accessible to and scalable throughout an entire organization. Scaling UX research is crucial, especially given the rising demand for research.
ResearchOps centralizes the operational aspects of the research process, enabling you to save time and money on administrative tasks and letting your UX research team concentrate on conducting user interviews, surveys, usability testing, and other methods of research.
Increasing Efficiencies While Boosting Outcomes
Having a ResearchOps program in place significantly reduces the amount of time your research team spends on administrative activities. You should have a roadmap that organizes these chores so your team can complete them quickly. A repeatable, effective process should guide each stage—even automating some of these tasks and, thus, taking them entirely off your plate.
Management and Budgeting
A structured ResearchOps program gives a ResearchOps manager control over the UX research budget. Determining whether a research expense is worthwhile and identifying alternatives that could save costs and improve your UX return on investment (ROI) is the ResearchOps manager’s responsibility. By operationalizing your research studies, you can develop a better-organized, more cost-effective way of approaching UX research.
Democratizing UX Research
ResearchOps and the democratization of UX research across an organization are current UX trends. ResearchOps can help stakeholders create better products by bringing them closer to the client or customer. For example, your UX design team might learn that a breadcrumbs feature exists for a reason, avoid wasting time and money by duplicating UX research, and instead, employ a central knowledge hub that contains all the data you’ve gathered using your ResearchOps software.
Components of ResearchOps That Support Democratization
The following common components of ResearchOps support the democratization of UX research:
Let’s consider each of these in greater detail.
Key goals of the competency component are enabling more people to comprehend UX research and encouraging them to conduct UX research. A core part of developing competency involves giving UX researchers the tools and training they need to continue to advance their knowledge and encourage others to incorporate basic research activities into their work when UX researchers are unavailable. Typical competency-related ResearchOps tasks and projects include the following:
assembling a manual or database of research techniques for the training of new UX researchers or the information of people outside the UX research team
creating structured academic opportunities for continuous professional growth, enabling UX researchers to expand their knowledge base and the depth of their knowledge
establishing mentorship programs to train and assist new researchers in acquiring additional research techniques
The focus of advocacy is on defining the value of UX research and conveying its importance to the organization as a whole. Effective advocacy ensures that there are sufficient resources for all priorities, ensuring that the ResearchOps practice can scale efficiently moving forward.
The following advocacy-related ResearchOps activities and projects are typical for UX research teams:
developing a mission statement or purpose for the UX research team
establishing procedures for frequently disseminating knowledge and success stories to the organization
creating case studies that show how applying research findings to the design of products impacts business measurements and key performance indicators (KPIs)
Since knowledge management includes the procedures and tools for gathering, analyzing, and disseminating research results, it is closely linked to governance. UX research teams typically employ an insights repository in managing their learnings from research. Typical ResearchOps tasks and projects relating to knowledge management include the following:
creating standardized forms for gathering data throughout UX research studies
establishing a research repository such as a shared database of findings from the studies that the organization has conducted
organizing frequent gatherings and providing other venues for updating the entire company on existing user insights
collaborating with other research teams to produce a complete information source
It is essential to consider technologies that would ease doing the actual research and make these capabilities more accessible across the organization. These include tools for remote usability testing, analytics, surveys, video editing, and voice transcription. The following are typical ResearchOps tasks and activities relating to tools:
examining and comparing recruitment and participant data–management platforms
managing platform seats and access permissions for teams and individual UX researchers
checking the research toolbox to ensure that all outlets and programs comply with data-protection laws
choosing optimal research instruments for any type of study, including usability testing, remote interviews, surveys, and other types of research
The management of UX research participants consists of developing procedures for locating, recruiting, screening, scheduling, and compensating them. The following ResearchOps activities and initiatives relate to participant management:
creating a panel of prospective study participants
choosing external recruiting platforms
selecting and authorizing participants
devising fair and consistent incentive levels, depending on the participant’s professional skill level and the necessary time commitment
managing participant communications
Any study involving research participants must have governance rules. Typical ResearchOps initiatives and governance activities include the following:
researching and understanding how data-privacy laws apply to the UX research process
safeguarding personally identifiable information (PII) and research artifacts such as interview transcripts and audio and video session recordings
establishing morally sound communications and practices
coordinating the appropriate storage and, as necessary, destruction of your participants’ PII
creating and standardizing precise, compliant consent forms for a range of study types and data-collection formats
One of the primary roles of ResearchOps is participant recruitment. ResearchOps is responsible for finding, vetting, scheduling, and paying research participants. With ResearchOps handling this crucial administrative activity, teams of UX researchers can concentrate on gathering and analyzing data and creating the appropriate reports.
Let’s briefly consider the various classifications of ResearchOps tools that support the work of UX researchers. These include tools for the following purposes:
management of research findings and insights and other resources
analytics, tracking, and data analysis
collaboration and communication tools that support teamwork
reporting and storytelling
prototyping and wireframing
surveys, polls, and other research
How to Get Started with ResearchOps?
The first step in getting started with ResearchOps is identifying your UX researchers’ key painpoints. For most businesses, these painpoints probably include the administrative procedures and activities that are the primary duties of the ResearchOps role. Consider the following questions in identifying these painpoints:
Does your company require a better means of accessing and managing UX research data?
Have you ever discovered that you’ve unintentionally repeated the same user research?
Do you ever experience difficulties in selecting optimal study participants?
Do UX research teams produce research findings and reports on schedule and are they sufficiently thorough?
Do you ever overspend on user research?
Do your usability studies go without a hitch?
Are the research procedures that your company uses legal?
Surveying your UX research teams to identify their painpoints is an excellent place to start. To find out whether other departments or stakeholders have any issues with user research, get in touch with them, too. You can assess the value and viability of your organization’s ResearchOps practice by responding to such inquiries and assessing the costs of the problems your UX research teams face.
The scope of a ResearchOps practice is so broad that, in larger organizations where UX research is an essential component of the company’s best practices, they may already have established and fully integrated multidisciplinary operations teams. However, it is important to identify and understand the organization’s research and development (R&D) issues and the necessary scope of ResearchOps rather than just making snap judgments and following along with current trends.
Lead Product Designer & Researcher at Etisalat by e&
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
As a product designer at Etisalat, I solve complex problems creatively, balancing user needs with business objectives and technological constraints. With over 15 years of experience in human-centered design, across visual design, interaction design, user experience, customer experience, and service design, I advocate for users’ needs and try to make their lives easier by creating innovative solutions. Read More