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How to find the right UX research repository in 5 steps [plus an evaluation template from Condens]

You've decided you need a UX research repository, but you’re not quite sure where to start, and the number of vendors and tools seems overwhelming. How do you find the right tool for your team, so you can keep your research organized and easily accessible to every stakeholder?

We're here to help.

The 5-step evaluation process in this article shows a structured way of finding the right tool for your team. And you can support your decision with this free, downloadable goal and evaluation template from Condens.

How extensive the evaluation process will be for your team depends on the size of your organization and the number of people involved. It may take just a day to decide for a research team of one, but can last several weeks in a large enterprise.

So let's get started!

A note: we recommend following the five steps of the following process chronologically, but you may have to go back to earlier steps in some cases. For example, if you learn about an interesting aspect of a repository during a demo that you didn’t think of before (in step 4), you'll want to add it to your requirements list (back in step 2). Some flexibility is helpful here.

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1. Define your goals

A common mistake with choosing a user research repository is jumping straight to the tools and starting a comparison. But a comparison is hard to make if you’re not clear on what to look for.

Instead, start by defining what you want to achieve with the repo, and help your team understand the functions of a UX research repository

Then, set up a document to put your goals in writing. Here's a goal and evaluation template you can use, including the most frequently mentioned goals UX researchers have for a repository. Make a copy and fill it with the information you gather throughout the process:

Columns A–C: preliminary goals

UX-research-repository-template-Condens-preliminary-goals

A key element of the template is column B, which states the goals the repository should serve. A goal consists of: 

  1. The desired state, e.g. centralize existing research data

  2. A resulting benefit, e.g. to answer questions from colleagues more quickly 

Simply delete the rows in the spreadsheet which contain goals that aren’t relevant to you, and add goals that aren’t listed yet.

Column A describes the overarching function a respective goal belongs to and can help you organize your goals into buckets to spot them easily. 

Then, use column C to describe expected changes as concrete examples, potentially referring to concrete roles or scenarios from your organization. The template includes some example references, which you can easily adapt or change.

Keep in mind: it's important to get buy-in and input from your team and stakeholders early on. Based on your initial draft of goals and use cases (what you fill in and select in columns A and B), you'll know who will be working with the repository and who will be affected by it. Beyond researchers, this can include designers, product managers, sales colleagues, and more. Keep reading to learn how to use column D to note the people involved.

Column D: involve the team and stakeholders

As a next step, talk to the stakeholders you identify in column D—ask about their pains, stories, and goals with UX research. It might also help to conduct a stakeholder analysis at this stage to ensure buy-in and support from essential people.

Involving stakeholders helps to see things you might have missed and increases acceptance once the repository is implemented.

When you involve your team and stakeholders at this stage, it's helpful to be as detailed as possible. For example, if you want to make it easier for stakeholders to find existing research, ask about the last time they tried to learn something from existing research and how they went about it. Try to discover what a repository needs to offer so stakeholders can use it to reach their goals.

Continuously adapt and refine the spreadsheet according to stakeholder input. You can also add a priority ranking by putting the important goals in the top rows and the less important goals below.

2. Derive requirements

Now that you have an idea of what the repository should help you do and who to involve in the process, the next step is to think about how to meet the team's needs. Perform a gap analysis to consider: 

  1. The repository tool itself, and the features the software needs to offer

  2. The changes in workflows and habits of the people involved. The larger your organization, the more relevant this aspect will be

In the template, use columns E and F for each of the two requirement types:

Columns E and F: identify requirements

UX-research-repository-template-Condens-requirements

Column E concerns the capabilities of the tool itself—which features does the tool need to have? Again, be as detailed as possible, and consider things like accessing possibilities for stakeholders and how easy it is to share findings.

Next, column F describes workflow changes: what needs to change compared to the current process? What new tasks do you need to plan for, which procedures will change, and which tasks will disappear? 

The template includes example answers in columns E and F. Filling out these columns properly—and in collaboration with stakeholders—will help your team discover potential blockers or hurdles early on.

"Whose time is crucial to make the activities work? Why would they invest their time in using the repository? Is this aligned with their goals and wishes?"

Vincent Courtemanche
UX Research Lead, TELUS Digital

3. Create a shortlist of tools

Now you have a good foundation based on your team's needs, you can start looking for research repository tools. 

Start by checking lists of popular and reviewed tools from sites like G2. From there, you can start a long list of possible tools, then narrow it down by checking some of your non-negotiable or crucial criteria listed in Column E. 

Try to get to a point where you've only got two or three vendors to choose from, then do a more in-depth evaluation (keep reading to learn how).

Pro tip: a question that comes up frequently in the process of shortlisting tools is, should I get a general-purpose tool, like Confluence or Notion, or a dedicated research repository tool? 

There's no right or wrong answer—it depends on your goals and your team's specific needs—but here are a couple of things to consider: 

The main advantage of a general-purpose tool is that typically everyone in your organization already has access, so there's no need to add another tool to your stack, or onboard the team to anything new. 

On the other hand, a dedicated tool for research can support your team beyond the case of simply storing research data and is specifically designed to organize and structure research data, including ways to search, cross-reference, and share.

4. Use demos and trials

With the two or three vendors on your shortlist, you can now move forward to collect more information. The tools' respective websites and Help Centers should give a good overview of their capabilities, but to tailor your search, contact their sales teams and share your specific goals with them to learn how their tool will meet your needs.

Use page two of the goal and evaluation template to structure your evaluation.

UX-research-repository-template-Condens-evaluation

The first row is for entering the respective vendor’s name. Then, the template has two main categories: 

  1. User experience, which evaluates how easy and fun it is to use the tool

  2. Functionality, which evaluates whether the tool provides the features you need to accomplish your goals

Beyond the scores (1 is worst, 5 is best), also use the comments section to capture qualitative aspects of each tool.

If you're evaluating tools as a team—which we recommend you do—you can either fill in the sheet together, by blocking some time in your calendars to demo the tool as a team; or let each team member and stakeholder evaluate the tools asynchronously. Either way, have each person enter their impressions into the evaluation template so you can keep everyone's information in one relevant spot.

You'll find three more categories for evaluation: 

  1. Security & privacy is usually a question of 'OK' or 'not OK', and requires the involvement of your security or legal team. 

  2. Support & onboarding considers several aspects, like the scope of support and onboarding services included in respective plans; available channels to communicate with the vendor; or even time zone differences, to ensure sufficient overlap during a workday. 

  3. Pricing is (surprise!) about the tool’s cost for your team.

Most tools offer a live demo to help you understand how the tool would match your requirements and achieve your goals. We also highly recommend making use of any free trials that the tools offer. Ideally, you should use actual research data with a free trial (if your legal team allows it), which is the best way to assess whether the tool is right for your team.

"Pilot the tool and process with a small subset of data before integrating into formal processes and promoting its existence across the company."

Anna Loparev
Senior UX Researcher at Waters Corporation

5. Choose your fighter and make an onboarding plan

After collecting information from demos and trials, it’s time to make a decision. You may want to set up a short meeting with the team, your manager, and other key stakeholders to discuss their feedback and make the final choice together.

Once you decide on a tool, assign someone to be responsible for implementation. This concerns purchasing the tool, defining data structures in the repository, coordinating migration of existing research material, providing access to all users, communicating the repository within the organization, and ensuring everyone is properly onboarded.

Remember, introducing a repository takes time, and a proper implementation plan is critical for success. You don’t have to implement each goal right from the beginning—consider the ranking of goals (from step 1) and focus on the most important goals first to make the task of implementing the research repository more manageable and create momentum.

Finally, assess the value of the repository after some time by benchmarking what you achieved against your initial goals. Ideally, you've defined success measures upfront (see column G in the template). Now you can collect data on these success measures, identify where you achieved the goals, and determine where there's room for improvement.

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