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The current state of UX research: how to make an impact now

UX research is a section of the industry that's been hit hard with layoffs. Articles talk about focusing on the wrong research, unlocking the value of research, or measuring its impact in order to counteract this trend. But what does this mean and how can you make an impact now?

Last updated

23 Oct 2023

Reading time

5 min


Delivering experiences your customers love has never been more important. After all, if people get frustrated when navigating your site or web app, what’s stopping them from switching to a competitor who provides a better experience? But while user experience (UX) research is crucial to understanding and meeting the needs of your customers—and therefore crucial to your company’s overall success—there are a number of challenges facing the industry right now.

We invited Paula Herrera, UX Research Team Lead at Hotjar, and Jennifer Dorman, Head of User Insights at Babbel, to share their experiences on the unique challenges facing UX researchers today and how to make an impact now. 

Read on for a summary of our webinar, so you can learn new, improved ways to implement and leverage UX research—and deliver real strategic value across your entire company.

4 actionable insights UX researchers can use right now

Here are some of our favorite takeaways from our live event to help you measure—and increase—your impact. (Don’t forget to watch the full recording for even more great tips!)

1. Find ways to highlight the value of your research and measure your impact

Our experts agree: it can be tricky to measure the full impact of UX research. Sometimes the outcomes are clear, like a new feature that gets launched to customers. That’s great—but as Jennifer says, “What about all of the really bad things that excellent research stopped from getting put in front of customers? How do you track those sorts of things?”

You can’t measure what happens in alternate timelines (yet 👀). But UX research teams don’t just serve the end-users of their product; they also support internal users in their organization, which (thankfully) is a little easier to measure

When you set success metrics for your team, be sure to also look at internal measures of impact, such as

  • How many people joined sessions, workshops, or interviews

  • How many people look at reports or other documentation

  • Which decisions emerged from research they’ve done

  • How often research is used when setting company-wide goals or strategy

  • The speed to launch new research activities (thanks to enablement materials like screeners and templates)

2. Tell a story and have a point of view

Ultimately, the goal of UX research is to make better-informed decisions and mitigate risk. 

“Something that I’ve found very useful in supporting these decisions is telling stories and combining data,” says Paula. 

By partnering with other teams that collect customer knowledge—like Sales, Data, and Customer Success—UX researchers can provide a joint point of view that represents the needs of the customers. 

This POV can be a USP (unique selling point). “It’s not that it’s our job to come up with a solution, but I do believe that it’s starting to become more our job to facilitate that conversation.”

Bonus tip: don’t be scared of creating debate. “If there’s debate, the research has been read and digested,” says Paula. “And that’s when it’s most likely to be actioned.”

3. Know when to democratize research—and when not to 

One of the biggest shifts over the last few years is the drive to ‘democratize’ research, such as UX and data analytics. Democratization is about empowering non-researchers to carry out research activities, and can be done in a number of ways: from teaching people new skill sets, to providing them with research tools like surveys or user interviews.

Here are some important things to bear in mind:

  • ✅ Establish which research activities are okay to democratize and which aren’t. This will be based on your company and its level of risk adversity. For example, you may be okay with democratizing evaluative research (such as A/B tests or surveys). This frees up more time for your dedicated UX researchers to focus on exploratory, proactive research that will have a real impact at a strategic level. “In a sense, it’s democratizing the micro-research to give trained specialists time and space to do that macro-strategic research,” says Jennifer.

  • ⚙️ Create structured processes. Draw on the expertise of your UX researchers to create clearly defined research processes and guardrails (such as easy-to-use templates) that ensure the resulting data will meet quality standards. “It’s just as dangerous to move forward with really bad information as it is to move forward with a lack of good information,” says Jennifer.

  • 🤝 Remember that everyone is on the same team. “Sometimes when I read articles about democratization, it sounds like ‘them against us,’” says Paula. “It’s not like that. At the end of the day, we all want to understand the customer. How do we help each other create better outputs?”

4. Stay close to your stakeholders 

How can UX teams manage resource constraints like limited personnel, time, or budget? It’s all about staying aligned on the most important priorities.

“I would always recommend staying very close to product,” says Paula. “It’s important to stay connected with product leadership and have that understanding of what’s coming.”

Jennifer agrees. “It shouldn’t be researchers prioritizing research work but the whole organization. It should be the key stakeholders that are prioritizing together.” Understanding priorities at the leadership level and addressing them with your research helps you get buy-in, too, because it’s immediately clear why the research is needed and how it will contribute to big-picture company goals. Watch the recording to learn more about:

  • What type of research should research teams do (and not do)

  • How should you perform research to unlock value?

  • What should research teams focus on to unlock value (beyond primary research)

  • Have we gone too far with the democratization of research?

  • We hope you have enjoyed this lively discussion!

About the guest speakers

Jennifer Carrier Dorman is the Head of User Insights at Babbel, where she collaborates with a diverse team to create a digital language-learning experience. With a background in history and social studies, Dorman uses her expertise to help consumers learn languages in a fun and effective way. She fell in love with Germany years ago and now embraces the opportunity to work with colleagues from various countries and backgrounds.

Paula Herrera is a customer advocate and the UX Research Team Lead at Hotjar. Previously, she worked at GetYourGuide, first as a senior researcher and then as a team lead, where she launched successful initiatives like the Customer Insights League (CIL). With a passion for mixed methods, traveling, and music, Paula excels in addressing challenges related to siloed insights and fostering collaboration between teams.

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