Posted by David Muñoz on Jan 20, 2022

Early last year, I wrote an article on resolutions for UX Researchers from my own UX Research perspective. Since then, a lot has changed. The Great Resignation has gone into full effect, and remote work is clearly here to say. In 2021, I also was fortunate to transition into a managerial role, gaining new perspective as I head into 2022. All of these shifts made me want to revisit this article and see what’s changed. 

If you’re a UX researcher looking to grow your skills, change things up, or do both of those things this coming year, read on!

1. Revisit your career goals

UX Research as a field continues evolving, but it is still just one component of the complex product development world. Earlier in my career, I considered pivoting to product management but ultimately decided my passion and skills best fit UX Research roles. Is the same true for you, or are there other career opportunities that could maximize your potential? UXR to Product is the most common transition I’ve noticed amongst my peers and friends, though I’ve also seen UXRs move into UX Design and UX Leadership roles.

In addition, consider your current satisfaction at your job. In the past, when I’ve debated actively job searching, I’ve made a weighted matrix to compare my current job to a potential new opportunity. This article has a great example of how to set up this type of matrix. 

Everyone needs and wants different things at their job, so your matrix might look very different than the one in this article. However, as a UX Researcher, I suggest including rows with the following factors that I’ve sometimes overlooked in past job searches:

  • ease of recruiting participants (e.g., would you be working at a company that has millions of users, or a more niche company with tens of thousands of users?)
  • product team appreciation and knowledge of UX Research
  • executive buy-in for UX Research
  • work/life balance (e.g., would you be working across time zones, or would your immediate coworkers be on the same time zone as you?)

2. Reach out to a former colleague or make new connections.

Say you do want to pivot your role, career, and/or company. The following could all help you with those career choices:

  • reaching out to people you know from past roles/companies.
  • networking through LinkedIn and other similar tools. 
  • signing up to be a mentee or mentor on sites such as ADPList.
  • attending in-person or virtual meetups or joining a local UXPA or IxDA chapter

If you’re new to UX research, you might feel intimidated about networking or mentoring others. But, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember that even the most seasoned UX researchers and leaders started off as interns or in entry-level jobs. When they were in your position, they most likely found mentors whose guidance has led them to where they are now. Even as a fairly junior UX researcher, you could reach out to organizations you were part of in the past—such as your college or high school—and offer to mentor or speak about your post-graduation experience.

3. Learn new skills or upgrade your existing skills.

There are lots of complementary skills you can develop as a UX Researcher. The table below suggests a few based on who you collaborate with.

Skill

Best For

Statistics and Data Visualization

Those who collaborate with quantitative researchers and data scientists

Design Principles and Sketching

Those who collaborate with UX Designers

Workshop Facilitation

Remote workers, as well as those on distributed teams

Presentation Skills (Design + Public Speaking)

All UXRs

Writing and Grammar

All UXRs

Shadowing UX Research skills (e.g., moderating, analyzing data, and report writing)

All UXRs



4. Read more—and not just work-related content.

Reading can provide new perspectives and help keep you open and willing to consider fresh viewpoints. There are many options for finding new content like:

Your local library will have tons of books you can read, and for free! In terms of work-related books, here are a few I’ve read recently that I’ve enjoyed and would recommend:

5. Plan your research streams in advance.

As UX researchers, we are constantly facing the need to balance doing reactive versus proactive research. Different situations call for varying levels of each approach to research. It’s usually ideal to balance both approaches so you can do the right research at the right time, as well as manage your workload.

In my experience, it’s very common for UX research teams—especially newer, in-house teams—to focus primarily or almost exclusively on reactionary work. No matter how established your research team may be, take a look at all the studies you conducted last year and consider the following questions:

  • Which studies did your team propose because of knowledge gaps you identified regarding user needs?
  • Which studies did your team conduct because of stakeholder requests? 
  • How did you collaborate with other in-house and/or agency research teams?
  • Did you have to postpone any studies? If so, why did you delay the studies and how far in advance were you able to predict that you would need to push back a study?

At the beginning of a year, many product teams are proposing new features or drafting their product roadmaps. Often, they focus on achieving feature parity or developing differentiating functionality when establishing such timelines. This leads to at least two opportunities for you and your UX research team:

  1. If you’re not involved in the roadmap planning, start now! Show how UX Research can uncover user needs and shed light on assumptions the product team has made.
  2. If you’re already part of roadmap planning, consider running a separate, UX research-focused workshop to set research goals, define product KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), and establish timelines.

6. Explore ways to address process gaps and optimize your research tools and workflows.

No matter how established your UX Research team is, opportunities always exist for increasing your team’s impact and efficiency. From experience, I’ve found it helpful to think about ways to optimize your UX Research team’s planning, execution, and impact. Ask yourself the following questions:

Research Planning

  • Democratizing research
    • Is it possible and desirable to have non-UX Researchers conduct certain studies to help manage UX Researchers’ bandwidth?
    • Are there other teams at your organization who conduct research that could provide valuable partnerships—for example, Market Research, Voice of the Customer, or Data Science?
  • Research Operations
    • If there isn’t a person or team dedicated to recruiting and research operations, what barriers exist for hiring and onboarding such a person or team?
    • If your product is for a niche audience or has an audience for which it’s harder to recruit, do you have an internal user panel that you could leverage for future studies? 

Research Execution

  • Research Tools and Software
    • Do you use any online platforms for recruiting participants? Are you leveraging local panels for in-person research?
    • Do you use any online tools for conducting research? How could such tools help you conduct moderated or unmoderated testing or more quantitative research methods?
  • Moderated versus unmoderated testing
    • What is your team’s philosophy regarding and approach to these different methods?
    • Would it be feasible or desirable to invest in a platform to make it easier to do one or both types of testing?

Research Impact

  • Evangelizing UX Research
    • How do you store and share research reports?
    • How do you track research findings and determine their impact on the product? 
  • Communicating research findings
    • Do you have report templates that help provide insights quickly and concisely?
    • How do you share out findings (via email, in a meeting, etc)?
    • Do you include quotations or videos, if available, to portray user feedback in a salient, memorable manner?
  • Measuring Success
    • Does your product team have UX-related KPIs or OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), ideally ones that upper management is bought into using?
    • Do you conduct quantitative studies to help measure success (e.g., unmoderated quantitative usability studies, tree tests, or card sorts)?
    • Do you have a way of triangulating findings from studies that use different methodologies?

...

As we dive further into 2022, I hope these resolutions provide you with a game plan for taking the next step in your UX research practice. From growing your skills to optimizing your research streams, we can all benefit from setting both short- and long-term goals to continue advancing on our career paths.

As you work on taking the next step in your UX research practice, don't forget to stay up to date on bigger research trends as well. Check out what our team is hearing across clients, industries, and products as we enter 2022. 

Written by

David Muñoz

David Muñoz is a Research Manager who has led research efforts for the past decade for in-house SaaS and mobile product teams in the technology, financial, and nonprofit sectors. David holds a B.S. in Psychology from Duke University and an M.S. in Human-Computer Interaction from Georgia Tech.

related insights

stay connected with AnswerLab

Keep up with the latest in UX research. Our monthly newsletter offers useful UX insights and tips, relevant research, and news from our team.