As UX teams are being tasked to "do more with less," how can you keep up with demand and make an impact in 2024?

Three colleagues meeting around a conference table

Posted by Joseph Friedman on Mar 20, 2024

This past year was difficult for many UX professionals. Budgets tightened and teams focused. Product teams were pared down, and those in the field that weren’t left looking for work were instead picking up the additional responsibilities from a corporate restructure.

Fret not, though! While we cater to the ebb and flow of the industry, UX research within organizations is stronger than ever. There’s executive buy-in, there’s user-centered influence, and there’s a need to define and do research to build the right things for the right people.

As you build out your roadmaps for 2024, here are 5 things to keep in mind that might help you do more with less:

  1. Prioritize high-ROI research
  2. Get more from your existing research
  3. Democratize to influence
  4. Invest in your people
  5. Diversify your workstreams

Prioritize high-ROI research

When budgets scrimp and resources thin, it becomes even more critical to show and shout the concrete outcome that the research has on the product and the business. Connecting with end-users and delivering human-centered solutions is only part of the value of good UX; the most effective insight to keep a UX team successful is its impact on growth or profitability or whatever the key metrics and business goals are (added bonus if you can tie your research to specific KPIs).

Too often, research teams agree to scope and intake blurry research questions that are focused on user understanding or broad product development. This middle-range research (as Judd Antin surfaces in a popular 2023 blog post), while interesting and informative, isn’t specific enough to deliver immediate and tangible recommendations to product teams, and also isn’t strategic enough to guide larger decisions made by more senior leaders. We can’t do everything, as much as we’d like to - so we have to prioritize what we’re doing to make it count.

Instead, act as a consultant to your teams to steer their research questions towards more defined business value, either in the form of very macro, strategic research, or very micro, technical research:

  • Strategic research can include exploratory studies to suggest a user-informed framework to prioritize business goals, foresight on the problems and trends that will face your users the next few years, or actionable strategies for applying industry-specific consumer trends.
  • Technical research can include eye-tracking, benchmarking, tree-testing, or other evaluative or usability-focused studies that result in tactical, immediately tangible and applicable recommendations.

I get it - this is a great suggestion in theory and is easier said than done. What’s the best way to re-steer blurry and broad research questions to either be more strategic or more explicit and specific?

I recommend a workshop. Facilitated workshops - collaborative events with defined objectives and tangible outcomes - are a powerful tool in aligning passionate teams around prioritizing not just work, but the right work. Hosting a workshop, and collaborating on a few visual activities, could help you get from the “middle-research” solution to a more defined problem space that has a clear business impact.

Get more from your existing research

Just because we don’t want to execute new middle-range research doesn’t mean that the mountain of work we already have can’t be useful.

While some might be just getting started with research repositories and are focused on tagging themes and products across their work, the most successful teams will apply artificial intelligence to entire bodies and departments of work to be able to quickly and easily identify reusable and re-applicable insights.

The growth of AI is already influencing the ways in which we plan, process, and analyze our work - and the conversation is fairly extensive regarding how AI will change and improve our jobs within UX. We can apply advanced tooling to previous research to inspect what we already know before we go into new initiatives. While this could initially feel intimidating, the best way to get started is to experiment. Choose an AI tool, like ChatGPT or Google Gemini. Practice writing sets of specific prompts with the correct amount of context to get the output that makes the most sense. Apply your own judgment and question when something doesn’t look or feel right, and iterate then try again. 

Democratize to influence

It’s important to find ways for your team to prioritize the large-lift challenges that require your specialized research skillsets. And you have to do this without losing the capacity to do the small-lift, quick win work. If it only requires a review or quality check with someone who might be trained to execute, why does it have to be the research team that executes?

This might be unpopular and a lot of research people that I talk to scoff when I say it, but the most successful research practices in 2024 will be the ones that empower all teams to not just ask research questions, but also execute some forms of research. Most teams and partners understand that research is a specialized skillset and not everyone should be able to do all types of UX research. This doesn’t mean there aren’t small ways you can help get others started in spaces that you might not be able to prioritize.

For example, could you empower  a design team to run their own unmoderated usability testing (perhaps just utilizing your skills as a quality-control peer review and guide)? How are you training your product team to implement brief, unbiased intercept surveys? Can you educate your product team on how to turn their product goals into the right research questions to minimize some of your own prep work? How are you influencing how to read results and how to build insights? Allow for the small opportunities that influence a larger human-centered lens at every level of product development. We recently hosted a series of webinars for product folks on how to partner better with their research peers that explore some of these avenues—check out the recordings on identifying research objectives and turning insights into action and share them with your product team. They’ll love you for it. 

Invest in your people

What is the research team that you want to be? What kind of research and what kind of work will you be doing in 3-5 years? As you look at your team, what skills do you have already that can lead to that vision? What skills do you need to build?

Investing in your people can be more than a cost of living increase or an UberEats gift card. We know that when budgets are tight, this is hard to do, but it’s important to keep prioritizing it in small ways where you can. People appreciate the right training, the right workshops, and the right challenges to be able to bring more success to products and more on-the-job experience to researchers. Choosing where to resource a research team isn’t just an important decision for product success and internal influence; it’s also one of the most important decisions for talent retention and longer-term success.

Diversify your workstreams

As you consider what work to prioritize, there will always be conflicts. While most of the work in your pipeline is fine for your team to approach, there are sure to be outliers. Some work is on such an aggressive timeline that it might not be feasible for your team to take it on. Some work might be too complex of a recruit for you to be able to confidently approach. And sometimes you need to be confident in the success and execution of usability work, but don't have the capacity to do it right away.

Make use of more than just your immediate and internal teams. Sometimes, it’s easier and more efficient to get additional short-term budgets for vendor partners than to make a case for another team member to interview, hire, onboard, and train.

Successful research teams across every industry outsource the work that makes sense to outsource - whether it’s a larger, complex, and hairy problem that needs a dedicated team with a fast turnaround, or it’s a monthly rolling research lab that positions the research team as dependable and consistent. Don’t want to deal with the logistics of a geographically complicated study, or a particularly hard-to-find recruit? These are some of the best scenarios to ask someone else to execute this work that leads to your teams’ successes. Learn more about this in our Guide to UX Research Partnerships. 


Doing more with less is about looking at what you have, and then approaching how to prioritize what you need at the pace you need it. I’m confident saying this because I work every day with some of the most successful research teams, from big tech companies to products and experiences in financial services. It’s less about depending on an external UX research partner, and more about accepting that you don’t have to rely on your team alone to accomplish the goals, vision, and leadership that your team can influence at your organization.

Need help executing on your UX research objectives with fewer resources this year? Get in touch with a strategist to hear how AnswerLab can help.  

Written by

Joseph Friedman

Joseph Friedman is a Research Manager at AnswerLab where he both creates experiences people love and empowers his team to do the same. He has over a decade of conversance in UX across research, design, product, and the ops strategies that makes them all move together.

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