Posted by AnswerLab Research on Oct 26, 2022

At AnswerLab, our team is always keeping an eye out for patterns and similarities across clients to surface trends in the field, from methodological focuses to bigger priorities. As you look to 2023, check out the trends we’re seeing across our research now and consider how your team will address them next year.

UX research for employee experience

For the past few years, we've been conducting research on workplaces, and this topic is becoming more and more common with our clients as well. Teams come to us with questions like “How do we break down silos across product teams and work more effectively?” or “How is our workplace serving our teams’ needs as we return to in-person work?” Other studies focus on the internal experience at call centers or with customer service teams.

Recently, we’ve been working with some clients on how to create better research operations practices, from file structures to project organization and naming conventions. For these kinds of studies, we’re speaking with internal stakeholders to identify where we can make improvements; all without looking at a single external product or experience.

Acquiring a new product? Bring in UX research to understand the landscape

While this particular trend reaches a smaller group of teams, this year we’ve seen the increasing value of research following the acquisition of a new product or company. Some clients of ours have come to us following an acquisition for help answering a range of questions, from “What are the best use cases and attributes of this new product for our existing users?” to “Where do we put this on our website?” to “How do we talk about this acquisition in a way that isn’t off-putting and helps us maintain our brand vision?”

UX research with your end users can help you develop a better understanding of brand impression and address more tactical questions about how to incorporate your new product into your existing ecosystem. Additionally, some of our clients have expressed that working with a third party like AnswerLab helped diffuse tension amongst merging teams as a neutral resource throughout the process.

Teams are thinking more deeply about how to build inclusive and diverse workspaces.

In 2020, corporate leaders issued countless statements decrying racism and promising to invest in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. But some actions on these commitments have been less visible than promised, especially when it comes to hiring. Biased, false, and racist statements like, “We don’t want quality to suffer,” and “There’s no pipeline, these folks just aren’t out there” are unfortunately commonplace. So what can you do to help your team overcome these biases and build a more diverse team?

First of all, having a diverse team is a creative advantage. What we gain through diversity conscious hiring is a plethora of lived experiences and cultural awareness that we may not have otherwise had, or been able to access, by a homogenous team makeup. Diverse teams also enable you to discover and call out potential problem areas related to product inclusivity, which may have gone unchecked during the product development process. 

We’re seeing a number of clients and folks in the UX community talking about how we can build more diverse and inclusive work environments. Our Director of DEI, Shakima Jackson-Martinez, recently presented on this topic at two different UX conferences, and shared a few key learnings. First, start by benchmarking the racial and ethnic diversity of your current team, and evaluate prior applicants for open positions from the past year to understand where things may be going wrong. This will help you understand the reasons for the current makeup of your team. Have open and honest conversations within your team and with leadership about the diversity of your team or lack thereof. And make an action plan that holds your hiring decision makers accountable!

A renewed focus on building appropriate technology experiences for our youngest users

Earlier this year, we shared that companies are shifting their focus to children and youth to build age-appropriate experiences for young users. Internationally, advocacy organizations been amplifying the UN's call for tech companies to invest in building experiences that meet the unique needs of children online. And just last month, California passed brand new legislation requiring online experiences to implement wide-ranging protections for young users. This is the first of its kind in the U.S. and will apply to a range of digital products from social media to gaming platforms when it takes effect in 2024. We expect to see intensified investment to ensure digital experiences align to these important new standards for our sector. If your product or service is accessible by young users, now is the time to start the conversation with diverse stakeholders, and explore how your design and research practices will need to evolve to more fully center the needs of children and youth.

Taking the next step in product accessibility

Heading into 2023, accessibility continues to be a strong priority for clients across the board. As always, we recommend leveraging accessibility research throughout your product development cycle to ensure you’re creating experiences that work for everyone. But recently, we’ve been hearing from clients who feel ready to take the next big step in accessibility. Most people think of hearing or vision impairments when it comes to accessibility concerns, but what comes next? Are you making sure you’re also considering those with cognitive impairments or motor impairments? How are you promoting empathy with stakeholders for users who need accessibility accommodations? As you plan for your accessibility roadmap in 2023, think bigger about who you’re including and who you aren’t to deepen your approach.

Evolving what inclusive research means 

Here at AnswerLab, we’ve invested a lot of time in building inclusive research practices and we work with many of our clients on experience gap research and inclusive research. Teams who have been prioritizing inclusive research for a while are starting to move from this idea of recruiting people based on clear aspects of identity to thinking about how we can account for intersectionality. Going into a session and asking someone, “How do you experience this onboarding as a X person?” doesn’t work, because people don’t think about themselves in such a narrow way. People are a constellation of identities and experiences, and it can be limiting to oversimplify identity research. It’s critical to think deeply about who you’re recruiting, what kinds of questions you’re asking of them, and how you might make room for the many dimensions of a participant’s identity. This is complex and multifaceted, and depending on your study, the answer to how you approach this is going to be different. 

Upskilling takes on a new focus

More and more of our clients are looking to help their internal teams upskill, and not just within their research departments! Many of our clients are looking for training opportunities for product and design functions on how to better collaborate with research. For example, we recently worked with a DEI team on a large research initiative internally around inclusion in their products. To help them build a deeper understanding of UX research, we hosted trainings and workshops to help this group of copywriters, designers, and product teams learn how to partner with UX teams and make a bigger impact. This is a part of a larger trend of research teams breaking out of old silos and getting a larger seat at the table.

Do these sound familiar to you and your team? Get in touch with a strategist to hear how AnswerLab can help.  

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AnswerLab Research

The AnswerLab research team collaborates on articles to bring you the latest UX trends and best practices.

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