Posted by AnswerLab Research on Jan 27, 2021

We start every year with conversations with our clients about their priorities, goals, and research plans for the year ahead. As we embrace this fresh start, we took stock of some of the common questions and topics we’re seeing across clients, industries, and products. From methodologies and research tactics that influence upcoming strategy to questions and concerns arising after almost a year of remote research, these are some of the most pressing things we’re hearing:

1. Remote research is here to stay.

While we’ve said goodbye to 2020, remote research isn’t going anywhere. With so many uncertainties about when it will be safe to return to in-person research, we’re still in full remote mode until we gain more clarity. Far from an inconvenience, many organizations discovered the invaluable benefits of remote research last year: access to a wider pool of participants across the U.S. and the world, the ability to connect with participants in their natural surroundings, and the opportunity for participants to use their own real-world devices during research. As you plan for research this year, lean into these assets and conduct studies that help you reap these benefits.

2. Teams are prioritizing inclusive research practices to build better products for all their customers.

To truly design inclusive experiences that work for all your customers, you have to start with who you’re talking to during the research process. Make sure your recruiting practices consider diversity, and rethink your templates and processes to make sure you aren’t operating on out-of-date standards. To start, consider who your product is for, who might be impacted by it, and who might struggle to use it. Then, build your research plan and recruiting criteria from there.

A number of our clients are prioritizing research specifically with under-represented populations to identify if there’s something in the experience that might cause dissatisfaction or harm — known as the “experience gap.” This kind of research can also help you discover new opportunities for messaging and product features that reach more customers.

To learn more about how to ensure a diverse and inclusive recruit, download our Guide to Inclusive Recruiting.

3. More and more teams are turning to benchmarking research.

There are different flavors of benchmarking depending on your product goals and needs, ranging from pure quantitative methods to a true qualitative approach. We hear established UX teams ask for help with benchmarking quite a bit. Sometimes this entails our more robust benchmarking programs as a way to do a deep dive into an experience, but recently, we’ve heard some clients look to benchmarking as a way to demonstrate ROI to stakeholders and product teams. Assessing an experience through benchmarking, making changes to improve it, and assessing it again helps tangibly show skeptical stakeholder teams the impact and value of UX research. A lighter weight benchmarking practice might include a few questions before or after your research studies to quantify a couple key metrics as a regular practice. 

Whether you want to implement a rigorous benchmarking program or simply build in a few ways to keep track of your progress in tandem with other research, this is a great methodology to consider as a part of your research strategy in 2021. 

4. We’ve all got meeting fatigue.

Whether or not you’re a UX researcher, we’re all dealing with meeting fatigue. After almost a year of working remotely, the “Zoom fatigue” is well-documented. Some of our clients have been sharing that they’re finding ways to streamline internal meetings to reduce that exhaustion. This phenomenon signals a larger trend of thinking deeply about how we make better work experiences, and right now especially, remote work experiences. If you and your team are also feeling the meeting fatigue, take a step back and think about how you’re supporting each other. Can you limit some unnecessary meetings, brainstorm new ways of communicating, and give your team back some time? For research, you might consider spreading sessions out over a couple days instead of fitting them back to back to give your researcher and any stakeholders or observers added flexibility.

5. Accessibility is a top priority.

While even just a couple years ago, accessibility research was quite rare, we’re seeing more teams incorporating accessibility research into their roadmaps these days. Designing accessible experiences is not just a legal requirement; it’s the right thing to do to ensure you’re meeting the needs of all of your customers. And accessibility research can help you get there by uncovering accessibility concerns early in development, identifying things that interfere with your users’ ability to use your website or product, and gathering ideas and insights to help innovate your products, not just fix or bandaid existing issues. Read our latest insights on accessible remote research with screen reader users.

6. Synthesizing research continues to be pressing for many teams.

We’ve all seen the issue of too many insights, especially when you’re conducting several rounds of research back to back. Understanding how to synthesize and organize complex data continues to be of key importance as UX teams and their influence within their organizations, grow.

As you look to 2021, think about ways to better structure and organize your insights in a way that works for your team and their needs. There isn’t a one size fits all answer here, and maybe you’ve already tried a handful of options. For some teams, this might be having someone in a research strategy role tracking learnings across research streams and products to identify common insights and synthesize the bigger picture. In other cases, it might be looking into potential tools or repositories, or even simply finding ways to socialize insights across teams through Slack or other communication tools. Whatever you choose, make sure your teams are aware of what research is happening and the top-line insights emerging from your studies.

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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