UX Research Repositories - A Definitive Guide [2022]

Resources & Guides
·
November 8, 2022

Research repository fundamentals

Let’s start things off with a brief overview of research repositories.

We’ll discuss what a repository is.

And we’ll discuss how it can help you.

If you know these already, you can directly skip to the part about free User Research Notion templates below.

What is a research repository?

A repository is just store of information. We call it a repository when we want to be fancy 💃.

A user research repository is a place to store research data, notes, and insights.

These can be accessed when needed, ideally by everyone in the organization.

A good repository would let teams across the organization find what they’re looking for on their own. This makes research insights more accessible to the right people at the right time.

A user research repository can start as nothing more than a Google doc.

My first UXR repository

It can also grow into a complicated library of insights with entire applications dedicated to it.

UX Research Repositories
Image Source: UX Design

This article will go over all of these possibilities and help you implement the ones you choose. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves!

This article will go over all of these possibilities and help you implement the ones you choose. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves!

Benefits of a research repository.

There are 3 key benefits of building a research repository.

  1. It speeds up research ⚡
  2. It makes collaboration easier 🤝
  3. It prevents redundant research 🔁

⚡ It speeds up research.

UX Research projects start with a request for user insight.

The project is planned, participants recruited, research conducted, raw data stored and analyzed, reports created and shared, and finally the data collected is archived somewhere.

A repository speeds up every step of this process.

By definition, the research repository acts as a storehouse of past insights & reports, along with an archive of the raw data to go back to.This store of historical data allows repositories to cut away requests that can be answered using data from previous projects.

Once the request does go through, past projects help plan the next ones better, often by giving the team a good starting point for what they already know about users

Some teams also store participant info from previous research projects in their repositories. They can then reach out to these people for future research requests. This saves the time and energy they would have spent scrambling for new participants.

A repository can also help the team collaborate on notes while conducting research (we are pretty good at this too 😬). Instead of creating 10 copies of a template for your team to take notes in, a good repository enables team members to bookmark key moments and take notes live in the moment, ideally tying those to your recording & transcript of the call. This allows you to skip to key moments of the conversation once it’s over and involves your stakeholders right from the start (making you 5x faster at discovering insights & getting buy-in for them!)

Speed up research with UX Research repositories
Source: Looppanel

Once that’s done, the team can collaborate on reaching insights. Since everyone is involved in the research process, the researcher has an easier time making sense of their findings.

And speaking of collaborations…

🤝 It makes collaboration easier.

UX Research is a team sport. Having a research repository allows for it to remain one.

In an ideal case, repositories should allow people outside the UXR team to contribute to the organization’s body of knowledge.

Once successfully implemented, the repository can be accessed by anyone. This makes the organization’s knowledge easier to find by those who need it the most.

Easy access to insights and data also allows for collaborative analysis.

Teams will reach diverse and unique conclusions.

Some of these will be insights that researchers could not have thought of.

Some of these will be insights other teams couldn’t have reached on their own.

Inputs from your customer success team could help your copywriters, for example. It is easier to write relevant copy if you already have a record of what the users are complaining about and what they want to hear.

Researchers can also set up frameworks that allow non-researchers to conduct their own quick research. This is amazing—the UXR team is no longer the bottleneck for conducting research! Everyone in the organization gets exposure to research.

User researchers get to see their family once in a while.

Of course this wouldn’t happen from day one and depends on the UX maturity of your organization. Research democratization only takes place once you enter the later stages of UX maturity.

🔁 It prevents redundant research

Stop redundant research with UX Research Repositories

User research piles up quickly. It’s easy to lose your work in the unrelenting jungles of Google drive and Google Sheets and email chains and Miro Boards and floppy disks and pen drives and—you get the idea.

The data and/or insights hidden away in these corners might be required by other teams eventually. When that happens, researchers can hunt for them through the jungles or conduct the research again.

Having a repository makes things easier to find and prevents you from running the same research over and over and over again. Since items are centralized and searchable, you can discover the relevant information within a couple of clicks. 

Above all, it takes the guesswork out of the equation.

Your team doesn’t need to start another project with the troubling intuition that they’ve collected this data before, if only they could remember 🧐.

Free User Research Repository Templates

The great thing about DIY repositories is that you don’t really need to start from scratch. You can find tons of templates online.

There are two User Research repository templates on Notion that we are particularly fond of.

Notion’s team provides a free basic User Research template

Free User Research Template
Image source: Free User Research Template on Notion

What we like about this template:

What can be better about this template:

You can get this User Research template, here.

This excellent notion template by Konstantin Escher.

This was originally posted to UX Collective. You can duplicate it and use it for your own team.

Ultimate User Research Template on Notion

What we like about this template:

What can be better about this template:

You can get this User Research template, here.

Using a repository tool

If you’ve outgrown your DIY repository (or if you don’t want to spend time making one), there are a bunch of repository tools available for you.

Best UX Research Repository tool

If you have a good idea of your team’s needs, deciding which tool to go for will be easier! 🫠.

Judgement Criteria

When choosing a repository tool, you should review your options based on a few decision criteria.

Here are the most important of these criteria. Discuss how much importance each one carries for your team and judge your options accordingly

  1. Analysis 🧐
    How will the tool help with your analyses? Some considerations include— Is there a storage limit? Can you create insights/notes on the fly? Does it offer high quality transcription?
  1. Collaboration 🤝
    Does the tool improve collaboration within and across teams?  Some considerations include—does it allow real time collaboration on notes/insights? Can you share clips and reports across your organization, even if some teammates haven’t set up an account?
  1. Cost 💰
    Will it be too much of a burden on the research team’s pockets?
  1. Privacy 🔒
    Is participant data easily erasable? Is research data encrypted?
  1. Integrations 🔌
    Will the repository work with your team’s current “stack” of tools?

The most popular tools:

You can start looking through these tools first (listed in no particular order).

The descriptions here are as per their homepage and do not convey an endorsement!:

Three questions when choosing repositories

There’s a ton of options out there.

Researching research repositories requires a repository.

To make an even more informed decision, ask yourself and your team these questions.

Do you need a repository?

If your organization has just started basic user research, we will recommend against investing time and/or money in a repository. Build out your basic research infrastructure (such as interview templates, research roadmaps, etc.) using trial and error to see what works for you and your organization. Spend time advocating for research internally. 

If no one buys into your results, it doesn’t matter how nicely they’re cataloged

Once you have the basics covered, you’ll actually be able to use a repository. If all your research fits on one google sheet for now, a repository tool might just be another distraction.

What does your team need?

Is the cost of that tool with extensive tagging options justified? Do you have enough teammates to justify investing in research templates? Is your organization mature enough to need collaboration between researchers and non-researchers?

Consider what will help your unique situation.

The shiniest tool available might overcomplicate your research flow.

Splurging on repository tools is absolutely worth it when your team needs them.

So is sticking to free Notion templates.

Where will your research live?

If your team lives and breathes on Google Drive, they should get their research reports on Google Drive. If your repository doesn’t allow this, “nobody will ever, ever find it”, says Gregg Bernsetin, head of user research for Condé Nast.

Teams usually spend their time on Google Drive, Notion, Confluence, etc.

Ideally, your repository tool should integrate with them to reach your team where they are.

DIY repositories win here since you can build them wherever your team is already hanging out.

Repository Pitfalls to Avoid

You’ve shed blood, sweat, and tears on this research repository. Let’s see some reasons all your efforts can go to waste. Why do research repositories fail?

Sounds like a good way to end this article 🥰.

Lack of buy-in beforehand

Make a case for repositories in front of your organization. It would be pointless if you built or bought a repository for an organization that does not understand its benefits.

Getting buy-in would involve convincing multiple stakeholders. You would have to convince other teams of the benefits of collaborative research. Convince the product team that being actively involved in the repository will let them create a better product. Convince the marketing team that reading and adding insights will help them understand the customer better. Convince the sales team that repositories are the easiest way to identify the “pain points” people want to pay for.

A team that understands the purpose of implementing a repository across the organization will be more receptive during the onboarding process. Earning your buy-in within and across teams, therefore, can prevent the next pitfall as well.

Improper onboarding

Your team hates you for making them learn another tool.

You hate your team for not picking it up on their own.

To avoid this situation,, spending time and energy making sure everyone understands how to use the repository is always wise!

Your organization should be confident in their repository skills. That way, they’re more likely to use it when making decisions and add to it when they have interesting insights.

A team that struggles with the repository would try to figure things out for ten minutes (data not backed by research) before giving up and going back to their daily work.

Also make sure to stress the importance of participant privacy, especially for the non-researcher.

The wrong tools for the job

This one is obvious (and has been repeated all over the article).

A shiny repository tool with every conceivable feature might hurt your research work. Don’t go too big too soon if your organization is still tiny. Even a large organization just getting started with UX research will be turned off by complexity. It’s easy to fall into the role of a “librarian” if the repository doesn’t align with your workflow and team needs—you don’t want to spend more time curating your research than you do creating it!

There’s of course the other hand here. Work at a thousand person organization where they love UX research? You probably shouldn’t settle for a nice google sheet.

Pick the right tools for the job!

Role ambiguity

Someone from the research team should be accountable for the repository.

Building and maintaining the repository, answering questions related to the repository, onboarding new team members, ensuring that other teams are doing things correctly—these are just some of the tasks that go into a successful repository implementation.

If you are a UX research team of one, you’ll be accountable for all of this! (take a nap)

If your research team has more people, everyone should know what their job is. In the absence of clarity, you get confused team members stepping on each others’ toes.

In conclusion

Implement a research repository! Your research team will thank you.

Even the most basic repositories will immediately improve your research capabilities.

We hope this guide has been helpful. Please let us know if you have any questions we’ve missed out on.

We’d love to hear from you. What are your thoughts on repositories?

Tags: User Research Repository, UX Research Repository, User Research Repository Template, UX Research Repository guide, UX Research Repository benefits

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