UX Research Repositories: How teams at Google & Razorpay built them

Resources & Guides
·
January 5, 2023

Oh how the turntables — we conducted user research on UX Researchers from top companies like Google, Groww, and Razorpay.

The user researcher is a curious creature, one we wanted to observe in its natural habitat. Our group of brave researchers set out on horseback to learn more of the strange habits of the user researcher. Why does it opt for a UX Research Repository? What makes it pull the trigger on implementing a UX Research Repository? What does it eat? Why doesn’t it sleep?

Here’s what we discovered about UX Research Repositories.

Overview

The article will walk you through our findings by the stage you may find yourself at:

  1. The Consideration Stage: “Do I want a repository?”
  2. The Implementation Stage: “I do want a repository”
  3. The Frustrations of using research repositories: “DAMN 😭😭”

The Consideration Stage

What causes user researchers to get into the UX Research Repository lifestyle?

And once they’re in here, what do they do?

To help you out in the consideration stage, we asked user researchers: Why did they want a repository in the first place? What were they trying to solve?

If you’re trying to figure out why teams implement repositories, and if you should too—here’s why teams are setting them up:

Making Research “Self-Serve”

One major reason for setting up a repository is to make research self-serve.

Researchers often hit a point when they’re flooded with requests for user insights, most of which they had already covered in previous reports. With research repositories, they were able to cut out the “middleman” - themselves - and enable their coworkers to find research insights on their own.

This enabled a “democratization” of their research to some extent, freeing up their time and making the organization more mature in the process.

So if you’re considering a repository, you may want to ask yourself: are you constantly battling requests for research? Is it hampering your ability to actually do more research?

Efficiency in Research

You’ll be more efficient when you aren’t helping every new PM understand what the user thinks of your dashboard. 

You’ll also be more efficient when you aren’t forced to repeat the same research project twice because the previous reports were eaten up by the Google Drive void monster.

Oftentimes, research, design and product teams end up re-doing the same project, over and over and over again.

If someone else on the team conducted the study, or they simply lost track of it—they’re forced to re-discover the same insights.

It’s the FUNNIEST thing ever — straight out of a Charlie Chaplin film.

But, we love you and hate to see you go through this.

Cross-Pollinating Insights

In a similar vein—even if an entire study isn’t being replicated, there’s often bits and pieces of information that came up in a call unexpectedly that we know can give us a head start.

If you have a gnawing feeling in the back of your head that you’ve looked at this topic before—if only you could remember which person mentioned it in a call 6 months ago? That may mean you need a repository

A User Researcher at a FinTech startup for instance, mentioned how his team uses a repository to cross-pollinate insights across several research projects conducted over a long span of time. Every time data on said topic comes up he can quickly identify the relevant data across projects. All it takes is a simple search.

The Implementation Stage

You’ve read up on repositories, even that particularly lovely article by a particularly lovely startup.

You’re certain that you want to go for it. You’re certain a UX Research Repository will 10x your research outcomes and get you into the Forbes 30 under 30 list (did you know you had to apply for this? 💔).

Now what? We asked user researchers about the milestones of implementing a research repository—how do they actually build this thing?!

Experimenting with UX Research Repositories

Of course everyone’s UX research repository journey starts with them testing out different tools for the job.

We have already covered a variety of free and paid repository options you can look into in our definitive guide to research repositories. Get started with them!

To save you a click for now, here’s a short list of products you can try out:

  1. Looppanel, of course. Favored by the cool kids of UX research.
  2. This excellent notion template.
  3. Dovetail
  4. EnjoyHQ
  5. Condens

Figuring out a “Taxonomy”

Not all, but some UX Research Repositories require you to set up a ‘taxonomy’ for the product to let you find any information you need..

First for those of you unfamiliar with the term: a taxonomy is a tagging structure for your repository. It’s a structure made up of lists (sometimes sub-lists) of tags that can be used to analyze and organize qualitative data.

If the same tags are used across projects in a consistent manner, you can simply search for said tag to find all the data you need in one place, nicely wrapped with a bow on top.

For teams that chose a repository tool that relied heavily on a taxonomy, they spent a few weeks to months setting up what this should look like.

For instance, if I were doing research on Twitter (may god bless them) my taxonomy may consist of tags like this:

Each of these tags are topics that I would expect to come up across studies and that at a macro level I would want to see insights about.

One large e-commerce company we spoke to did exactly this—they spent months working with other teams to figure out what the perfect, robust taxonomy would look like so everything that the team wanted to find, the team could find.

If you’re setting out to build your first taxonomy, Marianne Carpentier, a senior UX researcher at Mozilla just published an incredible piece covering the basics.

Maintenance work on the UX Research Repository

This one falls under both, Consideration and Implementation.

Here’s a quick checklist of things that must be done to ensure your repository is well-maintained. As you’ll notice, the devil may work hard but UX Researchers have to work harder.

💡This list is particularly important to maintain if you’re using a taxonomy-based repository. Repository tools based on AI based smart search require way less maintenance once they’re up and running.

  • Establish - and teach your team - a process of scheduling all your user interviews. Establish a pre-interview routine, a system for working with the repo during your interview, and the steps to take once the interview is over.
  • Perform a few demo user interviews on the tool you decide to go with. Make sure things work fine; if not, make sure you’re on calls with their representatives to fix this.
  • Put calls under the correct project folders. Check this about once a week for hygiene.
  • If you’re establishing a taxonomy, do so and educate the rest of the team on the tagging system you’re putting in place. Routinely ensure that the system is being followed as intended. Update the taxonomy if it’s not working for your team.
  • A few times each quarter, ensure that the projects are set up correctly and that the roof isn’t on fire.

The Frustrations of using research repositories

Unfortunately, implementing a research repository doesn’t spell the end of all your troubles. The path of a user researcher is tough and full of boss battles.

We asked user researchers what frustrated them the most after they had implemented their repositories. Here are the top problems you should brace yourself for, according to user researchers who’ve been where you are.

Maintenance will kill you

This varies a bit by where you choose to build your repository, but often maintaining the structure, ensuring the taxonomy is valid, that people are still using said taxonomy and using it correctly is a continuous uphill battle. Often some repositories are only useful if this is the case.

If you’re going down this route, our research indicates that you need to dedicate a significant and consistent amount of time to “grooming” your repository, akin to a librarian.

Lack of research training

Once you set up your tagging taxonomy, you’ll be tasked with presenting a crash course in using research findings.

A UX Researcher at a fintech startup had to work hard to ensure that the product team wasn’t cherry picking research evidence that agreed with their ideas. We’re all cursed with cognitive biases — having a bunch of data at your disposal can quickly make things worse if you don’t know how to interpret it.

Old habits die hard

For a UX Researcher at an e-commerce company in our study, it was tough to get coworkers to use the repository, despite their best efforts at educating them. Eventually, the team slid back into old habits — asking the researchers for easily discoverable information and never really referring to the repository.

This may be less of a problem with some mature Design & Product teams.Teams with lower UX maturity and those further removed from product development, such as sales and customer support, are less likely to spend their time on a repository with any sort of a learning curve.

You can overcome this by keeping your repository accessible from the canonical home of your team (often Google Drive), rather than a product that is totally disconnected from it.

Signing Off

There you have it folks! Building repositories is a rewarding experience, full of pitfalls and troubles. You’ll have to work hard before, during, and after the implementation but if you pull it off, your research process will reach untapped potential.

If you do end up implementing one, let us know.

We’d love to help you through the process (and keep the self-promotion to a minimum)

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