Scaling UX Research in Your Org: Think Evolution, Not Revolution

Four triangles, evolving toward greater complexity from left to right

For those in UX research, the scale of growth in this profession can feel like a revolution. We’ve gone from a world where organizations mostly built what they thought customers wanted, often driven by quantifiable metrics, to a world where more organizations than ever are trying hard to listen and develop empathy for the people they serve.

The thing is, this didn’t happen overnight. And it wasn’t a hostile overthrow (in most cases). It has taken years, arguably even decades, to develop. It turns out that shifting organizations to have a research-first mentality is hard, especially for those stuck in a cycle of reacting to a torrent of customer requests by shipping updates as fast as they can.

We know that integrating user research throughout the product development process can break the cycle of reactivity. It helps us understand the deeper why behind all the feedback so we can build the right thing. Unfortunately, we still face many challenges integrating user research. As the demand for research continues to grow, we often struggle to find talent and secure budget. We are forced to do more with less.

Because of this pressure, we can easily get caught in the trap of always feeling behind, unable to catch up. Well, let’s not get overwhelmed with what can feel like a lot of operational debt! We don’t have to do everything at once. Let’s look at an example.

A big piece of the puzzle around scaling UX research that a lot of organizations are wrestling with is their inability to make good use of existing research. It’s stored all over the place and in a variety of formats. There’s no one place to search and to find out if we’ve already done research on a particular topic.

So, what to do?…

We need to centralize all the things!

This impulse to do everything at once is reasonable. We see the problem and we want to fix it. However, when the solution takes on the form of a large initiative requiring significant organizational change, we increase the risk of failure. People resist change, our champions get “reorganized”, and the whole thing gets delayed and delayed and delayed.

Instead of revolution, think continuous evolution. In our example, instead of centralizing all existing research, one might consider taking an inventory first, just to get a sense of the scale and scope of what’s out there. One might also consider identifying a particularly valuable area of research and centralizing that work first. A great benefit of organizing a smaller, more focused area of past research is that it can help us quickly establish a place for future research to go to be better organized from the start.

This understanding of the value of evolution over revolution is why we built Handrail so that its use can evolve right along with the practice of user research in our customer’s organizations.

A single researcher can use Handrail with a Solo account, logging unlimited numbers of studies. As more people contribute to research, that solo practice turns into a team.

We created our Team edition for researchers to collaborate—planning research, taking notes, analyzing data, and sharing findings together.

And to support the practice of research at scale, we created Handrail Enterprise. Our Enterprise customers can extend secure access to insights to their entire organization through single sign-on (SSO). We also provide professional services to help teams successfully evolve their research practices over time.

While planning for the future can be tricky, using tools that grow with you gives everyone permission to think incrementally. Find a pace of adoption that works for you, your team, and the rest of the organization. Get some early wins and build on that impact.

Are you evolving research at your organization? We’d love to hear how it’s going! Leave us a comment or get in touch.


Handrail helps teams get organized and succeed with research at scale. To stay up to date, sign up for our newsletter. To see Handrail for yourself, sign up for a free trial or demo today.

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