The simple way to make your user research insights evergreen

We all know that user research is a vital part of any UX design project.

We’ve written plenty about the methods we rate, how we’ve used insights to shape products and the surprising things we’ve learned along the way.

But something that we’ve not touched upon until now is storing and categorising the all-important data uncovered by user research.

This is something that needs addressing, since the most rigorous research phase in the world will fail to have a meaningful impact if its findings are looked at once and never again.

It’s all too easy for the work done to be presented with great fanfare, influence immediate sprint work and then fade into the cobwebs. 🕸️

Not a great return on what can be a considerable investment of budget and effort!

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User research in practice

We’ve recently been working with a huge, multi-billion dollar infotech company to bring their vision of the future to life.

A large part of the work was an intensive discovery process which surfaced a ton of findings from talking to multitudes of stakeholders and users.

Our client is a mature, ambitious organisation who are keen to put our user research to good use across multiple departments.

Even so, we still knew that delivering our findings in a ‘one and done’ report would be setting them up for failure.

User research knowledge base

So how did we make sure that if we left the scene, the user research we’d done remained an integral part of the business?
We created a knowledge base.

By that we mean a digital resource that holds a centralised, queryable set of insights that are easy to search, add to, group and reuse.

You might hear it alternately referred to as a user research repository, an insight library, or some other cool phrase we’ve not even heard yet.

And the tool used to hold it together could be something simple like a Google Sheet or a complex bespoke application.

Of the off-the-shelf specialist platforms out there, we’d recommend Dovetail – it’s the one we use ourselves. Tools like Confluence or Notion are also frequently used for this task.

No matter the platform, the aims are the same. A knowledge base should allow users to:

  • Quickly search through past research to apply it at a later time.
  • Find patterns and themes.
  • Keep everything together and share insights easily.
  • Add new research as and when it happens, and find out what’s new on a topic or from a respondent at a glance.

Just as your design system is the single source of truth when it comes to UI, the knowledge base should be the go-to for all things user research.

The business case for a knowledge base

The insights stored in your knowledge base are added by and accessible to everyone, not just people directly involved in product delivery. That’s part of its beauty.

In our client’s case, their knowledge base is a regular destination for engineering, customer support, new business, the C-suite and many more.

Senior stakeholders are as engaged with it as the most junior product designer – a well-made knowledge base sends user insights viral across every part of an organisation.

  • Our client’s new business team use it to speak directly to customer pain points when they sell.
  • Their product team’s feature decisions and roadmap are better informed.
  • Their engineering team can relate the work they’re doing back to user demand.
  • Their customer support team know the feedback they’re given is acted upon, not just filed and forgotten.
  • Sharing, visualising and discussing findings is a doddle.

Ultimately, user research is great, but it’s the sharing the insights that come out of it which makes the difference.

Using a knowledge hub to get everybody on board, everybody thinking about what’s been uncovered, and everybody talking about how to act on it, is the way to make the right product decision every time. ✨

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