The second part of our three-part series on common mistakes that new UX researchers make. In this part, we’ll cover some of the more “hidden” mistakes. You might not be aware you’re doing some of these mistakes but recognizing them can set you on a path to becoming a better researcher.
Getting burnt out in qualitative studies
When running interviews, it’s easy to schedule them all back-to-back. While this is efficient from a time-savings perspective, in reality, it can cause you to become burnt out.
Even with 30-minute interviews, having so many in a row can cause you to lose focus, struggle to do post-session notes, or even run to the bathroom.
Take, at minimum, a 15-minute break between every session.
Use this time to write down post-session thoughts, run to the bathroom, eat a snack, or just stand up and stretch.
Limit the number of participants
When scheduling for qualitative research, keep the number of participants to a manageable amount.
If you can, try to limit your qualitative data collection to no more than 5 hours on any day (vary based on your context).
Focus on collecting good data over fewer sessions rather than keeping your attentive listening and rapport-skills high all day.
Not taking and reviewing notes
In every meeting, you want to be taking notes. These notes could range from short bullets or full sentences but they both serve the same purpose: to help you make sense of what’s important at your organization.
If you are taking active notes but not reviewing them, you’re missing out on “hidden” research opportunities.
Only a fraction of your meeting notes will have these opportunities but by reviewing them often, you can see how priorities have changed, what’s still troubling to understand, and the gaps you want to address.
Optimize your note-taking
Review past notes you’ve taken and see if you can find any repetitive elements.
Set up your note-taking document to include these elements so that you’re able to quickly get meaning when taking/reviewing notes.
Try to include the topic/main idea in each meeting, who was present, and any action steps you might have to take.
Schedule a monthly review
Set a monthly reminder on your calendar to review notes (try it now, we'll wait!).
Look for any lurking research questions, progress being made, contacts to reach out to and more.
Make this review a regular habit so you can guide your team to new pieces of work, rather than spinning on the same problems.
Not expanding your data sources outside your team
While your team is an incredible source of knowledge, you want to consistently talk with other teams.
They’ll have a different perspective on your product, the problems you face, and the people your team is building for.
These new perspectives can unlock a new way of tackling a persistent problem or help you identify new partners when building a product.
Regularly talk to other user-facing teams
If you can, once every 2-3 months, spend time talking with any user-facing teams (e.g., customer service, marketing, sales, or IT support, etc.).
Look out for consistent themes these teams are hearing when interacting with users.
Read their literature & reports
With permission, see if you can read their reports, dashboards or documents. It can expand your understanding of how the business works, how data moves from team to team, and the journeys that users might experience.
Avoid focusing on a single page or feature while you review their literature to get a more holistic understanding of the UX as you engage with other user-facing teams.
Not proposing things to study
"Intaking" is when you get research requests from your stakeholders while a "research proposal" is when you pitch a research study back to your team.
While research proposals require more trust between your team and you, it can challenge the way your team thinks about research.
As a researcher, you have a unique lens into problems or behaviors surrounding your product that your team might not see. Instead of just doing what’s asked of you, proposing topics to study can build a more collaborative researcher-stakeholder relationship.
Review the roadmap and backlog often
Talk with stakeholders about the roadmap and backlog to understand how the roadmap gets updated, how the backlog is prioritized and what areas make your team nervous.
Study these moments to develop empathy and understanding of your users and your company.
Pitch studies based on the overall journey/goal, not by features
Zoom out on your studies to see how users move from page-to-page or feature-to-feature and document the friction.
Propose studies to better understand (and lower) this friction to positively impact the UX and key metrics.
Not investing in your own growth
Whether you work in big tech or a startup, you have to constantly invest in your own growth. No method, no approach or no research strategy will be perfect or transferable in every situation.
You’ll have to be engaged with the research community to recognize the weaknesses in your skills and look to actively improve them.
Focus on specific topics
Break down larger topics (like quantitative research) into more manageable pieces that are immediately beneficial (like "basic steps of a quantitative study").
Diversify how you learn
Switch up how, where and who you learn from. Consume podcasts, articles, or videos when you can but prioritize direct conversations. It’ll not only help expand your network but these conversations can cement good ideas and help you avoid bad ones.
Avoid consuming content from just a few sources! It’ll narrow how you approach problems rather than expanding how you think or work.
Recognizing these mistakes can be challenging. But applying a few of the listed action steps can give you confidence to keep improving.
Start slowly and focus on being consistent and you’re already on a more fruitful path forward.