Whatever you're building, as an organization you always crave for your customers feedback. Even when there are no UX research activities in your company, there are people who are in contact with your customers, in Marketing, Customer Service or Sales for example.
Most of the time those people have different skills and goals when they talk to customers, but they still learn valuable information which are often communicated to decision makers.
How do you make sure that what is learned is remembered and measured?
When I was working at Illumina, I had identified this problem. Our design team was conducting different type of research activities, and we were regularly reporting our findings to the larger Basespace team. Although UX research was a new activity at that time, we were not the only one talking to customers.
Marketing, Sales, Customer Service, Scientists and Executives were having discussions, pitch sales, dinners, or doing surveys regularly. All of them were convinced their conversations were valuable, and I believe it was. However there was no solid way to identify who had talked to who, when, and what they had learned. So how do you make sure that what is learned is remembered and measured?
Inspired by Aarron Walter, who at that time was Director of UX at Mailchimp, I experimented with Evernote and created my first research system.
Organized by notebooks, I had collected data from our usability studies, some statistics automatically integrated from Google Analytics, feedback we would receive via Uservoice, and articles found on the web about competition. It was a powerful source of information. The idea was to increase the number of notebooks with feedback from Marketing and Customer Services.
But this project never took off. Why?
One of the reason was because people felt they had to do extra work. Customer Services already had a solution using Salesforce, but not everyone in the company used it. Marketing were doing Surveys and that was enough for them.
A few months ago, I discovered the work done by Tomer Sharon at WeWork. It immediately lighted a bulb and we started to put together a similar system for us.
The Genepeeks Research System is a database of information collected through user feedback, and user research activities.
The goal is to collect, and make sense of all information regarding existing or potential users at Genepeeks, whether it comes from Client Services, Marketing, Internal feedback or User Research.
Based on Polaris, our research system is organized into nuggets, which are "atomic unit" of information.
The system includes 15 interconnected tables:
Nuggets, Learning, Potential solutions, Studies, Journeys, Participants, Characters, Sets, Emotions, Organizations, Locations, Industries, Research Team, Description tags, Scheduling / Calendar.
We then Create, Curate, and Consume our system.
After each research session, or phone call, or meetup, a nugget is created by someone at Genepeeks, using our online nugget submission form.
The "research group" take a look at each nugget and decide whether it is valid or not. Each nugget needs to have a proof / source, demonstrating that the observation collected is true. A source can be an audio or video recording, a screenshot, a picture, or a note (in the worst case scenario). A nugget without a source becomes an opinion, because it can't be demonstrated, and therefore will have smaller weight than a nugget.
During curation, we group nuggets of the same meaning into learnings.
Each nugget or learning is part of a step in one of our customer's journey. We identified 3 journeys:
1. The patient journey going through our preconception test
2. The clinic journey helping patients with the preconception test.
3. The genetic testing lab journey, using our SaaS product.
As a Research System consumer, you can filter the nuggets table in any way you want to find valuable information, collected at different times by different people in the company.
The tool we use to make sense of user data is Airtable, a web application created for organizing anything.
We're still at the beginning of exploring this solution but I strongly believe it will help build a better shared understanding of what our users need. Note also that WeWork started with Airtable but ended up building their own database and website to make their research experience even better.