How would you organize and store your belongings if you had to pack up and move across the country? What naming system would you use to differentiate your kitchen stuff from your clothes to make it easier to unpack once you get there?
Figuring out how to store essential items and create a naming system for important information seeps into UX research. After all, UX researchers need a central place to organize and store their research and make sure that information is organized in a way that’s discoverable to others across an organization.
What’s the solution? Simply put, you need a UX research repository. This is a great way to store and organize your UX research. Although repositories are so crucial to UX researchers and Research Ops managers, as a topic they're not very well documented, and it’s difficult to fully understand their purpose and benefits.
If you're a UX researcher or Research Ops manager and you want to learn about UX repositories, this article is for you. We'll walk you through the what, the why, and the how. We'll also drop some considerations for you to think about.
Repositories are used across many disciplines and practices. In computer science, a repository is a location where software packages are stored. In data science, a data repository is where databases are stored for analysis.
A UX repository is a centralized location that stores an organization's research and participant information and insights. This includes user interviews, usability test and prototype test results, user panel and participant information, and user insight reports.
Theoretically, your repository should act as a one-stop shop for everything UX research related – a place where researchers and others at your organization can look for and find information and records easily.
Why do you need a UX research repository?
UX repositories are ideal for organization and storage purposes, but they also make a UX researcher's job a lot easier. Here are the main reasons you need a UX repository.
Democratize UX research
Democratization of user research is about expanding access and participation in research across an organization. This means making it possible for anyone to do user research, no matter their role.
With information such as participant details, user interview templates, and research reports stored in the repository, other team members can feel empowered to conduct their own research.
Centralize participant management
It’s impossible to do UX research without participants, and good participant management is critical if you want your research projects to run smoothly.
Repositories enable you to manage your participants effectively and efficiently. With a research repository, you can see how many participants you have, the last research project they took part in, and demographic information like their name, email address, job title, and so on.
When you have a clear overview of your participants, you’ll easily be able to qualify or disqualify candidates you need for specific research projects, and this will help with research recruitment. For instance, you might see the candidates that took part in a moderated usability testing study three months ago, and that you only have five participants in your database eligible for your next study. This means that you’ll need to recruit more candidates that meet your criteria, so you pass this info over to your Research Ops manager to organize recruitment.
Speed up research
When you have a categorized storage system for research projects, you're building repeatable structures and processes for future projects. So when it's time for the next big evaluative research project, all you have to do is go to your repository to find the relevant templates and information.
Plus, a repository speeds up research, especially when you need to collaborate. Instead of scheduling meetings to inform other researchers and stakeholders about research insights from the last quarter, you can direct them to the repository where they can read your write-up. This will save you valuable time, so you can get straight into doing what you do best – conducting research.
Share insights outside of the UX research team
How do you currently share research insights outside of your team? Is it a long thread of emails with different files attached? Or do you collate everything in a system like Dropbox or Google Drive and provide a link? How do you make sure you don't forget important information?
If you don't have a simple answer to these questions, a UX repository may be the solution. It’s the best way to share insights outside the research team – you just need to provide the relevant access.
Scale research efforts
Having a research repository can make it easier to scale research efforts across an organization in two ways:
Onboarding: When it's time to onboard new members to the UX research team, your repository acts as a helpful tool. They’ll have access to previous and current research, which is a good starting point to get them up to speed.
Efficiency: When it's time to take on more research projects simultaneously, a repository is the perfect starting point. Instead of writing research plans from scratch, you're able to drag-and-drop files and duplicate templates, making the process much more efficient.
Assess UX research easily
A repository gives you an overview of how UX research is going in your organization. This is especially important if you want to address any research challenges you're facing.
For instance, if your team needs to speed up research, you can see which tasks are taking the most time by checking dates in your repository. You might realize that it’s taking three months to recruit participants and that you need a faster way to recruit research participants.
The structured nature of a UX repository enables you to evaluate gaps in your Research Ops practice. For example, you can use your repository to report and assess efficiencies and evaluate how well processes are working.
You’ll also be able to see if there are missing documents in individual research project folders, like missing research reports or participant consent forms, and identify areas of weaknesses in your research process.
How to get started with a UX research repository
There are two ways to get started with a research repository: create your own or use a research repository tool. Let’s explore both options and the tools you can use to get started.
Create your own research repository
You can create your own repository using well-known software like Google Drive, Airtable, or Notion. When it comes to creating a repository, there's no one-size-fits-all approach. You have to tailor the needs of your repository to your research function.
If you intend to create a UX research repository from scratch, there are a few initial things to consider, such as:
Implementing a consistent file naming convention: This could involve incorporating the date of the research, the project or client name, and the research method in the file name.
Organizing files into folders: You can further classify your files into folders based on the project or client, and consider using sub-folders to sort research by type, like interviews, surveys, or usability testing.
Use clear tagging and categorization: Along with file organization, tagging and categorizing research findings are essential. A spreadsheet with tags or keywords can make it simpler to search and retrieve information later.
Based on the above, if you’re using Google Workspace, you could create different folders in a shared research drive and categorize information into folders, such as:
One benefit of using Google Workspace is how multifunctional the applications are – you can use Google Sheets to manage your participant database, Google Slides to present your findings, and so on.
Google Workspace can be a good starting point for a DIY repository, but if you work at a large organization, you may need to factor in storage limits. In that case, it might be best to use a solution like Airtable or Notion.
Airtable is known as a project management tool, but its database and tabling features come in handy when creating a repository. Airtable has its own template that you can copy to your workspace.
Similar to Airtable, you can take advantage of Notion's customization features to build your own repository. Notion also has some templates that you can take inspiration from. Although it’s worth noting that no-code project management tools like Airtable and Notion can be rigid and you might find that you're limited in what you can build.
Whichever tool you use, it's important to ensure that you keep your research repository up-to-date and frequently archive or remove irrelevant or outdated files.
Use a research repository tool
If you decide that the DIY solutions don’t work for you, you might want to explore UX research repository tools. Although there are many tools on the market, below are the leading options that can serve as a helpful starting point in working out which one to choose.
It's impossible to talk to fellow researchers about repositories and not hear Dovetail's name mentioned at least once.
Dovetail enables you to analyze, synthesize, summarize, and share user research in one platform. The user interface is simple and intuitive. You can search for research notes or projects from the search bar, upload user interviews, automatically transcribe interviews, and tag video recordings.
Dovetail offers a free trial, and paid plans start from US$50 per month for five users.
Like Dovetail, Condens is an intuitive platform that you can use to track, manage, and analyze your UX research. Where Condens sets itself apart is its digital whiteboard feature, which you can use to create affinity diagrams, user journey maps, and empathy maps, and share them with stakeholders.
Condens offers a free trial, and paid plans start from US$15 per month for one user.
Another UX repository tool with similar features to Dovetail and Condens is Aurelius.
Where Aurelius surpasses the other tools is its recommendations feature, which you can use to create recommendations on next steps, actions, suggestions, or outcomes from your research findings.
Aurelius offers a free trial, and paid plans start from US$49 for unlimited users.
Considerations before starting a UX research repository
Before you get started with your research repository, ensure that you have solid UX research workflows in place. This includes having a participant recruitment process, whether through a panel or recruiting your own users. Without these workflows, the repository may not provide many benefits.
Gaining organizational support and buy-in from stakeholders is crucial, particularly for budget approval. Meet with your research team to identify common pain points, which can be used to advocate for the repository.
Set clear goals for the repository, for example to ‘move all research by Q4 2023’ and ‘onboard team members within two weeks of purchase'. These goals will help maintain focus and ensure effective management.
Tips for adopting a UX research repository
The first step toward adopting a research repository at your organization is to get your colleagues on board. Sometimes, incorporating a new tool or process can be met with resistance, so it's always a good idea to begin with education and learning. You could do this by hosting an introductory session where you give an overview of the repository, walk through how to use it, and set some ground rules.
You’ll also need to move all your systems, research, and files from your old system to your repository. The above tools all have integration features, so this should (hopefully) be simple.
Using a repository is a habit you need to build, so it will take time for you and your team to get used to it. Whenever you see colleagues referring to the old system or sharing research reports via Slack or email, gently remind them there's a repository for this.
Finally, remember that a research repository requires commitment. While it may take some time to get used to, it will become a daily part of your workflow. And once you’re familiar with it, you'll never go back to working without one!
If you’re looking for a simple user research and participant recruitment tool to integrate into your Research Ops stack, Lyssna might be your answer.
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Frequently asked questions about UX research repositories
Megan Johnson is a B2B SaaS content marketing writer. In between writing articles and all things SEO, she’s usually on her next travel adventure.
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