How you gather, manage, and use information will determine whether you win or lose.

- Bill Gates

At a B2B AI-driven startup I interned last summer, we design complex enterprise products for policemen in wildly different positions under various use cases. Needless to say, user research plays a huge role in our product design. But it has been difficult to fully utilize the research findings, which were mainly in the form of lengthy reports and debrief meetings.

*Information regarding the company and its products has been omitted and obfuscated in this case study to comply with NDA.

Project Duration

Summer 2018, 10 Weeks

Team

Youge Xiao Project Lead
Mingke Yu
Graphic Designer

My Role

Full-stack Designer

Key Skills

Generative Research
Story Telling
Visual Communication
Data Coding & Copy Writing

Success goals,
from micro to macro

Make research findings easy to locate, easy to read, and easy to use

Educate non-designer employees on the importance of research

Elevate the voice of our design team internally

Foster the empathy culture in the whole organization

Old research deliverables did not fit the working environment

This was the overarching finding during our research process. We observed and interviewed five product designers on their daily design process. Outside the design team, we interviewed three other employees from PM, Engineering and Business Development. Here is the collection of insights I concluded:

Original personas printouts in the office

At this stage, I brainstormed a series of creative research deliverables, reflecting people’s need to read research in a more fun and engaging way. Early explorations included leaflets, comic decks, illustrated journey maps, checklists, stickers, Gantt charts. But not all of them survived with the constraints of development and maintenance cost.

Design Solution:
A four-level research advocate system

Knowing that different stakeholders have different needs, we decided to feature different information in a variety of deliverables. By identifying the audience of every deliverable, the research advocate system allowed our colleagues to easily locate the research findings that speak to them. 

Resulted from their request for easy-to-navigate, easy-to-understand, and actionable insights — Use cases, stories, quotes, and numeric data play a key role in making the once dull and lengthy research results fun and engaging.

Empathy Posters

Successfully promoted research findings and raised the voice of the design team to general employees and new members, clients and visitors, and the founders.

Empathy Booklets

Became a handy reference for colleagues directly involved in product design and managers of other departments. Potential materials for onboarding new members and facilitating workshops.

Insight Tables

Highly structuralized insights that are easy-to-locate and easy-to-filter for colleagues directly involved in product design, hence much more helpful in making design decisions.

*Image not available due to NDA

Original Research Reports

Templatized documentation for colleagues directly involved in product design to check the highest level of detail. Also provide guides on field research for colleagues without research backgrounds.

*Image not available due to NDA

Impact:
Sustainable empathy

We were proud that Vislizer made our research insights heard by more people, but we didn't forget to make the impact sustainable. We set up on-going feedback collection, and proactively encouraged other departments to cooperate on research. Our efforts have successfully advocated for research both internally to the whole organization and externally to clients and guests.

Whenever Leo (the Founder/CEO) invites guests for an office tour, he would proudly introduce those posters to them. 

Xiangwei Zhu, VP Design at the company

It’s not only the product team - Leaders from Engineering, BD and Pre-sales all find the booklets very helpful and are asking for extra copies.

Youge Xiao, Design Lead at the company

A project never ends

This is the project that has given me my toolset to communicate with stakeholders whose backgrounds are drastically different from me. The interview muscles I trained there have been helping me in each and every research ever since.

Tapping into how companies advocate research has also become an on-going passion project of mine, especially when the challenge involves complex organizational structures and multiple audiences.

After this summer internship, I started collecting articles and interviewing designers and researchers casually. I realized that while this topic is discussed from time to time, people are using many different vocabularies, such as “practical approach to user research”, “democratizing research”, “presenting design research”, “user research deliverables”…

As a result, such resources are scattering everywhere, making it difficult to effectively utilize research in their organizations for UX researchers and designers (who are usually busy enough).

Therefore, I'm working on a blogpost collecting what research deliverable works better under what situation, for what audience, at which stage, as well as their practices in the field, all in one place. I’m hoping this can be a starting point for people to develop the best research advocate solutions for their own organizations.

This post is still being drafted. Meanwhile, you are more than welcome to take a look at my other Medium posts.