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Research Operations

Without dedicated usability research staff, organizations can fall behind on learning from their users, making assumptions with no data and getting stuck building the wrong product. U.S. News doesn't have a dedicated research team. As I have significant experience running research as a part of individual teams, I took on the role of Research Operations to build a system for performing and documenting research, with learning materials to help identify what method is best for what scenario.


Created a process for analyzing, documenting, and applying usability research to democratize the process.


The main challenge was two fold. There was no centralized research staff, it was a function of the UX team when there was time—and while individual teams could run research, many did not or were performing it ineffectually. This could be broken down into the following:

  • Some centralized research services were available, such as CrazyEgg and User Testing, but there was no centralized staff for usability research.

  • Teams could run research on their own, but often did not. There were few staff outside of the UX team versed in usability research.

  • There was no clarity on who was responsible for research on individual teams.

  • Teams that did research were not utilizing best practices to avoid bias, ensure variability, and address other potential research pitfalls.

  • Poorly run research can be detrimental as decisions may be made using faulty data.

  • Teams were running research with little documentation or alignment on product goals.

  • Teams did not often save documentation from their research and testing, which prevented other teams from learning from their experience.

  • Proper documentation is also useful to share with stakeholders or provide an at-a-glance reference of what was learned from the test for yourself or future team members.

  • Teams would run similar tests multiple times with no clear goal or next steps identified, which was an inefficient use of time and resources.

  • Democratized and centralized research by creating templates, guides, and onboarding materials.

  • Created templates that combined all stages of brainstorming, iterating, launching, and documenting individual research projects.

  • These templates are launched from our centralized intranet and automatically are saved to the individual team's section.

  • The templates cover heatmaps, A/B Testing, user interviews/testing, and surveys.

  • Built guides for major research methods, which are available on our intranet.

  • The guides cover the best practices for each test, roles and responsibilities, and tools used for the test.

  • Guides act as a central location to share additional learning materials, such as tutorials and information on more advanced research methods.

  • Created onboarding presentations to assist staff interested in conducting research.

  • Built presentation templates so test results can be easily compiled and shared with other teams or executives.

  • Manage the organization’s relationship with major research tools.

  • Assist staff with the tools.

  • Identify new testing tools we may want to adopt.

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