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A glimpse of the current standing of UXR and strategy on how to stay relevant with the workforce demand.

A proposal illustration
Photo by Unseen Studio on Unsplash

The UX researcher fallacy: ‘My job is to learn about users.’
Truth: ‘My job is to help my team learn about users.’
– Caroline Jarrett

As 2024 starts, layoffs are still everywhere, specifically in the technology sector. This reignites doubts among professionals regarding the future of UX research, not to mention that there are often fewer researchers than there are product managers and designers, and far fewer than there are engineers in a company.

Based on that, I would like to share my take on the articles from Nick Stiles (2024), Dave Hora (2024), and Meltem Nas Kaso Coskun (2023) regarding the standing of UX Research and how one might improve its value to stay relevant with the workforce demand. It will consist of:

A. Research & the Larger System

B. Strategies for Staying Relevant in the System

A. Research & the Larger System

In general, there are 3 areas to be aware of: organization, product, and customer context.

The Sketch of Research and the Larger System by Dave Hora (2024),

Between product and customer context is a link between 2 slices that are expected to fit, and co-evolve, This is where UX researchers are trained to focus their attention as functional research practitioners. However, the acts of reframing and synthesizing alone don’t necessarily close the loop, — unless they are carried out with the full involvement of the relevant team of the product.

Thus, to increase UX research value, one has to find ways to integrate the research work into the organization level, so that eventually, a collective orientation regarding the importance of research can be established.

B. Strategies for Staying Relevant in the System

If one looks carefully at the UX Research role, one can see the hardships with showcasing impact and Return on Investment (ROI). Then, as Meltem Nas Kaso Coskun (2023) wrote, These questions stay among researchers:

  • “What else can researchers do that can create impact more directly?
  • Is there anything we can do that’s not obviously under our scope?
  • Can we formulate our work in a way that can argue for its place in a lean structure?”

Thus, UX Researchers may improve their value if they try these things:

  1. Strive to immerse oneself in the product domain and user’s world until it’s second nature.
  2. Influence the minds & behavior of stakeholders in the service of business and user.
  3. Ready to broaden the scope of “UX Research”.

Next, I will give details on what I meant by each point:

Photo by Nugraha Jati Utama on Dribble

→ B.1. Strive to Immerse

“A good researcher is like the repository of insights you need to grow.”

A researcher needs to realize that presenting study findings can only take so far. It’s usually the little nudges ( ie: chiming in during workshops, sharing insights in a Slack thread) that help keep the user-centered wheels on track among the stakeholders. Thus, learning to immerse oneself in the user’s world and product space allows us to contribute more deeply and with a broader perspective.

  • Immersion means deeply understanding the internal dynamics of personalities, teams, stakeholders, and the organization.
  • Immersion helps us avoid conducting unnecessary studies and helps show how research can, contrary to popular belief, actually speed things up. Ie: We should know the history of the product or service in question, or at least the company’s history with it. We have to speak with folks outside of the product bubble like consulting, marketing, sales, and client success to advocate the value of research and user insights within the company.

→ B.2. Influence the Minds & Behaviors of Stakeholders.

A researcher should want to know if the stakeholders are wrong about what they think they should build, as knowing which routes are dead-ends will save time and money. Thus, a researcher needs to work on growing trust among key stakeholders in a company.

  • Knowing when to be quiet and letting others have a voice is just as important as being able to give the TL;DR of a study. If we do good work, a snowball effect may happen
  • There is no need to influence every single colleague and stakeholder. Focus on influence enough to get buy-in from key individuals in the team or organization. Once several buy-ins are obtained, they become UXR advocates, whom we can push through for us to hold sway. Thus, more doors can be opened for research.
  • UX researchers shouldn’t leave research impact to chance. Never assume stakeholders will feel the same level of empathy for the user or have the same depth of knowledge about the domain.

→ B.3. Ready to broaden the scope of “UX Research”.

This is probably the most crucial thing that a researcher needs to work on to stay relevant to the workforce demand.

  • Focus not only on the product but also on business. To do more for the user, we must do more for the business. This is where researchers need to dive into company focus and learn not only the product but also business and technical vocabulary to speak the same language with the stakeholders. It’s worth studying stakeholders’ points of view, ranging from business, strategy, and product with close attention to figuring out what blocks them so that we can find an opening for advocating the research.
  • Learn about various kinds of insights that are needed by the organization. Ie: Market trends, customer complaints, media sentiment, etc. In the days when resources are limited, researchers will be much preferred by others if they can offer the type of insights that they need by conducting varying types of study. So, get ready to learn more and prepare to conduct a diverse set of studies if you must. Just remember: as long as we work in ways that maximize our capabilities as researchers, we can always add new skills and experiences under our belt.

Given the current situation, I believe that there are many opinions regarding the future of UX researchers. If you have any thoughts regarding how UX Researchers need to strategize to stay relevant, I’m very keen on discussing the matter.

P.S.: If you have feedback about this article, please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts below.

P.p.s: Last but not least, feel free to visit my LinkedIn profile if you have something to discuss or simply want to connect with me 🙂

A proposal for modern UX Researchers was originally published in UX Collective on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.






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