Research, like design components, can be difficult to manage when scattered across platforms, teams, and timelines. If we have design systems to organize components and manage versioning, how might we build a similar system for all the valuable research insights collected in user studies?
I used Airtable to build a centralized and scalable research findings repository for Braven, an education nonprofit. The data tables are set up to emulate an affinity mapping process: user quotes/behavior are logged and aggregated into themes, then translated into user needs (problem statements) that can be used for ideation or further research.
Braven partners with universities and colleges to provide courses for college credit, fellowship programs, and career coaching for young people on their path to college graduation, meaningful careers, and lives of impact. Braven’s New Product Development team reached out to me to help them design and test a new design direction for their Learning Management System (LMS). They had been noticing that student engagement in the LMS was dropping off and some foundational research uncovered the need for a more goal-oriented UI.
I worked with the product owner to distill their generative research findings into three primary user needs to focus on and then designed a prototype in Figma. Using the new prototype and the existing UI, I conducted an A/B usability test with Braven students and then synthesized the findings into a set of UX recommendations.
As I worked on this project, I noticed that research was often conducted separately by each department and the data was stored across different department folders in Google Drive. It was difficult to find documents from past research projects and even harder to locate a predefined list of research participants to recruit from, so we had to spend more time on recruitment than anticipated.
The product owner and I agreed that ensuring easy access to this project’s findings and starting a research participant database were important outcomes of this project, in addition to the UX recommendations. So, I created a digital repository in Airtable to help centralize and standardize the research process. The repository’s data tables are set up to facilitate a synthesis process similar to affinity mapping; user quotes/behavior are aggregated into patterns and themes, then translated into user needs (problem statements). The database as a whole is set up so that the next researcher after me can create a new study and conduct the analysis within the same tables, allowing product owners to search for user feedback across all studies within the database. With a centralized research repository, Braven’s team members can continue to conduct, analyze, and reference research projects together in a remote work environment.
If you would like to hear about my design process in detail, please contact me.