People Who Do Research 2023

The Future of UX Research Tools & Democratization

With Ned Dwyer, Co-Founder & CEO of Great Question

Jack Wolstenholm
March 7, 2023
The Future of UX Research Tools & Democratization

In November 2022, Ned Dwyer and his team had the crazy idea to host a virtual event, despite being less than two years old as a company.

“We wanted to create a space that allowed us to connect and elevate not just researchers and the research operations teams that support them, but also all of the people who do research that don’t have the title yet.” 

The goal was to increase collaboration between researchers, research operations, product managers, marketers, designers – everyone who’s doing research in their organization – so they can better understand each other’s goals, missions, and outcomes.

“Research is about impact. It’s about creating change in someone’s behavior, and that happens when you’re able to demonstrate something new to someone they didn’t know about the customer and their needs. This impact can change how a product is built, how a user experience is designed, or how a marketing strategy is executed.”

In his opening address at People Who Do Research 2023, Great Question's Co-Founder and CEO spoke to the rising tide of research democratization, why UX researchers should embrace it, and how Great Question can help support a democratized future that’s evenly distributed.

Listen to Ned’s full session and read the recap below. (We also invite you to join our PWDR Slack Community here if you haven’t already.)

What is Great Question?

Great Question is the unified customer research platform, backed by a world-class team that's all in on democratization.

“We want to empower every product manager, marketer, and designer to put customer insights at the center of all of their decisions.”

To date, this includes:

  • Panel management: Build and manage a panel of data-rich customer profiles by integrating with your database, like Snowflake or Salesforce, and put guardrails in place to protect your users’ data privacy and avoid over-contacting them. “We think of ourselves as research operations infrastructure.”
  • Method execution: Schedule and conduct customer interviews, then pay incentives via the platform’s integration with Tremendous. “I believe we have a best-in-class solution for scheduling customer interviews, whether it's rolling research, focus groups, round robin, surveys, prototype testing – you name it.”
  • UX research repository: Store and share your research insights and analysis with your team all in one place. This includes free interview transcriptions, as well as the ability to create tags, video clips, and highlight reels.
“All this is done in a way that puts the data privacy and security of our users first, from governance modules to GDPR and SOC-2 compliance.”

But as you'll see with our 2023 roadmap, we're just getting started.

Research of the past vs. present day

UX research used to be a niche field.

“Yes, there were a lot of early supporters and there have been for quite some time, but there wasn't a lot of specialization in roles. Organizations had relatively few frameworks to organize and structure research. Research maturity models didn't exist.”

But research as we know it today is far cry from research of the past.

“The fact that we have a conference today with thousands of people attending is proof. And we're only one conference out of hundreds that run throughout the year, whether it's Advancing Research, the UXRConf hosted by Learners, or countless others.”

Today, the UX research community is rich with maturity models, organizational frameworks,  embedded teams, and specialized roles – from heads of research operations like Kate Towsey, to research operations managers, coordinators, and recruiters, to quantitative and qualitative researchers. It’s also rich with debate about the future.

“I think research democratization is actually a sign of development of the community. It has traditionally been a much debated topic, and the debate as far as we're concerned has been settled. Research democratization is a thing, it's just not evenly distributed.”

For Ned, research democracy requires organizations to buy into the belief that customer insights belong at the center of every product design and marketing decision. This requires commensurate resources and budgets, which still isn’t a reality for many companies.

“Some companies don't believe in the power of research. They don't have dedicated research or even operations teams. They don’t have a budget for research. It’s not evenly distributed because people haven't yet understood the power of research. So we need to be the ones elevating the profession and democratization.”

The future of research is democratized & evenly distributed

Ned envisions a future where research isn’t just democratized; it’s evenly distributed. Everyone in an organization should have easy access to insights in a central repository. Research should be ubiquitous, not siloed. 

“Within an organization, research will always be done by people with formal titles, like the UXR team. But research should also be able to be conducted by any marketer, product manager, or designer. In fact, the executive team should expect that research is a part of every product requirements doc, pitch, and quarterly business review.”

With research democratization happening before our eyes, Ned believes it’s now about empowering people to participate, while also putting the proper guardrails in place. This includes augmentation by artificial intelligence.

“We're seeing the rise of artificial intelligence as a way to help us to effectively generate more pattern understanding. This is the future.”

How do we get there?

To evenly distribute research democratization, Ned believes four key shifts need to happen.

  1. Cultural shifts: Many of the world's best companies, like Atlassian, Zapier, and Figma, have embraced research democratization as the future. They are leading the way.
  2. Education: Democratization still requires ongoing education to teach new people the power of research and the skills required to conduct research and analyze insights. Look for a growing emphasis on training and enablement.
  3. Process improvements: Every part of the research process – from panel management to data governance – will continue to be optimized for greater efficiency and impact. It’s essential to protect people who do research and their customers.
  4. Tooling: Shifts in research culture, education, and processes will require major advances in research tools, which put guardrails in place and enforce hard limits for the research practices that are developed.

Together, these four shifts will increase awareness of the powers of research, remove barriers to participation, elevate research specialists, and create greater business impact.

“We believe democratization is a tide that will lift all boats.”

How Great Question is moving the world forward

At Great Question, we’re focused on advancing the world of research, from building and managing a panel, to running customer interviews, to storing and sharing what you learn with your team.

“Looking back on 2022, we've really built the most robust panel management system on the planet. I believe that we are the singular best research infrastructure that exists out there.”

Last year at Great Question also included major advancements to:

  • Screener surveys, which now feature skip logic, automated screening, pre-built question banks, and templates.
  • Our UX repository, with local and global tags, highlight reels, and insight reports that are easier to share and embed.
Note: This includes some of the major initiatives, but not an exhaustive list of everything released. You can view the entire history in our changelog here.

Looking ahead at 2023, there are two main product roadmap themes at Great Question.

  • Collaboration: Research is a team sport. You should be able to easily bring your team into the research process with comments and tags, the same way you do in Google Docs or Figma.
  • Artificial intelligence: In a sea of data, AI should be used to help create sense. “We don't want to replace the researcher. We want to make your life easier, and make it easier for ‘people who do research’ to make sense of the work they're doing.”

Introducing Observer Rooms on Great Question

In closing, Ned shared a special announcement – the launch of Observer Rooms.

It’s always been hard to bring your team along to your customer interviews without overwhelming the participant. Now with Great Question Observer Rooms, you can easily create and share a separate live stream of your customer interview. This allows your team to watch without being seen or heard by the participant. 

“Research is the fastest way for people to understand the problem of the customer, but it's intimidating to have a thousand people watch you. It’s not a great participant experience – especially if people forget to mute their microphones while eating lunch or they interject with questions and run things off the rails.”

Anytime you schedule a customer interview with Great Question, you can spin up a separate Observer Room where designers, marketers, and other stakeholders can follow along. Observer Rooms feature real-time transcripts and are compatible with Zoom, Google Meets, Microsoft Teams, and more.

Key takeaways

To kick off our inaugural PWDR virtual event, Ned discussed:

  • Why the future of research democratization is evenly distributed – a powerful tide that will lift all boats.
  • How Great Question is moving the world forward with the only unified customer research platform, from panel management to method execution to repository.
  • Our product roadmap themes for 2023: Collaboration and AI.

He also invited you join:

Not bad for “a crazy idea."

Jack is the Content Marketing Lead at Great Question, the end-to-end UX research platform for customer-centric teams. Previously, he led content marketing and strategy as the first hire at two insurtech startups, Breeze and LeverageRx. He lives in Omaha, Nebraska.

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