Why you need a Research Repository

At the UX Agency, we have seen at first hand the importance of a research repository within UX design teams. Saving time, increasing efficiency, and boosting collaboration are all benefits that have made our research repository invaluable. With more remote teams than ever, this cloud-based self service portal has truly proven its worth.

Is it the right approach for you? We take a look at what a research repository is, its benefits, drawbacks, and how to get the most from it.

A research repository is a single place to store all research knowledge and insights such as:

  • Interview videos

  • Survey results

  • Files

  • Transcripts

  • Documents

Shared drives such as Google Drive and Sharepoint may have had their place here in the past, but today innovative companies such as EnjoyHQ and Dovetail have tapped into the market, developing intuitive and secure research repositories for in-house and remote teams.

Analyse insights faster and more rigorously

Coding qualitative research is really time consuming, and can get messy. A repository unlocks a way to systematically and consistently apply tags and group them into themes so the overall insights become clear. There’s work to be done to decide on a tagging taxonomy, but this can evolve over time, and once tags have been created, it’s very quick to find key moments in video transcriptions and apply the same tags to them.

Self serve and make data-based decisions

A one-stop-shop for researchers, product managers, designers, business analysts, and developers can be hugely beneficial for businesses. With a research repository, teams can search the repository for key words and filter the results by variables that have been set up in advance, like date of research, methodology, persona, or product. There’s an education and training element to ensure all your stakeholders can find the research they need, and remember to go to the repository, but this unlocks the ability to answer questions without always asking the research team, and make decisions more grounded in evidence.

Don’t forget knowledge over time

By building up a bank of knowledge over time, research and product teams can answer questions without commissioning new studies. Too often, research reports languish on shared drives, difficult to search or even find in the future. A huge strength of a repository is to maintain a permanent record of all research, and see how the evidence is making your hypotheses stronger or weaker over time.

Repository challenges

Our experience has taught us how vital research repositories are, but that’s not to say they don’t come with challenges. However, in our experience, these have been greatly outweighed by the benefits.

For a research repository to work properly, there needs to be a proper methodology that the entire team follows. If researchers start to classify data in different ways or use inconsistent tags, the repository suddenly becomes an overwhelming web of incoherent data. This can be a huge challenge and something that is best to establish from the get-go.

Don’t forget knowledge over time

This leads us nicely into the best practices for a research repository: rules that have helped us set up, manage, and make the most of our research repository at the UX Agency.

1. Create a tagging taxonomy – and make sure everyone follows it!
If you don’t have a classification system that everyone understands and follows, the information can become overwhelming or inconsistent and difficult to use. Users will lose interest and go back to old habits as it takes them longer to find the data they need.
Take your time to decide on an appropriate global tagging taxonomy that is generic enough to stretch across all projects, and doesn’t have too many tags so it’s not overwhelming to find the appropriate tag. You also need to think about how you might want to search and report on data in the future; for example, if you’ll want to be able to find every negative issue with a certain product, then it makes sense to have a tag hierarchy for each product, and within that, for positives and negatives.

2. Get design teams involved
Design teams can self-serve and access data themselves, if they are supported to help them understand how to get the best out of the system. You’ll get the best gains if everyone in the team adds tags, uploads files, searches for past data, and discusses the system in your UX catch-ups.

3. Define the attributes of your data
Be sure to define attributes of your data such as the date, methodology, project, topic, researcher, and user attributes such as areas of expertise, persona types, country, and email. This way you will be able to filter and find what you need quickly and easily.

4. Provide a project summary
Each project needs a proper summary that can be found and quickly understood by those looking for answers within the data bank. Just dumping videos and insights in the repository without context or summary is likely going to slow teams down as they sift through looking for answers.

5. Include supporting documents
Keep any supporting documents such as examples from competitors, files, screenshots of resources, and links to prototypes, sites or apps all together with the relevant project in the repository. This will provide context which might be critical months or years down the line when teams have forgotten what the research was about.

In summary

A single intuitive place to store research saves businesses time, while also giving everyone the chance to make smarter decisions. Setting up a repository does come with challenges, however, these are greatly outweighed by the benefits, providing that the team follows these pointers. 

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