3 tips for starting a UX division from scratch

By Amy Kelly | August 11, 2020
team of 3 people in front of a laptop

Over 15 weeks of The Espresso Webinar Series, we interviewed some of Europe’s leading UX practitioners from brands like Skyscanner, TalkTalk, Culture Trip, Trainline, and The Stars Group. From those conversations, amidst a wealth of insights and advice on various topics, we’ve pulled together three tips for building a UX research function from the ground up. 

How to start a UX division from scratch

1. Build relationships across the organisation to simplify integration

Many UX professionals highlight the importance of building relationships across an organisation. This ensures that the UX team is known more broadly across teams and, ideally, brought into projects earlier and more consistently. 

On episode seven (part two), UX Researcher at TalkTalk, Eleonora Costamagna, shared how she and her colleague, Samuel Alvito, were the first to kick-start the UX function at their organisation. For them, relationship-building was imperative.

Creating connections with some areas of the business [was] important for us—from the data and analytics team to the insight team. We started talking about ‘how do we split responsibilities? How do we work together? How do we collaborate to make sure we build that big customer understanding picture…’ 

-Eleonora Costamagna, UX Researcher, TalkTalk

When working across different teams and individuals you need to be flexible. You may find colleagues from other teams have a keen interest in UX research but others may have little understanding of its incredible value and impact. 

It’s your job to make sure all of the different teams are aware of the value of UX research, but it’s also important for you to tailor your consultative approach to meet the varying needs of different business groups. Some may need more convincing than others to fully understand the impact a UX research function can have on business outcomes.

2. Enable other teams to conduct their own research

There’s an ongoing debate in the research community around whether or not scaling research helps or hinders research initiatives within an organisation. In episode five (part two), Michelle Lotia, Head of User Research at Trainline, discusses how enabling design and product teams to do their own research can be effective for freeing up the research team’s time to focus on research that heavily impacts business strategy.

Coaching and supporting our design and product teams to do their own usability testing was critical for me to be able to make a bigger impact on research as a strategic function. For coaching, we developed training and templates to help nail down their research objectives.

-Michelle Lotia, Head of User Research, Trainline

In episode four (part two) of the series, Anne Stevens, Director of UX research at Culture Trip, shared her tips for enabling designers to conduct their own research, including support, continuous guidance throughout research projects, and templates for customer tests.

If we didn’t have designers conducting research too then a lot of work would just end up going live without being tested first. This method also ensures that designers have regular contact with the users they are designing for. 

-Anne Stevens, Director of UX research, Culture Trip

Finally, it’s vital for anyone conducting research to share their findings, so developing a method for all teams to share customer findings across the business will have lasting benefits. And finding ways to centralise research results will ensure insights aren’t lost in a vacuum.

3. Communicate the ROI of UX research early and often  

In episode five (part one), Daryn Hobden, Head of UX Architecture at The Stars Group, spoke to the importance of understanding your audience when it comes to communicating UX research findings. He advised fellow UX practitioners to build strong relationships with business intelligence (BI) teams and to determine what metrics are most important to the leadership team and senior stakeholders outside of UX. This can become invaluable when explaining the business need for further resources and team members.

When you have the numbers, you can take what you’ve done and show how the improvements made an impact.

-Daryn Hobden, Head of UX Architecture, The Stars Group

Beyond the metrics, strategic reasoning for research is foundational for building initial interest and trust with stakeholders—especially when you’re building a new team. Oli Mival, Head of User Research at Skyscanner, shared how to shift the conversation with senior-level colleagues to help them understand the true ROI of research.

Strip back all the low-level conversations about how to do research and when to do it, by asking, ‘Why are we doing it?’

-Oli Mival, Head of User Research, Skyscanner 

Communicating how research impacts business decisions is innately valuable. In fact, it may help your research function to scale more quickly and with more internal advocates pushing for its success.

Making a business impact with UX research

Whether your organisation is large or small, new or familiar with research, or a team of one, the value of UX research is inarguable. 

UX researchers rely on UserTesting’s on-demand human insights to make more informed decisions at scale. Try UserTesting for yourself, here’s a link to your free trial.

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About the author(s)
Amy Kelly

Amy is a marketer in the EMEA region. When she’s not working hard on promoting brands in EMEA, you can find her exploring Edinburgh’s culinary arts.