I am very excited to say that I am working on a second edition of User Research, published by Kogan Page, due out February 2022!

I’m very happy and grateful that people have found the book useful. I am very grateful to Kogan Page for giving me this opportunity to update the book, so I can add and share more things I have learnt in the last few years and new content relevant to how things have changed in the last few years.

New content to expect

Data Protection

In the first edition there is a small section of ethical and legal considerations when doing user research, since the book was published in March 2018 new data protection laws have come into effect in many parts of the world, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that protect citizens of the EU and UK, and California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA). So I will be adding more practical detail of how to handle user research data to comply with data protection laws. You may in a part of the world that doesn’t have the same kind of data protection legislation, but I would recommend taking on data protection practices as they also part of ethical practices in research and practical habits such as making sure data is findable in case you ever need to delete it. …

We are a Research Operations team of two, supporting about 20 people doing research activities. We work in the UX Research team, within the Springer Nature Digital team. We were both new to the organisation October / November 2019, so we’ve been a team for just over a year now.

This blog post is about the work we did to figure out what Research Operations work needed to be done and what we should prioritise in 2020. Emma Boulton talked about how to get started in ReOps here: https://medium.com/researchops-community/getting-started-with-researchops-f77cd6779554

This details a slightly different approach.

Our objective with this work was to understand current state, perception and the pain points in doing user research in SN Digital. We wanted to identify what work the UX Research team, led by Research Ops needs to do in 2020 based on the needs of the researchers, UXers and digital teams. …

I’ve been thinking for a while why it doesn’t feel right to me to jump straight into building or procuring a research library or research repository. Discussion of sharing research / findings / insights more effectively will often quickly turn to tools as solutions to this. But there is much to consider before you can have an effective research library, there is much infrastructure that needs to be in place.

There has long been debate around their usefulness. It is easy to articulate their benefit: https://dovetailapp.com/blog/user-ux-research-repository/

We’ve all been adjusting to living life in the face of COVID-19. Those of us who are privileged to be able to work at home, have been figuring out what works for us and what doesn’t.

In a beginning of day team chat for the UX research team, when permanent remote working and lockdown we’re still fairly new to us, we were discussing exactly this. Being research inclined, we started a spreadsheet to record our observations of what was and wasn’t working and opened it to the wider team. It was a simple spreadsheet with 4 columns:

  • What works well about remote…

Image for post
Image for post
Experience map. Source: https://www.gov.uk/service-manual/user-research/creating-an-experience-map

First I want to thank my colleague Rujuta Autade’s and her excellent work for inspiring me to reflect on different uses of experience map / journey maps / service models and blueprints. How I’ve used them, how people I have worked with have used them in both expected and unexpected ways.

My own experience

I have made maps to help with my own understanding of a process or journey. I have used maps in the expected way to visual an experience or a journey highlighting the pain points and the opportunities, this was common when I was a consultant.

I have made maps that were used in ways that diverged from the original intended outcome, but were still immensely useful. One such example was a service model I created of building a service. This may sounds very meta, and it is, but entirely appropriate as I was working in the service design, standards and assurance programme at Government Digital Service. This is a programme that focuses on support government to build services. I made this map because it had just been announced that the service standard was being updated and my team at the time needed to understand what updating the standard would impact, we were particular concerned interested in what guidance, such as the service manual, would be impacted. So we could scope work we’d potentially need to do. …

Recently I co-ran a couple of workshops on ethics in user research with my excellent boss. We ran them for the researchers and user experience designers in the digital team in Springer Nature, across London, Berlin and Pune.

We covered theory and practical application of 3 different frameworks, as well as unintended consequences. Three different ways to think about the ethics of a situation, look at it from different perspectives. One may resonate with you more than another, as a way to frame a situation and make potentially tough decisions, in ethical grey areas.

My boss took the groups two traditional models, applying them to two different scenarios and working through the model to arrive at a solution. …

This blog is based I did a talk about combining quantitative and qualitative data at UX Istanbul 2020. It was a 40 minute talk, which makes for a fairly long read.

Why am I talking about this?

Image for post
Image for post

Gathering data for me is about taking opinion out of the equation as much as possible when making decisions about the work that needs to be done. I’ve seen people ignore the data, because they know better than the evidence, to disastrous consequences. If you want to meet your users needs, then you need data — both quantitative and qualitative depending on the situation to make good decisions, one type of data isn’t better than the other wholesale — its using the right data at the right time. You need both to build the right thing and to build the thing right. GDS designers are very good at making posters like these, that speak powerful truths in simple ways. …

Dot and line diagrams visualising centralised and distributed. Image source: Google.
Dot and line diagrams visualising centralised and distributed. Image source: Google.

I will be one of the speakers at UXInsight in the Netherlands (8 April 2020). I will be comparing and contrasting how research ops is done at two different organisations I have worked, one with a ReOps team and one without.

Nowadays for those in the know, it seems so obvious to state that having a Research Ops function as well as User Researcher in your organisation is better than not having one. But there are still many organisations that don’t have people dedicated to ReOps. …

At GDS I was the head of user research and (performance) analysis, two disciplines working on gaining insight to make data driven, user centred decisions to design, build and deliver services and products that meet user needs. They are also two disciplines with different skill sets, particularly in government they require different expertise.

Performance Analysts straddle the Analytical and DDAT (Digital, Data and Technology) functions in government. It’s only recently been added to the DDAT job family. User research has been in the DDAT framework since the beginning (it’s not that its a competition, but they are thought of as different in government). Many user researchers have quantitative and qualitative research skills, others lean towards more qualitative or quantitative. There is some overlap between quantitative research and performance analytics; such as (but not limited to) A/B testing, and both have a lot of GDPR considerations. But mostly they require different and deep levels expertise to do well. What performance analysts do isn’t limited to A/B or reporting page views. It’s complex, technical and way beyond my understanding. …

Workplace bullying can be difficult to talk about. If bullying unfortunately must exist at all, it feels like it’s something that should be confined to the playgrounds of our youth. People often feel shame that they are being bullied. I did. I have unfortunately been bullied a few times in my career. I’ve also seen people being bullied and suffer in silence, not wanting to ‘make a fuss’ or be worried that speaking up will make it worse. …


Stephanie Marsh

Currently UX Research Operations Manager at Springer Nature. Formerly Head of User Research and Analysis at Government Digital Service. Also wrote a book on UR.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store