Note — Since writing the Polaris method has evolved to be more similar to the Glean.ly concept, and therefore is out-of-date. I’ve left it here for posterity.
We’ve been working on the concept of Atomic Research for over a year now. But we’re not alone…
If you haven’t already, you might like to read my introduction to our concept of Atomic Research over here >>
We are so excited about this concept that we’re building a UX repository around the concept called Glean.ly.
Meanwhile, Wework’s former Head of UX and celebrated UX author, Tomer Sharon has also been working on a concept he calls Atomic Research which he had turned into a product called Polaris.
When I read his article my first thought was “Uh oh, we’re gonna have to find a new name!”
But I also recognised some major similarities and I wondered if the two concepts were similar enough that we could share the term.
I reached out to Tomer for a conversation and he kindly agreed to a meeting. After an enjoyable and enlightening chat we agreed that the two ideas were perfectly compatible.
So let me explain the main differences:
The Polaris ‘Atomic Research’
The idea of breaking UX research down into small ‘nuggets’.
Rather than long form reports resulting from extensive testing, nuggets are formed from a single-experience insight about a customer’s experience.
The Polaris system specifically uses videos and audio as the source for nuggets and each one can be tagged to make it searchable.
This makes research and decision making super quick and inexpensive.
The Glean.ly ‘Atomic Research’
The concept of breaking any UX knowledge down into its constituent parts.
- Experiments “We did this…”
- Facts “…and we found out this…”
- Insights “…which makes us think this…”
- Conclusions “…so we’ll do that.”
It too will be highly searchable. As well as that, the Glean.ly system will allow you to connect several insights together to support or disprove conclusions — even across experiments.
This makes research collaborative, helps you spot patterns and ensures decision making is evidence based.
Breaking down in to small parts
Both concepts advocate for research to be treated as small atoms of information that can live independently of large reports.
Both concepts support products that will allow a team to have a highly searchable repository of user insights.
A key benefit of both products is that insights are visible and usable to anyone within the company without having to dredge through traditional page based reports.
Reducing repetition of research
As Tomer calls it, “Bad Research Memory”. Knowledge gets lost in piles of research reports, people leave the organisation and research is repeated, wasting time and resources.
Polaris for speed and simplicity
Polaris aims to reduce the time it takes to generate useful insights by restricting them to small snippets of video or audio. I see massive value in this and am a big fan of remote unmoderated research for this reason (just to be clear, Polaris supports moderated research too).
Glean.ly as a single place for all knowledge
Our system allows for storage and distribution of any type of research and aims to extract the knowledge generated to connect, combine and grow (or be disproved) to give greater understanding of users.
Is there a conflict?
No — in fact quite the opposite.
Polaris aims to be a useful way to generate insights.
Glean.ly looks to be a way to store and make insights more useful.
The Glean.ly concept of Atomic Research is certainly more complicated, but the concept of a ‘nugget’ is — in my mind — what we call an ‘insight’. Their video snippets are our ‘facts’, ours can be from any source. And we’ve got the addition of ‘conclusions’.
I hope one day people might be combining their Polaris nuggets with other insights within Glean.ly and discover something that takes their product to the next level.
Viva Atomic Research!