BuzzFeed Design
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BuzzFeed Design

How we do UX Research at BuzzFeed

I joined BuzzFeed as a solo UX Researcher in a fast-moving environment, and this week marked my first year here. So, I wanted to explain how we set up UX Research in the past year, what our process looks like, and what our plans are for the future of UX Research at BuzzFeed.

1- Building the Research Repository

As a research team of one, I own the Research Operations processes in addition to running research studies. One of the very first things I did when I joined BuzzFeed was to explore the previously conducted research and the inventory (handled mainly by designers and product managers) and create a research repository. My goal here was to make research centralized and accessible.

Research repositories are the “single source of truth” as it helps stakeholders locate research studies easier to avoid losing knowledge, information, and time on future studies by repeating existing projects.

I built the repository using Coda and Google Drive. Each project is located under its dedicated product team, where users (a.k.a stakeholders) can find the research plans, research findings summary, and other related information (e.g., prototypes, participant videos, research report) from one dedicated location.

With the research repository building process, my biggest challenge has been finding enough time to build a robust meta-data framework for each project we have done. One of the short-term goals for Q4 for the UX Research at BuzzFeed is to tidy up the repository and reorganize the data using atomic research methodologies.

In the hopes of coaching and guiding designers, product managers, and other teams to do some of the research themselves, I also spared space within the repository to introduce the most used methods in detail. Teaching and encouraging other teams to conduct more day-to-day usability testing and quick research practices will help the iterative product development cycle and provide space to focus on strategizing user research.

The screenshot shows a snippet of the research repository on Coda

2- Product Teams Meetings & Kickoff Workshops

Upon joining BuzzFeed, I also prioritized meeting with different product teams to better understand their projects, working relationships and styles, and the need for user research. I introduced user research to the product teams and got familiar with their projects. This is a practice I try to do periodically with all the teams that I support. Our goal during the next year of UX Research at BuzzFeed is to turn this step into a systematic cycle to implement strategic research initiatives into product development.

We also collaborate on user research kickoff workshops to better identify the stakeholders’ user questions and prioritize our focus on the research study. During such workshops, we try to find answers to the following questions:

  • What are you currently working on?
  • How does user research fit into the current project and its lifecycle?
  • What do you want to know more about the users? And why?
  • What kind of business questions do you have?
  • What kind of user questions do you have?
  • How risky is it not to have answers to the current user questions?
  • How much (and what) do we know already about the users?
The screenshot shows a step from one of our kickoff workshops

3- Preparing the research

After meeting with the product teams and understanding their problem space, we move on to the research plan, which highlights the research’s objectives, the problem we are tackling and why, research questions, methodologies, participant criteria, research timeline, and the session guide.

As including the stakeholders in each step of research is very helpful for the research’s visibility and recognition, we constantly seek feedback on the research plan from the product teams. Do we need any other crucial research questions? Does the proposed timeline work well with the sprint? Are we targeting the right participants with the criteria that we set?

Also, thanks to BuzzFeed’s loyal users, when we advertise a screener survey on our platforms with an article, we receive many qualifying respondents to recruit participants for the study. This method has been working pretty well whenever we need to ask questions to our current users (whether they are new or returning users).

4- Conducting the research

Once we are ready to speak with our users, either through a survey, moderated interviews, or unmoderated studies, we launch the research and participate in the studies as a whole team. As the UX Researcher, I run and moderate the studies. At the same time, we value stakeholder participation in the research studies, so they observe as much as possible.

Currently, we are in a cycle where we mostly switch between usability tests, contextual inquiries, interviews, surveys, and interviews with surveys (when appropriate) — which has been working well. We aim to aggregate more creative methods and take advantage of quantitative data as long as they are applicable as the next steps for UX Research at BuzzFeed.

5- Research Shareout

Once the research is finalized, analyzed (breaking it down to pieces), and synthesized (identifying the themes and patterns), we schedule a shareout session where stakeholders and I go over what we did, why we did it, and what we found out.

We try to highlight the research insights with themes (and sub-themes) and support them with user data such as quotes and clips.

6- The Follow-up

After receiving the research findings report, the product teams and I regroup to discuss the research insights and relevance and how research findings can further connect with the following steps on the product.

We also discuss if new user questions have emerged for us to conduct a follow-up user research study and restart the research process with product teams meetings and kickoff workshops.

I hope this article gives you insights into how we started working on user research at BuzzFeed and what we want to focus on improving as the next steps. If you have questions (or feedback) about any of the items mentioned above, feel free to shoot me a message on LinkedIn @/in/yagmurerten.

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