#UXRTO Meetup Notes: Alison Post on Being Part of a Big UX Research Team

Alison shared her learnings from going from a research team of one, to 30 UXRs at Shopify

Remember Alison Post? We spoke to her ahead of our meet-up at Shopify about how she got started in UX research and what she’s learned in her journey as a research so far.

Tonight, she gave us an overview of research at Shopify based on her experience on their Marketing Technology team, where they build tools to make marketing easier for merchants.

Here’s what we learned from Alison at tonight’s #UXRTO meetup, Scaling Your UX Research Practice.

Before Shopify, Alison was a UX research team of one. But at Shopify, she’s on a team of over 30 researchers embedded onto different project teams.

So how did having 30 times the research horsepower change her approach? She shared her learnings with us.

Expand your research scope

Alison walked us through Shopify’s Get Shit Done Framework, and the research questions they focus on in each phase:

  • Pre-Build (ideation and exploration): What potential problems can we solve? What should we focus on?
  • Build (prototyping): Can people use what we’ve built?
  • Post launch (measuring): Are people using it like we thought they would? What incremental improvements can we make?

As a team of one, Alison focused on the prototyping phase of that framework — i.e., hella usability testing.

Now, as an embedded UX researcher on a project team, she’s able to make an impact as the product grows, from the hazy days of ideation to the polished UI that gets shipped.

Her advice to those of us looking to scale up is to ask bigger picture questions as often as possible. Even if you’re stuck in the pattern of lots of usability testing and not much impact otherwise, you can always ask those key questions during your research to build context and start to tell a story you can use to sell the value of research throughout your process.

Researchers at Shopify work with teams, not for teams. Alison told us that user research is a team sport:

“Move away from reactive research by proactively inserting yourself earlier into the project”

Build your research underground network

If a PM comes to you with a question you don’t have the answer to, what do you do?

At Shopify, researchers hop into their private slack channel, lob out the question, and usually, some great insights come back!

Shopify’s UXR team has built a lot of context on many different areas of Shopify, and they turn to each other to leverage that knowledge. They keep their network tight so that they don’t have to answer every question from scratch.

Alison’s advice if you’re trying to build this kind of network is to create your own! Share your work liberally, meet people in your org and others, and work on building up your context over time.