Working from a prioritized list of research projects is necessary for UX Researchers at GitLab. This page walks through a process for UX Researchers to adopt within their own stages and stage groups to prioritize their research projects.
Researchers have limited capacity, so it’s important to make sure they’re spending their time on the most impactful research projects that are best suited for them to address directly. A set of prioritized projects helps the UX Researcher to push back when lower-priority projects surface. Having a prioritized list also helps UX Researchers move quickly on alternate projects as things change throughout the quarter.
UX Researchers provide a point of view on prioritization. Ultimately, Group Product Managers or Directors of Product make the final decision on research project prioritization. The below process is designed to help facilitate research project prioritization in a standardized way.
Trying to prioritize research projects across stages and stage groups can be difficult for PMs and UX Researchers, because UX Researchers at GitLab work on multiple stage groups and often across stages. This structure results in UX Researchers working with a number of stakeholders, each with their own priorities. Some other reasons include:
The following process can help address these challenges.
The steps outlined here offer guidance and recommendations (not requirements) that can be adjusted to fit team needs. This process is best suited to teams that have changing research priorities and availability to support UX Researchers as they take the lead on projects. This process takes 3 weeks to complete and should be started prior to the start of the quarter.
Step 1: Create a quarterly research planning issue
On a quarterly cycle, the UX Researcher will create a research planning issue that includes a list of prospective studies to be prioritized. UX Researchers should work together with Product Managers and Product Designers from the stage groups they support to generate a list of research questions and projects in the research issue. When possible, UX Researchers will propose projects that address research questions from across the team.
The issue with all known potential research issues should be ready for prioritization two weeks before the start of the quarter.
Throughout the quarter, the UX Researcher will use the research planning issue as a single source of truth and will communicate the status of prioritized research projects and link dedicated research project issues. For example,
Monthly, the UX Researcher will facilitate revisiting the research planning issue to refine and update the list to align with monthly development cycles and address any ad-hoc requests.
Optional: As research issues are created throughout the quarter, teams can use a label to show status and support level. This provides flexibility in how the teams want to view in-flight research throughout the quarter.
Timeline guidance for Step 1: This should be completed within one week
Step 2: Use the Research Priority Calculator
The UX Researcher and Product Manager will use the Research Priority Calculator (search Research Priority Calculator TEMPLATE in Google Drive to access) to determine the priorities of identified research projects. For a detailed legend on each criteria, see the second tab in the Research Priority Calculator labeled "Criteria Legend."
For more details on the calculator, see about the research priority calculator.
Timeline guidance for Step 2: This should be completed within one week
Step 3: Transfer the results to the quarterly research planning issue
The last step is to bring the results from the calculator to the quarterly research planning issue, and then discuss them with the teams.
Timeline guidance for Step 3: This should be completed within one week
The Research Priority Calculator (search Research Priority Calculator TEMPLATE in Google Drive to access) is a tool meant to provide recommendations on which research projects to prioritize and what level of support is needed from the UX Researcher. The calculator takes into account the following areas:
|Issue||Link to research issue|
|Type||The type of research the project falls into: foundational, problem validation, solution validation.|
|Ownership||Can this research be supported someone other than a UX Researcher?|
|Complexity||Does this project involve multiple studies or methodologies?|
|Development||Will this support skill development for the team or refine a process if a UX Researcher is involved?|
|Confidence||What level of confidence or knowledge do you have in the proposed solution or area of focus?|
|Impact||How will the results impact GitLab?|
|Users||How much of the user base will this project consider? Consider the entire user base.|
|Scope||Does this project align with company, section, stage, or stage group objectives?|
|Section or Stage Group||What Section or Stage Group does this project fall under?|
|Timeline||When should this research be completed by?|
|Status||Status of the project|
Each criteria receives a score according to the table below and then is summed and divided by 24 (total possible score).
|Type||Foundational = 3
Problem Validation = 2
Solution Validation = 1
|Ownership||Yes = 3
Somewhat = 2
No = 1
|Complexity||Yes = 2
No = 1
I don’t know = 0
|Development||Yes = 3
Somewhat = 2
No = 1
|Confidence||High = 3
Medium = 2
Low = 1
|Impact||Influence product strategy = 3
Changes to product = 2
Supports a design decision = 1
|Users||All = 3
Most = 2
Some = 1
|Scope||Company = 4
Section = 3
Stage = 2
Stage Group = 1
After a score is assigned for each area, the calculator will output a priority score percentage (the higher the percentage, the higher in priority the project is) and support level for each project.
An output of the Research Priority Calculator includes a Researcher Support Level. This is defined as the level of support the UX Researcher can commit to a given research project. Having a clear delineation of the roles that UX Researchers play in each research project helps everyone understand what is expected of them to execute research and support success.
|Researcher Support Level||Priority Percentage|
|Gold 🥇||Greater than 80%|
|Silver 🥈||Between 51% and 80%|
|Bronze 🥉||50% or less|
|Researcher Support Level||Description|
End to end
|DRI: UX Researcher
What these projects look like: Large, strategic, rigorous projects that could benefit from a research specialist. Typically, foundational research, complex research questions, or high-priority problem validation.
Who does what? The UX Researcher drives project management, aspects of execution, and completion of most tasks, but has support from Product and Design. While the UX Researcher is the DRI, the team is highly encouraged to participate in research sessions, analysis, discussions of results, and so on.
Estimated number of studies:
- 0.5 - 2 active projects (depending on UX Researcher's level)
- Research impacting multiple studies
- Multi-method studies
What these projects look like: These primarily consist of problem validation projects.
Who does what? The UX Researcher takes on specified tasks within a study and advises on the rest. Product and Design drive project management aspects of execution and completing most tasks with support from the UX Researcher.
Estimated number of studies:
- 1 - 6 active projects (depending on UX Researcher's level)
- The UX Researcher and Product Manager or Product Designer collaborate on the research methodology, craft a script, or review an analysis.
- The UX Researcher provides dedicated support for specific tasks that take less than a few days to execute.
What these projects look like: These primarily consist of solution and problem validation projects.
Who does what? The UX Researcher is consulted on specific aspects of a study. Product/Design is drives project management aspects of execution and completing most tasks, with advice from a UX Researcher. The team tags the UX Researcher in the issue to provide context and a due date for when feedback is needed.
Estimated number of studies:
- No more than 10% of the UX Researcher's time should be dedicated to supporting these projects.
- Reviewing an interview script
- Participant recruiting criteria
- Methodology choice
It’s normal to identify brand new research projects in an ad-hoc manner after prioritization happens, and you can still fold those new requests into the existing prioritized list. Here’s how to do that:
Throughout the quarter, the UX Researcher will maintain their research planning issue. This issue will serve as a section’s SSOT for all UX research.
Optional: Towards the end of quarter, the UX Researcher will open a Retro comment thread to get feedback on how the process went for the team. This is an opportunity to reflect on the planning process, discuss how research went throughout that cycle, and identify any improvements to make in the next cycle.
Some questions you might consider in the retro comment thread: