When we conduct research studies, we have a set of goals and objectives that guide us as we investigate research questions. Whether we're evaluating the usability of a feature, conducting exploratory interviews, or gathering quantitative data, the research study will likely result in a list of observations, patterns, and behaviors related to a user's experience. The raw data from the study are the research findings.
A list of findings, alone, is often not enough to fully communicate how users conceptualize a topic or why they experienced a certain struggle. Through analysis and synthesis of the data gathered in a research study, we are able to distill insights that connect the dots between related concerns and provide an additional layer of understanding. These synthesized research findings evolve into a cohesive collection of insights that enables stakeholders to make informed decisions. We support each insight with evidence that can be referenced during discussions, typically in the form of video clips, interview quotes, or statistical data.
At GitLab, we measure the impact of our research by:
There are two types of insights: Actionable and Informative.
Informative insights help us learn about something or someone and don’t result in immediate action. Instead, these insights help build knowledge about our users, industries, competitors, and so on. For example:
- Most developers who took part in the survey were first introduced to GitLab while they were in school.
- Developers use about three other applications in addition to GitLab as part of their jobs.
When documenting informative insights, no special actions or processes need to be followed. These simply get documented into Dovetail, per the standard process.
Actionable insights always have a follow-up action that needs to take place as a result of the research observation or data, and a clear recommendation or action associated with it. An actionable insight both defines the insight and clearly calls out the next step. Here are two different examples:
- Users weren't able to submit a merge request in the proposed design because they couldn't find the “Submit” button. They expected it to be located at the top of the page. Action: Iterate on the design to relocate the 'Submit' button to the top of the page and retest (link to Issue # XYZ).
- IT Admins want a way to view all of their teams' activity over time, in 15 min increments. IT Admins are being asked to report on this information as part of a new company policy. Action: Explore the feasibility of such a request (link to Issue # ABC).
When creating an actionable insight issue to propose a change to a feature or product area under use, be cognizant of the wider impact of the changes on the top JTBDs associated with that area. If the data backing the insight does not provide enough confidence in the highlighted problem, take additional measures to validate it.
Actionable insights need to be handled differently than informative insights. Actionable insights are tracked over time and will include follow-up, so document actionable insights in Dovetail and in GitLab as unique Issues.
When you document an actionable insight, its three main components are:
Tips for writing an actionable insight:
To document actionable insights:
~"Actionable Insight::Exploration needed"scoped label.
~"Actionable Insight::Product change"scoped label. Note that the
~"SUS::Impacting"label and a severity label are both required for actionable insights that require product changes.
Both templates use a corresponding scoped label (above) to keep track of the progress being made regarding next step(s). To streamline this process, add a link to the Dovetail insight in the GitLab issue, rather than typing out all the details again. (If you want to include details, you certainly can.)
~"group::source code") label to the issue. This is done to identify and track actionable insights at the group level.
If the insight is already documented within an issue, you can add an
~"Actionable Insight::Product change" or
~"Actionable Insight::Exploration needed" label to avoid redundant documentation. However, it is important to ensure the existing issue accurately addresses 1) the insight and 2) what needs to be done. When one or both aspects are lacking in detail, you will need to update the existing issue before adding a label.
Actionable insights are created and managed by the person closest to the research, which is typically the Product Manager, Product Designer, or UX Researcher. However, it’s ultimately up to the team to decide who manages actionable insights.
All discussions and decisions made about the actionable insight must be documented within the issue, because these issues are tracked as performance indicators. As we track actionable insights over time, it’s important to understand what kinds of decisions we’re making based on user research.
When closing an actionable insight issue, it’s important to document why it was closed and whether the original action was acted upon.
In some cases, no action will be taken for a number of reasons, such as low priority, too large of an effort, not technically feasible, and so on. Regardless of the reason, document the decisions in the issue when closing it.
Both Problem Validation and Solution Validation need to follow the actionable insights documentation process if actionable insights are discovered. For example:
The above examples have one thing in common regardless of the kind of research: the insight is actionable, and therefore, must be documented as such.
Additionally, UX Scorecard testing can yield actionable insights. Since UX Scorecard testing is an expert review and/or heuristic evaluation, creating Dovetail insights may not be applicable. Instead, be sure to document the details in the GitLab issue using the actionable insight template in GitLab.com.
We label issues containing insights identified through customer calls differently than other insights, because they don't directly relate to UX research efforts or tracking. For issues that contain insights derived from customer calls (or other customer support channels), please use the
~"Customer feedback" label.
Actionable insights are tracked at GitLab for:
The following data is presently being tracked:
The data for the above can be viewed for each actionable insight scoped label:
Over time, once there's enough data, we might be able to slice this data at the stage/group level to help us understand what is (or isn't) working well. Based on what we learn, we’ll iterate on the approach.
Future data tracking considerations for actionable insights:
Regardless of the type of actionable insight, we groom each closed actionable insight issue and assign the proper
closed:: scoped label to them. Presently, this is a manual process done every other week by the UX Research Leadership team via a Slack bot notification. UX Research leaders start by understanding why the actionable insight issue was closed, then simply adding the correct
closed:: scoped label to it. An existing Sisense query then picks ups the issue for reporting purposes.
It's important to remember that insights often need context, since people may read them in isolation and misinterpret them. As you work on reporting on your study, it's important to keep the audience in mind and think about what you'd like them to learn from the study.
For example, you may find it useful to document all insights (big or small) from studies conducted on the GitLab interface to provide an explanation for why the interface has changed over time. This creates a record of why previous design decisions were not ideal, which can be helpful for discussions with newer team members. On the other hand, for design evaluations or tests with prototypes, it may be more relevant to focus on documenting the insights that answer the overarching research questions, since these studies often result in additional design iterations before implementation.
In either case, adding a brief "context" section at the top of the project description and providing a link to the relevant design artifact can help the reader better understand the background of the study.
Searching through Dovetail is a great way to get acquainted with GitLab users and learn about studies that have already been conducted. You can search and filter through insights, highlights, tags, and charts to find the research that is relevant to any stage, feature, and type of research.
Another approach is to look through the GitLab workspace homepage in Dovetail if you'd like to see a higher-level overview of research being conducted across the stages (internal access only).
Whether you're looking to better understand a user persona, learn about use cases for features, gather context for solving a problem, or plan a future research study, Dovetail has something for you.
Also known as desk research or secondary research. Sometimes it can be helpful to summarize and collate existing research to have a broader picture of users outside of a specific study. Insights from past studies can serve as a foundation for future studies and provide a high level overview of user behaviors and mental models.
To document insights from multiples studies, tag themes and create insights within individual Dovetail projects. Create a separate Dovetail story or project to summarize findings from multiple studies. Create an issue in GitLab which outlines the collated research project. Within that issue, add relevant Dovetail links and related issues.