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State of User Research 2024: 3 Takeaways from a Non-Researcher

A card-carrying member of the people who do research (PWDR) community unpacks the themes, data, and takeaways from this year’s report.

In case you missed it, the State of User Research has recently dropped, giving you an annual look at the trends defining the ux research landscape.

Unsurprisingly, there are lots of insights in this year’s report that impact professional researchers—but what about the many folks who work alongside them? With our non-researcher colleagues in mind, we thought it’d be helpful to hone in on three key findings from the 2024 survey, from the point-of-view of a non-researcher (me!).

More on these findings and data below.

🍋 Ready to dive into the report? Head to the State of User Research 2024 to explore and download the full report + dataset.

Editor’s note: In the report, and in this article, we use the term “researchers” to mean everyone who regularly does user research; capital-R Researchers refers specifically to people with UX/user research titles (or equivalent); PwDRs, people who do research, refers to people who spend at least 10% of their job on user research but who aren’t UXRs in name.

Research in isolation no more?

Not entirely. However, the data is showing signals that Research is becoming less of a lonely island and is evolving into an archipelago of sorts? Land mass analogies/arguments aside, we’re seeing signals that research is ascending, spanning multiple teams rather than holding firm as a standalone function at companies.

In fact, we found that Research tends to roll up into another department—most commonly Product, Design, or UX.

Most dedicated Researchers (77%) are embedded in one of those three teams, working alongside “non-Researchers”. For every dedicated Researcher, there are 1 to 5 people who do research (PWDRs) on average.

A non-researcher’s take on the data: People who work alongside Research teams are unlikely to be surprised that this function is finally hitting the mainstream, becoming further integrated into cross-functional workflows as companies continue to see the value of data-informed decision-making. The next step: giving Research a seat at the executive table.

More non-researchers are joining the party

While they might not have the deep expertise of their Researcher counterparts, PWDRs across the organization are becoming more empowered to do research.

This can be a great thing. The proliferation of researchers is, however, turning into a growing challenge for Research Operations (ReOps) professionals, who are spread pretty thin as it is — a single ReOps Specialist supports the work of 10 to 25 people on average (and that number increases with company size). 

Why should we non-researchers care about this? Well, for starters, ReOps isn’t just a “nice-to-have” — the percentage of PWDRs who felt positively about the amount of research support they received was nearly 2X higher among those with ReOps vs. those without. 

A non-researcher’s take on the data: With great power comes great responsibility. Research is no exception to this rule– companies (and Research functions alike) need to know that the investment of limited ReOps resources in supporting non-research colleagues is paying off. 

Get this: User Interviews has a free course that gives you all the tools and information you need to confidently do your own research. Register here to join the live sessions or watch on demand any time.

The [research] future freaks me out

Decoupling uncertainty and the job market has been a challenge for organizations in recent years, no less so when it comes to Research functions.

When asked how they’re feeling about job opportunities and room for growth within User Research, most dedicated Researchers and ReOps specialists responded in the negative. This is a decline from last year as well—23% of all participants (27% of dedicated Researchers) said they felt negatively in 2024, up from 14% to 15% in 2023.

The silver lining: 73% of researchers agree or strongly agree with the statement: “I can easily see User Research remaining a core part of my role in 10 years’ time.”

A non-researcher’s take: The knock-on effect of the findings above can often manifest in the form of pressure to show Research ROI early and often. It’s an ongoing challenge: like many other roles, Research is collaborative and in many instances, their insights are often tee’d up for other stakeholders to execute (and in turn, control Research’s ROI destiny). Without the proper guardrails in place, determining Research attribution can turn murky fast.

All hail our robot overlords

There’s nowhere to hide when it comes to the conversation around artificial intelligence (AI), which has now found its way into the research zeitgeist.

Our survey found that 56% of respondents have incorporated AI into their workflows, a 30% increase over last year’s findings. Have we ushered in a new era of automation, or is there more to this AI story?

A non-researcher’s take: Back to that great power/responsibility dynamic referenced above. AI can benefit researchers in multiple ways, as our third Research 101 for Non-Researchers session on data discussed, but not without hefty guardrails and review for robot-induced errors at this point. When it comes to AI as automation, however, there could be new avenues to make research workflows more efficient for everyone involved.

State of User Research 2024: Non-researchers take note

Arguably the least controversial take of this article is that more non-researchers can take advantage of our latest State of User Research data to better understand the feelings of and headwinds facing their Research counterparts. To that end, we’ve made the data very non-researcher friendly, so feel free to dive right in and see for yourself.

When you’re done, you can check out these resources we’ve assembled below.

Nick Lioudis
Content & Community Director
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