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The State of User Research Report 2020

We asked over 300 user researchers what their research practices looked like, how their teams were laid out, and what they earned.

User research is on the rise. Bold statement, right? Not really. From 1983 to 2017, the UX profession grew from 1,000 to 1 million, according to NNg. From 2017 to 2050, they estimate it will grow to 100 million strong. When we made our map of user research tools, we documented 50 tools devoted entirely to helping companies learn more about their customers, 64% of which didn’t exist 10 years ago. Search intent for “user research” has risen 4.25x in the last 10 years.

Today, the world of user research is full of curious people helping companies learn more about customers. From our quick research, there are at least 15 online communities devoted specifically to user research, with over 85,000 members. Since we can’t comb the whole internet for UXR communities, those numbers are likely higher! There are currently over 54,000 full time jobs with the keyword “user research” listed on Indeed, plus over 16,000 on LinkedIn.

The quick hits

We surveyed over 300 researchers and people who do research for our biggest State of User Research yet. We’ll share ALL the details in this 113-page report, but here are a few of the highlights that stood out to us.

93% of researchers conduct research before anyone designs anything. 

This year, we heard from more people doing research earlier in the product development cycle. It's exciting to see this change, especially since it’s a sign that teams are using research to develop new ideas rather than validate their existing ones. 

Research is a tool to ideate and evaluate, not validate. 

43% of researchers say their favorite thing about research is making decisions with better evidence. With 93% of researchers conducting research before designing anything there’s more evidence gathering before any designs are made. We also heard from more people compared to last year who are doing research throughout the product development cycle (56%), which is a good sign that research is an important part of each stage of the process. 

70% of researchers thought less than half of stakeholders knew how to access research findings.

Stakeholder buy-in is so important to how much impact research can have within an organization. But most of our respondents said less than 40% of stakeholders knew how to access research findings. They also listed stakeholder buy-in as one of their biggest frustrations in their current jobs. 

We found that in organizations where more stakeholders had access to research findings, researcher’s felt their work was more effective and important to the organization. We hope to see stakeholder access and buy-in grow in the coming years!

96% of people who do research conduct more than one type of research every month.

Researchers used a variety of methods to get the job done. The most popular were user interviews, moderated usability tests, surveys, and field studies. But most researchers (82%) used 4-7 methods a month to learn more about their users. 

80% of researchers feel their company could be doing more research

Last year, this number was 75%, so even more researchers want even more research this year. There’s always more to understand about your users, so it’s no surprise that researchers want to be doing even more research.

Carrie Boyd
Former Content Writer at UI

Carrie Boyd is a UXR content wiz, formerly at User Interviews. She loves writing, traveling, and learning new things. You can typically find her hunched over her computer with a cup of coffee the size of her face.

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