As a user researcher at Optimal Workshop, I’m constantly in touch with the people that use our tools. Each time someone signs up for a new account, either Ania or I check in to understand their research objectives, and offer assistance setting up and running their first studies in OptimalSort, Treejack, Chalkmark and Reframer. We also regularly carry out in-depth interviews with the people who use our tools, in person or remotely. Wherever possible we delve into the details of their work, the challenges they face and how we can continue to support their research objectives and better fit their needs.
To complement these individual stories, we recently invited a number of our researchers to complete a survey in order to develop a wider snapshot of how people use our tools.
We wanted to find out more about the following things:
- The environments researchers work in (e.g., small or large teams, independently) and how this varies by industry
- How often people use our tools
- How frequently they carry out other research tasks
And now that the results have come in, we thought that you might be interested in taking a peek at what we’ve found out.
Where in the world do you do UX?
We received responses from Optimal Workshop users in 29 different countries. Just under half of the respondents were based in the United States, followed by the United Kingdom at 14.6% and Canada at 8%. While this sample doesn’t cover our full geographic reach (our tools are translated into 70 languages, and are used in over 100 countries), the country breakdown was relatively representative of our current active user base. The exception to this is that we did receive proportionately more respondents from our top markets (USA, UK and Canada), which may represent a bias caused by the fact our survey was run in English only.
Are you a Lead User Interface Evangelist or an Associate Human Factors Extraordinaire? Okay, to be honest these rather overblown job titles were inspired by Aaron Weyenberg’s humorous UX job title generator rather than our survey respondents. Nevertheless, when we asked for the job title of each of our respondents, we received over a hundred unique titles! Despite the considerable variation of responses, there were some common themes. Over half of all respondent job titles contained either ‘Usability’, ‘User, ‘UX’ or ‘Experience’, with the most common single job title being User Experience/UX Designer at 18% of respondents. This was followed by User Experience/UX or User Researcher at 11%.The table below illustrates how frequently each of the following terms were found across all provided job titles.
In addition to assorted variations of ‘UX’ titles (UX Architect, Usability Analyst, Human Interface/Interaction Researcher), there were multiple instances of non-’UX’ titles, including among others, Product Manager, Marketing Manager, Librarian and Search Engine Specialist. While we’d like to put this range of job titles down to the flexibility of Optimal Workshop tools, this also likely reflects the welcome dispersion of a user-focused approach into other roles. Industry, role type and organization size. Who do you do UX for? Where does the typical Optimal Workshop user work? It’s clear that there’s not a straightforward answer! Just over a third of respondents described themselves as working within the range of Information Technology-related sectors. However, overall, respondents indicated that their work fell into at least 25 different industries. The following chart shows the percentage breakdown of the top ten industries. The large majority (64%) of respondents work as in-house employees, however, just under a third work in a consultant capacity, either within an agency or independently. There’s just as much variety in terms of organization size. Just over a third of respondents work in organization of less than 100 people, and at the other extreme, just under a quarter work in large enterprises of 5,000+ employees.
How big is a UX team (or how long is a piece of string)? While the median number of people who work in UX research or design across the organizations that use Optimal Workshop tools is five, there is a considerable spread between the smallest to the largest UX teams. We’ve seen everything from organizations that have no dedicated UX practitioners, to those with over 1,000 people working in the domain.
The following charts show how the number of UX practitioners in an organization vary depending on industry and organization size. These figures indicate that out of the organizations that use Optimal Workshop tools, the IT and Consumer Goods, E-Commerce and Retail industries tend to have the largest UX teams and that Non-profits, understandably, tend to have the smallest UX teams.
As organization size grows, the number of UX practitioners also trends upwards. For organizations with 101 to 500 employees, just under a fifth have UX teams of over 10 people. Meanwhile, for 501 to 1,000-employee organisations this rises to 28% and for organizations with more than a 1,000 employees, around 40% have 10+ UX teams. Another key trend is that as organization size increases, individuals are less likely to know exactly how many people work on UX within their organization!
What methods and tools do you use for UX? We asked respondents how frequently they carried out various UX research methods and the following chart shows which methods they used at least once during the past 12 months, compared to those that they used frequently (more than five times) over the same period. While card sorts such as OptimalSort and tree tests such as Treejack are some of the most popular UX research exercises carried out by respondents, they currently aren’t repeated as frequently as other methods such as A/B testing and field studies. (We do in fact have some great articles on ideas for using Optimal Workshops tools outside of one-off IA improvement projects, and this result suggests that there’s a need to share more of these ideas with our customers!) The other UX methods and tools that respondents frequently mentioned included wireframing, prototyping, analytics tools, remote screen recording, heuristic reviews and user flow/journey mapping.
Where to from here?
Surveys are an excellent technique to get a relatively quick, wide-ranging snapshot of your customers, but they often raise as many questions as they answer! As we’ve been analyzing the response data, we have a growing list of additional questions that will likely rival the original survey. You can also learn as much about the mechanics and best practices of running a survey as you can from what your respondents say. Surveys are best for gathering respondents’ opinions, rather than data on what they’ve done, or what they think they’ll do in the future — we got decidedly unsure responses when we asked respondents how frequently they thought that they’d carry out various research methods over the next 12 months.
And lastly, a very big thank you to everyone who took the time to share the details of their work, the teams and organizations within which they work, and which research methods and tools are most relevant to them. These responses are invaluable for helping us understand the environments that our customers work in, and therefore ensure that our tools help you do an even better job!