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The Importance of a Centralized UX Research Team for SaaS Companies

The times are changing, and in today’s market, having a product or service that “just works” is not enough; people want to solve their problems quickly.

Photo by Ross Sneddon on Unsplash

Why is it necessary?

Businesses need to create and deliver solutions based on people’s needs, which is what User Research is about (research methods); understanding users’ needs, preferences, and behaviors to develop experiences that meet their expectations. Simple.

A centralized UX research team is crucial to achieving that user-centric mindset, and the benefits are:

  1. Consistency in research processes and methodologies: Ensures consistency in research processes and methods to guarantee the research findings are reliable and can be used to inform design decisions. Also, to guarantee that research is conducted ethically and the data collected is consistent across different products and teams.
  2. Efficient use of resources: When each team has its own UX research process, there is a risk of duplication of effort. It may lead to inefficient use of time. By centralizing UX research, the team can collaborate with different product teams, share resources, and reuse research findings, which helps to reduce the overall research cost and time.
  3. A better understanding of user needs: This transversal view allows the team to identify patterns and trends in user needs and behaviors, to inform the design of future products and services across the organization.
  4. Improved satisfaction: Developing people’s needs increases satisfaction and loyalty and reduces churn rates.
  5. Reduced development costs: Conducting user research before product development can help identify potential problems early in the process and reduce development costs by preventing costly design changes later in production.
  6. Better decision-making: Provide data-driven insights to help make informed design decisions, insights that inform product strategy and design decisions.
  7. Competitive advantage: Help businesses design products that provide an excellent user experience and help to differentiate themselves from competitors and increase market share.

What are the four phases of research?

User Research can be split into four different phases or categories:

  • Strategic research initiatives take longer and must be planned in advance; they’re usually part of our continuous discovery process.
    — Drivers: Research team
  • Concept research should happen regularly during/after ideation so that we can test early-stage solutions with real users.
    — Drivers: Research & Design team
  • Evaluative research should be conducted before any features are sent to development; Usability testing is highly recommended; Heuristic reviews are mandatory, even though they don’t replace the need for testing with real users.
    — Drivers: Design team (can request support from research)
  • Maintenance research refers to any study conducted on a live product/feature, Summative usability testing, and Tracking metrics.
    — Drivers: PMs, the Product Insights team, and the Design team

There’s a fantastic article from the Dovetail team called How to conduct user research in an agile environment that I highly recommend reading.

How should the team operate?

Some of the primary duties might be:

  • Conducting user research: Gather insights about users’ needs, preferences, and behaviors, typically through interviews, usability testing, surveys, etc.
  • Monitoring customer/user feedback: Monitor user feedback channels, such as customer support tickets, CSMs, Professional Services, DataOps, or Product teams, to identify trends and issues that must be addressed.
  • Developing user journeys: User journeys map out the steps users take to achieve their goals within a product or service. The UX research team may be involved in developing and refining these journeys to optimize the user experience.
  • Analyzing data: Identify patterns, trends, and insights to drive product design and development.
  • Enrich personas panel: Personas are fictional representations of user groups that help designers and developers better understand the needs and behaviors of different user segments. The UX research team may be responsible for creating and maintaining these personas.
  • Conducting summative usability testing: Usability testing involves observing users interacting with a product or service to identify areas of difficulty or confusion. The team should be responsible for designing and conducting these tests. On the other hand, formative usability testing may be the responsibility of Product Designers.
  • Providing recommendations: Use the insights collected to inform product teams about improvements to the user experience, such as changes to the product’s interface, functionality, or content.
  • Collaborating with cross-functional teams: Guarantee users’ feedback is incorporated into product development.

And finally, the UX research team needs to focus on the whole user journey, from before the first users’ interaction with the product or service, to have a holistic understanding of the users’ experience. Different team members can be structured based on the different types of users or user segments. For example, various companies have distinct target audiences, such as buyers and sellers for marketplaces, personal/consumers, small businesses, institutional customers for banks, and teachers, administrators, students, and parents for educational services, by focusing on a specific type of user, a UX research team can gain a deeper understanding of their needs, which leads to more effective designs that suit their specific circumstances and abilities — this empathetic approach results in a better user experience.

Useful reading

Thanks for reading! This post was published originally on Medium.

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