Some time ago, I started developing a few research questions around the area of social media in advertising. I did not approach this topic because it is trendy, in fact, not being personally trendy myself, that would be one reason I would be willing to avoid it. The reason why I wanted to explore some of these questions is because I wanted to separate out what is purely desire and speculation and what is actually true when it comes to social media trends. We are building integrated campaigns, some of them rely entirely on a social media platforms, others maybe not entirely but they rely heavily on them. As a user researcher, I want to be sure that integrating social media tools into a campaign be in the best interest of the users, the clients, and the agency. I also want to be able to consult on them quickly. A large part of what I am interested in doing right now is trying to understand how to get facts, figures, and numbers to people who need them in the least amount of time. The research I am collecting now is part of a larger body of research, but I do want it to be useful in the present. I may be able to spend several months researching a topic and writing it up for a dissertation, but often in an agency setting, I may only have several hours to spare before important decisions are made and we are already on to the next thing. The way I have wanted to approach my research work at the moment is by setting up a series of small frameworks that I can use now, and then maybe fit those into the larger research puzzle for my academic studies.

I happened into the field of User Experience Design first as an academic researcher, well, maybe a pseudo-academic researcher, since I have never felt completely comfortable in the academic world. As a librarian, naturally, my first instinct is to start with peer-reviewed resources. I have been researching like this not just throughout my post-graduate career, but also ever since high school (I was not long in college before I realized how top-notch my high school English teachers actually were.) I have been thinking about the ups and downs of using academic research in my current work for several months though, and am realizing that it is difficult to know exactly what to do with these sources in a “real world” environment. I have also realized that there is so much interesting academic research that often goes ignored with practitioners in a field because it takes too long to publish or it is just written in ways that practitioners simply do not have the time to parse. So instead, I sit here and sponge in all of this knowledge, but do not really have any mechanism for dispersing that to where it probably needs to go.

Then recently, I stumbled across an article that a friend, and course colleague, Jessica Hall, wrote about UX and Market Research. It got me thinking again, but in a different direction, why are we not talking about market research more in UX? Then I got thinking more, I work for an advertising agency, why do I not hear about market research more here? Of course, I know it exists here, but it is happening elsewhere from where I sit. I have met our analyst here, I know he is always working on interesting things that are probably similar to things I am also looking at, and we always say in passing that we need to “chat more,” but we never do. That probably has more to do with time than anything, but there is probably lots of great information sharing that could be happening here.

Am I trying to tap in too many sources in one place? Is it possible to take what is good about UX, market research, and peer review, and put it into something that will work for “real world” efforts? Moreover, if it is possible, how do I make it work? I know that many UXers are stretched too thin anyway. Many of us are doing great research in usability or creating personas, user journeys, and using various other methods to help us understand some of these questions with our users. I think I want to dig even deeper than that and try to understand how to avoid running into situations where we are making decisions based on weak or faulty logic, or watering down the good work that we do. I see too many trends pointing in directions where the experience and expertise of a UX professional is distilled too much into sound bytes. I also see too much research not being backed up by substantial evidence.

Real World Research: A Resource for Social Scientists and Practitioner-Researchers (Regional Surveys of the World)Browsing resources at my university library, I did find the book, Real World Research: A Resource for Social Scientists and Practitioner-Resources. It tries to help bridge the gap, but the research topics used as examples here are still focused on social sciences that do not rely on technology in a fast-paced industry. I am making my way through it though; I believe it comfortably sits closer to the types of research efforts I am interested in, but I am still struggling to make it practically relevant.

Despite my struggles capturing this knowledge into something significant, I do know it is not all going to waste. There are certainly discussions happening with my co-workers or my insights are indirectly making their way into my user journeys and wireframes. There are also great discussions happening at events and conferences all over the world, not just locally. I respect that the UX community is one of sharing and collaboration. I also respect that it is a field that professionals are willing to learn and grow from each other, no matter where they work or the industry they specialize.

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