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UX Playbook

Creating a single source of truth to document the Research Process (2023)


I created a single source of truth for UX Researchers, UX Designers, and Product Managers to understand our team’s research process and expectations. This action-oriented documentation greatly reduced the need for ad hoc 1:1 training, saving UX Ops team members 1-2 hrs per week.


📝 Documentation
📊 Quantitative Research (Survey)
💬 Qualitative Research (In Depth Interviews)


Without an official participant recruitment process, individuals felt frustrated and confused.

Researchers and Designers at AppFolio benefitted from a customer base that was incredibly willing to give feedback, but as the number of people doing research grew, response rates fell.
In an internal survey, many UX Researchers, Designers, and Product Managers expressed confusion around the recruitment process and frustration with the amount of time they spent searching for research participants.

Time Spent (3).png
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Individuals were unsure if they were following the “right” process.

In order to better understand why team members were reporting frustration with their recruitment processes, we scheduled a series of internal interviews. I coached a direct report through writing the script and facilitating the interviews.
In these interviews, we discovered that every person had a unique recruitment process, but they commonly reported a sense of anxiety — individuals were unsure if they were recruiting the “right” way and sought guidance or reassurance from the Ops interviewer. Though there was a “research manual” document, individuals were unsure where to find instruction. They told us that they regularly asked their managers, peers, and the Ops team for guidance at the start of new projects.


Initial process documentation eased anxiety, but testers wanted more!

Based on our interviews, I decided to build a UX “playbook” focusing on defining our process and providing actionable instruction. I created a framework and asked my UX Operations team members to help contribute writing a few “plays” to address questions they were asked most frequently.
Given the low adoption of previous documentation efforts at AppFolio, I wanted to collect feedback throughout the process of writing the playbook to ensure it met the needs of our team.
I collected feedback through two main methods:
Usability Testing: I asked potential users to complete tasks by following the play in the playbook. I also collected feedback on the information architecture & navigation.
Pilot Testing: Whenever individuals asked for help with something that was defined in the playbook, I asked them to first review our new documentation! I let them know it was a first draft, and asked them to let me know if they had any feedback or unanswered questions.
This testing allowed me to note pain points and make adjustments to the Playbook framework before we got too far into building the document. It also encouraged us that we were going the right direction! Team members reported that the new framework was much more helpful than our previous “Research Manual”, and frequently made suggestions for additional plays they would like to be able to reference in the future.

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Clear process documentation reduced the need for 1:1 instruction

After the initial testing, it was clear the Playbook would provide value to our team even with only a few processes fully documented. We announced the playbook was ready to use and continued to refer team members to it whenever they had questions that were documented.
The Playbook was adopted quickly, and greatly reduced the need for my direct reports to provide 1:1 instruction, saving an average of 60-90 minutes per week.

Well-written process documentation can reduce frustration with difficult tasks.

Participant recruitment will always present challenges, but the “Recruitment Playbook” reduced the number of friction points experienced by the team, allowing them to focus their attention on the actual research they wished to conduct.

This project was the inspiration for my talk at DesignOps Summit 2023: . Check out the document to view the basic framework I built in Coda.
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