The UX Research team uses Dovetail to document all the user insights discovered through GitLab’s UX research program. User insights can be gathered through methods such as user interviews, usability testing, surveys, card sorts, tree tests and more.
The UX Research team has always faced challenges in finding the best way to create research reports that are easy to digest and access. When using methods such as PDFs, Google docs, and even GitLab CE issues themselves, it was difficult to track and share study findings. Additionally, since we are often asked to readily recall information we've learned in prior studies, it can be tedious to read through old reports, look through pages of interview notes, or rewatch video recordings to find the information we need. This problem compounds, since we are continuously producing research reports and the wealth of information grows infinitely.
The goal of Dovetail is to make research findings searchable, concise, and easy to reference.
When we conduct research studies, we have a set of goals and objectives that guide us as we investigate the research question. Whether we're evaluating the usability of a feature, conducting exploratory interviews, or gathering quantitative data, the research study will likely result in a list of observations, patterns, and behaviors related to a user's experience. The raw data from the study are the research findings.
A list of findings, alone, is often not enough to fully communicate how users conceptualize a topic or why they experienced a certain struggle. Through analysis and synthesis of the data gathered in a research study, we are able to distill insights that connect the dots between related concerns and provide an additional layer of understanding.
These synthesized research findings evolve into a cohesive collection of insights that enables stakeholders to make informed decisions. We support each insight with evidence that can be referenced during discussions, typically in the form of video clips, interview quotes, or statistical data.
At the end of each research study, the study's moderator is responsible for documenting the research in Dovetail. The first step is to create a new project in Dovetail, under the folder that corresponds to your product stage (e.g. Manage). The project homepage should provide a link back to the original UX Research issue. If you'd like to provide more context, you can describe the research methodology used in the study and any background information you may have about the research participants.
Dovetail helps you identify patterns and themes that emerge across your research data. You can analyze and synthesize research findings by tagging and highlighting raw data. We encourage you to tag highlights with the feature/area of GitLab to which the highlight relates (e.g. ‘Merge Requests’) and the persona (e.g. ‘Sasha: Software Developer’) who made the comment if possible. The goal is to then create insight statements for your study and support them with the evidence you gathered in the tags, highlights, and charts. After you've created your insights statements, you can use Dovetail's "presentation mode" feature to share your findings with your team and any other stakeholders. You should also provide a link to the Dovetail project directly in the original UX Research issue.
One of the best ways to simplify the documentation and reporting process is to closely tie your note-taking approach to the research questions. You may find it useful to utilize this notes template for user interviews or the Rainbow Analysis Chart for usability testing studies.
It's important to remember that insights often need context, since people may read them in isolation and misinterpret them. As you work on reporting on your study, it's important to keep the audience in mind and think about what you'd like them to learn from the study.
For example, you may find it useful to document all insights (big or small) from studies conducted on the GitLab interface, in order to provide explanation for why the interface has changed over time. This creates a record of why previous design decisions were not ideal, which can be helpful for discussions with newer team members. On the other hand, for design evaluations or tests with prototypes, it may be more relevant to focus on documenting the insights that answer the overarching research questions, since these studies often result in additional design iterations before implementation.
In either case, adding a brief "context" section at the top of the project description and providing a link to the relevant design artifact can help the reader better understand the background of the study.
Searching through Dovetail is a great way to get acquainted with GitLab users and learn about studies that have already been conducted. You can search and filter through insights, highlights, tags, and charts to find the research that is relevant to any stage, feature, and type of research.
Another approach is to look through the GitLab workspace homepage if you'd like to see a higher-level overview of research being conducted across the stages.
Whether you're looking to better understand a user persona, learn about use cases for features, gather context for solving a problem, or plan a future research study - Dovetail has something for you.