Reflections & Projections

2018 was an amazing year for us at Handrail! We proudly sponsored several industry events and conferences. More importantly, we had the opportunity to talk with hundreds (and hundreds) of practitioners.

Each and every one of the conferences were excellent and we are planning a similar sponsorship tour in 2019! We appreciated the opportunity to participate in these engaging events and, as researchers, loved the chance to speak with people throughout the industry.

Our conversations and experiences reinforced our belief that:

User-centered design and research will continue to grow, as will the expectations for these activities to provide business value.

Specifically, here’s what we believe organizations will be addressing in 2019:

  • Business Effectiveness in “The Experience Economy”
  • ResearchOps and DesignOps Growth
  • Meaningful Team Involvement

Business Effectiveness in “The Experience Economy”

Companies will continue to look for ways to compete in the experience economy. This will require businesses to strive for better customer understanding. They will need to utilize methods to provide “deep data” to drive insights, not just quantitative “surface data”.

We believe that successful companies in the new experience economy will be defined by their ability to:

Continuously gain human understanding
Integrate insights into product decisions

The pursuit for human understanding and customer insights demands what the Handrail team calls “deep data.”  Deep data is the “why” that complements big data. Deep data helps us understand goals, needs, motivations, reasoning, actions, reactions, and intent. Deep data and qualitative research help companies better understand their customers, so they can design meaningful experiences. This is a topic that Sean McKay from Handrail, will be discussing in his talk at the 2019 IA Conference, March 13-17th:

Avoiding Vapor Research: How to Plan, Capture, and Share User Research Effectively

Reinforcing the emphasis on experience, Lou Rosenfeld and the team at Rosenfeld Media continue to look at the evolving needs of the Enterprise. They have recently expanded the focus of their Enterprise UX conference to Enterprise Experience We look forward to sharing how Handrail streamlines the workflow that leads to experience insights at the conference later this year.

“Ops” will Continue to Grow

We’re excited about the progress being made in the DesignOps and Research Ops communities. As organizations and enterprises bring more user-centered design and research in-house, the work will need to be operationalized to help standardize and scale.


We’re seeing more companies work to scale design efforts and appreciate the efforts of Lou Rosenfeld and team. In addition to the DesignOps Summit, Lou hosts a DesignOps community monthly video conference and produces a semi-monthly newsletter, both free to the community.

We are also excited about the progress Doug Powell and the IBM team are making as they work to improve business outcomes through design. IBM and Forrester produced a helpful report to illustrate the real business value being created through the power of design. The IBM team also just released updates to their Design Language, Design System, and Design Thinking practice. Be sure to check out their new IBM Design site.


Kate Towsey, Emma BoultonHolly Cole, and others around the world, are doing tremendous work building a community of researchers and supporters in the emerging discipline of Research Ops. Their focus is reducing friction points that prevent teams and enterprises from scaling research. Maria Arriclucea, leading ResearchOps community efforts in Spain, articulated many of the challenges researchers are facing in her Medium post Research Ops at Barcelona.  Some of these issues include:

  • Lack of time
  • Teamwork
  • Access to data
  • Integration of knowledge

We have experienced all of these issues in our careers as researchers which is why we developed Handrail to streamline the research process. The issues outlined above, and articulated in Maria’s Medium post, make user research a lot harder than it needs to be. We want fellow designers and researchers to be successful and are excited about demonstrating how Handrail can help.

A Team Sport Requires Meaningful Involvement

Research is a team sport. We continue to hear how hard it is for teams to collaborate on a regular basis. The need for meaningful team involvement goes hand-in-hand with the desire to scale design within the enterprise. In 2019, we believe teams will demand better collaboration and outcomes when it comes to user research.

We believe teams will be more intentional about the position each member plays during research events. Being clear about roles, expectations, and desired outcomes is helpful as seasoned researchers help train teams to scale.

Handrail enables teams to collaborate throughout their research workflows. Some additional resources from our team to help scale your team are:

Wrap Up

2019 will be an exciting year for research and design professionals. We believe enterprises will put more effort and budget into scaling research and design practices in their organizations. Part of these efforts will demand increased collaboration and demonstrable results and rigor as organizations look to extract more value from their research efforts.

Thanks to all of the researchers and designers we’ve met and collaborated with over the past year. Handrail can help your team collect, analyze, and share user research data so that you can get to insights faster and demonstrate value to the enterprise. We’re committed to improving the way teams conduct research in the future.

About Handrail

We built Handrail to help teams collaborate throughout the entire user research process. Collect, analyze, store, and share your research all in one location. Talk with one of our research experts to see if we might be able to help your research team make this year the most successful yet.

Sign up for a free 30-day trial today.

Matt Arnold

Matt is a researcher and product specialist at Handrail, Inc. He is passionate about human-centered design and helping teams do more effective research. Matt has led strategy and design work for early and late stage startups, as well as some of the country’s most recognized brands.

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