Today more than ever, online communities have become the center of personal and professional development for many around the world, but with so many alternatives is difficult to know where to spend your time productively. Especially if you are interested in more specific areas of expertise like ResearchOps.
Where do research ops practitioners spend their time, network with like-minded professionals, and generally hang out online?
That’s what we’ll be exploring in this round-up of research ops and UX communities. Although only one of these communities is specifically dedicated to research ops, the others have channels in which topics such as recruitment, processes, and logistics are frequently discussed, making them well worth a visit for research ops folks.
If you’re in research ops, then you’re likely familiar with the ResearchOps––often shortened to Re+Ops––community.
The Re+Ops online community is comprised of thousands of research ops practitioners from all over the world and exists to promote research ops as a discipline. Initially, the Re+Ops community grew out of the ResearchOps Slack channel started by Kate Towsey in early 2018. Since then, it has grown to become one of the largest research ops communities in the world.
Aside from helping new research ops practitioners think more intentionally about their careers and how research ops can help companies develop better products, the Re+Ops community exists to advocate for and advance research ops as a subset of broader UX principles. Towsey set out the goals of the Re+Ops community in a Medium post in early 2018, and since then, the group has become a leading voice in research ops, helping to shape best practices in research ops.
Read the community’s archive of Medium articles here, check out previous video town halls here, follow TeamReOps on Twitter, and sign up for an invite to the Re+Ops Slack channel here.
The best designs rarely take shape in a vacuum. Without collaboration and the sharing of ideas, it’s all too easy for designs to become stale or the needs of users to be overlooked. That’s why it’s vital that designers of all stripes have somewhere to learn new techniques and bounce ideas off one another, and few online design communities are as welcoming as Designer Hangout.
Counting more than 18,000 designers worldwide among its membership, Designer Hangout is one of the largest design communities online. The site was founded in 2015 and has quickly become a favorite destination of experienced UX designers and newcomers alike.
One of the biggest draws of Designer Hangout is its webinar-style Q&A sessions with some of the world’s leading UX practitioners. Recent events have included talks from InVision’s VP of Design Education Aaron Walter; renowned author Donna Lichaw; and Citi’s Global Head of Design Stephen Gates, among many others.
Designer Hangout is also one of the best ways to find new career opportunities and seek mentorship from experienced UX practitioners. The site’s job board is packed with exciting roles at design-forward companies and often features dedicated UX research roles as well as UX and UI design positions.
Follow Designer Hangout on Twitter, or sign up for an invite here. Be warned, though––it can take up to 12 weeks for new applications to be vetted, so be patient.
There’s more to online communities than Slack channels. Some of the best UX and research ops communities have emerged around specific outlets and publications, such as the BetterUX blog by UserZoom.
As a UX development platform, it’s hardly surprising that UserZoom has one of the best blogs in the business. But BetterUX isn’t just a great blog––it’s a vibrant community of designers, researchers, and other UX practitioners that seeks to elevate UX as a discipline and encourage the development of better products.
The BetterUX blog is an excellent destination for designers and researchers seeking to deepen their knowledge and hone their craft. Many of the posts published at the BetterUX blog go far beyond superficial, entry-level topics to delve into some of the most interesting and urgent challenges facing the UX community, such as how to conduct unmoderated usability testing remotely or the technical considerations of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
BetterUX frequently publishes interviews with leading UX practitioners. Recent interviews included Amy Johansson, senior UX writer and customer journey specialist at IKEA; speaker and UX consultant Paul Boag; and noted web usability expert Jakob Nielsen. In addition, many of BetterUX’s posts are categorized by industry, offering insights into the experiences of designers and researchers working in specific industries.
Many of the best online communities span several platforms to create inclusive, engaging brands. This is especially true of Mixed Methods, one of the best design and research ops communities on the Web.
Founded by Aryel Cianflone, a UX researcher at LinkedIn, Mixed Methods is a highly curated community of UX practitioners, designers, researchers, and writers. The community is comprised of a Medium blog, a Slack channel of almost 12,000 members, and a podcast, which makes Mixed Methods one of the most accessible design and UX communities online.
In terms of content, Mixed Methods runs the gamut from case studies, such as how Google handles rapid UX research, to discussions on how to pay research participants for their time. The tone of Mixed Methods’ content is approachable but doesn’t dumb down complex ideas, making it a great read for those new to UX and experienced practitioners alike.
Mixed Methods understands the power of community and frequently encourages members to interact with one another in its active Slack channel. With regular Q&As with industry professionals, it’s a great place for newcomers to learn more about breaking into UX and research ops––a frequent topic of discussion––as well as a place to ask questions and learn from veteran designers and researchers.
Interaction Design Foundation
Established in 2002, the Interaction Design Foundation (IDF) is one of the largest online design communities in the world. The IDF’s mission is to “raise global design education to an Ivy League standard” while keeping costs as low as possible. While this sounds like a contradiction––a paradox the IDF freely admits––the organization strives to democratize access to world-class design thinking, leadership, and learning.
The IDF is one of the best resources for UX designers and practitioners to advance their careers and develop their skills. Offering 10 separate learning pathways, from UX and interaction design to front-end development and product management, the IDF’s online training programs have helped countless designers launch their careers and find exciting new opportunities.
Although the IDF’s UX courses are one of the biggest draws of the community, the IDF is far more than just an online learning resource. The IDF is organized by chapter, and many chapters hold regular in-person events in cities around the world, offering designers and researchers an opportunity to network with like-minded professionals, learn new skills, or just hang out. The IDF’s intensive in-person “bootcamps” also offer practical hands-on advice on a range of topics, such as portfolio preparation and job hunting.
There are two tiers of IDF membership: Professional, which costs $16 per month billed annually, and Design League, which costs $200 per month billed monthly.
Underrepresentation is a serious problem in many industries, including UX and research ops. Hexagon is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, California, that aims to support and empower women and non-binary individuals hoping to pursue careers in UX.
Some of the world’s leading technology companies have partnered with Hexagon to develop more inclusive human resources policies, including Airbnb, Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Slack, and Spotify, among many others. Much of Hexagon’s work centers around informational workshops and outreach programs, and local chapters frequently hold in-person events on everything from cultivating better leadership skills to the strategic value of inclusive hiring practices.
Hexagon itself consists of regional chapters, but the organization also maintains a highly active Slack channel that serves as the connective tissue between individual chapters.
Aside from its workshops and in-person events, Hexagon operates a mentorship program that aims to connect people from communities historically underrepresented in tech with experienced mentors who can provide individualized support and guidance.
Hexagon isn’t just a warm, welcoming community––it’s also a great place to meet other UX and user research practitioners and learn more about how design can help solve some of the most urgent issues facing the tech industry.