Last week, on our UX Slack channel, we hosted a live AMA session with Sally Graham, our kickass Head of UX Research.

For this inaugural hour-long chat, Sally fielded questions covering absolutely anything on the subject of UX, from embarking on a career in UX, to running your own user tests to getting company buy-in for usability testing.

You’re in incredibly safe hands with Sally. As a Head of UX Research, Sally is responsible for delivering the insights that improve websites, mobile app usability and overall quality of digital products for clients like M&S, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Boots, Tesco, Financial Times, and more. She has over 10 years of experience in UX and speaks four languages.

We’ll be running these AMAs on a regular basis on the Slack channel, which is also the perfect place for UX professionals and newbies to mix it up and thrash out any UX subject they like. If you’d like to join them, please follow the link and join up to our Slack group!

You won’t regret it. It’s like a constantly evolving networking event, where everyone is nice and although you have to bring your own refreshments, nobody will notice if you’re in your pyjamas.

Here are the highlights from our very first AMA. (Please note, some edits have been made for clarity and spelling).

How do you prove or showcase the value of user insights, to get people on-board? More so, without using AB test results. [Elizabeth Chesters]

The best proof for them is to use it. Some findings are lost in reports, so you need to understand what is the best way to deliver them. Maybe a formal report is not the way to go, a workshop to talk about findings will get things moving. Make findings actionable. In usability you should be able to act upon them quite easily.

To get people on board you need to show the results, UX metrics will help – i.e. how the UX has been improved and how this improved sales and customer service.

What kind of projects and thinking would you like to see in a beginner’s UX portfolio? [Mina Bach]

As an interviewer I will be looking for context. What was the problem? How did you solve it? The difference between a UX portfolio and other visual portfolios is the importance of showing the journey that led to the final results, not just showing an interface. So be prepared to add goals, context, user needs.

It will great to show various methodologies…how you work with data, evidence and insights. For example you can have a prototype, a customer journey mapping and photos of a workshop or ethnography. That will impress me.

I am looking at getting into UX. Lots of my work-roles connect to experience, but I want to refine and go deeper. So my question is: where do you suggest I start? [Gabriele Crisman]

A good way to start in UX is by observing people when using an interface: usability testing – it will give plenty of ideas about how to design.

Would you suggest participating in [a user testing session] or just observing users? [Tiara Anggamulia]

You can start by observing and then moderating a session, but only observing it is great. When moderating you are concentrating on the session and you do not learn as much.

What toolset do you use to test UX on a mobile for things like speed, clickmaps and so on? [Mark Pinkerton]

When using our tool you will receive videos that you can watch any time. We mainly run qualitative research so we do not test speed. We use x-mirrage to mirror the mobile device screen so we can see what the users are doing.

Any ideas on how to recruit for a specific persona? I need to recruit participants to test a web application similar to MailChimp, but more complex, aimed at the enterprise level. [AJ Justo]

If you are testing usability you will need users to work with similar interfaces related to email marketing –  so any tech savvy people that are using digital interfaces. They do not need to be email marketing managers because you’re asking them to do certain tasks. So for usability, this will work BUT if you want to run another kind of research you will need that specific user.

We use recruitment agencies if we need a very narrow user profile. However in one example, where we tested an app for teachers with regular users and teachers, in both cases they found the same issues.

Do you have any experience convincing the reluctant owner of a business that investments for UX testing is the right way to go? [Tania Conte]

When convincing reluctant business owners we do the following:

  1. Present a business case providing some evidence that the site have some issues and what are the benefits of the research
  2. Start very small, run a five-users project and present the usability issues (£500) or guerrilla testing almost for free
  3. Talk about money, check Google Analytics and tell them that you will improve the conversion paths.

If they do NOT want to listen to their potential clients at least they should know that they’d be losing money. Many business lose money because they do not improve interfaces… money is a common language

What tools would you most recommend in performing UX research? [Rachel Costello]

Some of our clients use Crazy Egg, analytics and other UX tools in combination with our own qualitative data.

How do I observe users in a usability testing session? Is that facility available in WhatUsersDo platform? [Tiara Anggamulia]

Yes, [you should be] observing all time! A great tool is, of course, the WhatUsersDo Platform where you can observe users when testing a site or an app.

If you’ve built a company’s website already and want to get them to invest in usability testing  to fix any bugs, how would you work this? I know testing should’ve been done prior to going live but in the real world the design life cycle often gets rushed to meet deadlines. [Ash Pennington]

Deadlines! I know many clients start testing when the site is live and then they cannot change too much. Some ideas:

  1. Start testing very early and quickly (RITE) with 5 users showing the prototypes, guerrilla testing, lean UX, you will need four rounds of testing usually, testing every week.
  2. After going live and defining the changes, cost all the changes that you should do and tell the stakeholders that you could avoid at least 50% by testing prototypes.
  3. Show them how easy it is and how much they will save by doing quick testing.

You cannot get it right the first time because the USER was not involved in the process. User testing is not a one-off thing, our clients test at least once every three months and we define an annual plan for them. If you cannot convince your stakeholders showing users struggling with the interface, talk about money. Usability testing usually pays for itself. Also you can start to run usability testing on the cheap to build a business case.

Join us on our UX Slack channel for even more advice and guidance from the UX community.

Main image by Jon Tyson