Louise Rowlands, Senior UX Researcher at MoneySupermarket on democratizing user research [Video]
Recently UserZoom had the pleasure of presenting our biggest and best BetterUX event yet, in the beautiful King’s Place, London.
Our theme this year was on the democratisation of UX, with our speakers discussing how they spread user research education and insights throughout their organisations, and all the successes and challenges they’ve encountered.
One of the many highlights of the day was Louise Rowlands, Senior UX Researcher at MoneySupermarket who showcased how she opened up user research to everyone working in MoneySupermarket’s various UX teams across the country, so they could surface insights themselves and help the entire business significantly upscale its user research program.
Here we proudly present the entire video of Louise’s presentation, as well as a transcript below.
Every couple of weeks we’ll a share a different presentation from BetterUX 2019, including ones from Paul Boag, Leader in Digital Strategy and User Experience Design and James Barley, Head of UX Research at Auto Trader. However if you want early access to all seven videos from the event, you can sign-up to view them right now!
In the meantime, take it away, Louise Rowlands…
Hello. I want to say big thank you to UserZoom for inviting me to talk today. I’m here basically to bring about or bring to life rather how we’re actually democratizing research at MoneySupermarket. And it’s brilliant because all the talk so far today have all been along the same theme, which makes me feel like we’re not on our own and we’re not doing this literally just as a trend because it’s not a trend. This is a new kind of way. This is a strategic way of working and it’s something that’s very, very important to us.
So we’ve just gone through a new rebrand. It’s taking a very long time. From about October, we started working on a rebrand. So some of you might be looking at that thinking, “That’s not MoneySupermarket.” It does look quite different, if you go to our website, colors, layout, everything is very different. And it has been a very long piece of work, which has included many, many different teams across the whole organization really. But yeah, it landed a couple of weeks ago so we’re kind of now picking up the pieces and taking it to the next stage.
I’m taking off with this slide. This is a very busy slide. But this was a day up at UserZoom headquarters in Manchester. I took about 13, 14 of our UXers up to UserZoom HQ to be trained on how to use the basic usability testing tool. Why did we do that? So we’re kind of in this state of maturity really with our research at MoneySupermarket. We’ve been a customer of UserZoom’s for six years. This is our sixth license with them. And we’ve been with them for, well, when they were very small and events like this were a lot smaller. So it’s brilliant to see how big the company has grown really.
But, as I said, we’ve been with them for the last six years and as researchers, I mean, there’s only myself and I have another colleague. There’s only two of us in the whole organization that conducts research. And when you think about all the different channels that we have, we have our insurance products, we have our money products, and we have trouble supermarket, we’ve got money saving expert where we purchased that a few years ago. There’s a hell of a lot of areas in our business that requires research. And with there only been two of us that’s really hard, that’s difficult and having to say no or question or look into more detail has become more apparent.
And kind of what we wanted to do really was to open up research to our UXers. So these are UXers from all our locations. So we’re currently in London, Ewloe which is in North Wales, it’s just outside of Chester. And then we’ve got our Manchester office. Our Manchester office is brand new. We haven’t even moved in yet. We are currently in temporary accommodation in Manchester and we hope to move into a new office a little bit later on this year. So when you have UX functions across all three locations, that’s quite difficult to manage. And we’re now in this state of needing to democratize our research because A, there’s so many of us and plus we’re working across all locations.
So last year… well certainly my boss gave me the objective for this year in looking at this, how do we share the love? How do we get people in all locations actually taking part and doing research? How do we make that happen? So this is kind of what we’ve been looking at for the last kind of few months this year. So across London, I mean, the money saving expert team there in London, they have their own UX managers, designers. Every function kind of covers really that design and UX. So why are we democratizing research? A little bit like our cat in our new advert. It’s quite a lonely thing, right? You kind of…researchers tend to be on their own.
We’ve heard before from some of the other speakers about, you know, silos. And as much as I hate silos, it does happen and it can happen quite naturally. Researchers tend to be a little bit precious. And I’ve heard previously too in other companies that researchers are very much “it’s mine, I’ll do this and you do your stuff.” And we kind of need to move away from that because like I was saying, ultimately, there’s essentially 14 squads at MoneySupermarket and only two researchers. So we can’t be in all squads at the same time. It just can’t happen. Plus across three locations. You know, we’re pretty good, but we’re not superheroes. So we need to do this. This is our next part of our maturity. And that is extending kind of that invite to research to our other UXers. So what’s the point?
So like I was saying we want to leverage all this extra skillset. So I’ve kind of put 20 plus. It’s probably more 30 plus actually but we have brilliant new access, all over the country covering things like copywriting, prototyping. Our prototype function is quite unique. There’s not many organizations that have prototypers that actually code prototypes in full HTML code. We do. And that team’s growing as well. So that is a team of four, I think, at the moment. And when we have all this UX expertise in the team, why wouldn’t you extend that out? Why wouldn’t you involve them? So it’s about moving into this inclusive way of working really and getting those experts in their field to also kind of take on some of the research as well.
We launched a program, a grad program specifically for new graduates. And it’s not just for graduates, so it’s open to any of our colleagues. And so if you want to take our course in research, which covers everything, learning how to build a survey, how to moderate a session, write a discussion guide you, you name it, it’s probably in our course. And that’s open to, like I said, anyone in UX can take that course and do it in their own time. And that’s worked really well. The grad program is across all five of our disciplines. So that covers research, it covers UX management, copywriting, design, and prototyping.
So each of those functions have a retina course, essentially. And anyone taking the course will rotate, well the grad certainly will rotate, because we’re kind of trying to encourage this inclusive way of working, multi-scaling our staff, so the grads will go through all five. It’s optional for people who are already skilled in a certain skillset. And so for instance, any designers that want to get into research might just take the research module and won’t be kind of forced to take all of them.
And what this allows us to do is really, so as I said before, there’s only two researchers and we have an awful lot of channels and work that we kind of need to get through. And we’re not. With those elements that we’re not doing, these elements that we’re missing. And it’s okay to say that because there’s only two of us, right? We can’t literally do everything. So by taking this approach and by upscaling our UXers to be able to do some of the basic pieces of research that allows myself and my colleague, Jason, he’s here today, to go on and basically do discovery pieces or generative research, which ultimately increases the velocity of how much research we can get through.
So that’s kind of what we’re aiming for this year to be able to create this upscaling. And actually, it leads us into this kind of player-coach kind of mentality and it’s been mentioned a few times actually in other people’s talks today, that you kind of move away from this doing to this coaching method.
And by upscaling and training and helping your colleagues, you become more of this coach. So most of the time, you’ll be there on hand, you know, to assist them. So they might have built a survey. And then you can kind of just look at that and then just give them some help and some tips on how to do better or whether they’re doing brilliant or…but it’s just adopting that kind of stance, really. So how are we getting there?
So I had to look on our UserZoom account. And believe it or not, there was 25 active users. I was really shocked by that. I don’t know how many people you’ve got on your active user account. These are people who can go into UserZoom and create a study and launch a study and I thought that was pretty amazing. So it’s already starting to kind of roll out and work and those 25 people, like I said, have got full autonomy to release stuff that they needed to release. They need a piece of research and that’s the great thing with the UserZoom tool. I mean, Brooke was saying about speed, it’s exactly that, right? You need a piece of research doing it and you need it quick because you’ve got teams that are sitting there waiting on your insight to be able to move that piece of work or tool or whatever they’re working on to move that on.
So the fact that we now have gone from essentially two researchers to perhaps 27 is absolutely amazing. It means that we can get so much more done. We’ve spent most of this year also building out what we’re calling the Researchers’ Toolkit. It’s not a great name and it’s probably not the name. We’ll come up with probably a better name for it. But the researchers’ toolkit is literally like a Bible that we’ve written that covers everything about research, all the different methodologies, when you would use it, what kind of thing you’re going to get back by using that methodology. And there’s tips, there’s help, there’s costs, there’s labs, there’s literally you name it, and it’s in this book.
And the idea is to roll out this toolkit to everybody within UX. And we have literally just finished it earlier this week, and we’re going to start rolling it out on Friday. So that means booking meetings. We’re very lucky at MoneySupermarket because we have this VC unit, which kind of is able to link up all our locations. So we have booked meetings with our UXers in London our UXers in Manchester. There’s still some UXers in Chester. And we will take them through that whole toolkit and just help them on their way barely with methodologies that they’re not familiar with.
We’re also not just leaving it there, we’re not just leaving it with UXers. We’re also doing the rounds with our product managers as well. So we want our product managers to know that now, you know, we’ve kind of opened the doors and we’re getting more people to kind of help out with research, just keep them up to date as well. And then, of course, there’s the coaching and the mentoring and training. So we do all sorts of things. We run Brownback sessions, we hold meetings with different teams and different departments to showcase our work. I think the big challenge for me though when…maybe what at the back end of December, being asked we need to roll out this democratizing research across all locations.
You know, I’m going to hold my hands up. I was really worried about because I thought, “Well, how do you do that? Where do you even start?” And I was tempted to create a LinkedIn researchers kind of like roundtable group where some researchers from all different fields, all different organizations would kind of help feed into that. That didn’t happen. I didn’t go down that route. I actually spoke to some researcher friends that I do know from people I don’t know and just had that conversation and it was quite eye-opening actually that a lot of the stuff that we were doing is contributing towards that end goal.
And I think just hearing how other companies were doing it as well certainly helped being here today and hearing how other people are doing it. You know, a lot of you hopefully are sitting there nodding your heads to a lot of what’s been said today, and you’re already doing it. So it’s whilst you might feel like it’s challenging and how do you get there and is there a set plan and is there a route, you know, that probably isn’t what you’re doing little bit by little bit, it will get you there. So I think that’s kind of what we are doing internally in terms of this. But it’s kind of been an evolution. We’ve kind of moved. I’ve done a couple of talks for UserZoom actually over the last couple years and I have brought case studies where, you know, we’ve done a piece of research that really worked or, you know, we changed the industry, you know, which is brilliant.
And this one is a little different. This is about process. This is about getting it right. But you know what? If you can get it right, if you can get all the people on board and behind you and with you, it just makes it so much easier to have a team that fully supports research, that believes in research. It’s like gold. And as soon as people realize this, the quicker you’re going to get your designers on board, the quicker you’re going to get things turned around. And tools that UserZoom really, really do help. We use the basic usability testing feature and for us that allows all those 25 users, if you’ve got like a simple prototype, any one of those users can now go into UserZoom and showcase that prototype to a group of people and get some feedback instantly.
You know, they don’t need to come and talk to us about booking labs or anything like that. It’s really quick. You get your turn around really quick, and then you can move on with where you need to go. So we’re loving that side of the tool. The other piece of the tool that we’re using as well is the remote moderated stuff. So getting into a lab with people is great for that face to face, but what I really struggle with is UK reach? So we tend to focus on big cities because they’re easier to recruit for, they’re easier to get to Manchester, Birmingham, London.
What really upsets me is I don’t talk to people in Kent and I don’t talk to people in Bristol or Southampton or, and that tool is absolutely genius for that. I remember doing my first study through there and before we even got into the interview, I said to the chap, I said, “Could you mind me asking where you’re from?” And he said, “Sure. I’m in a little town in Kent.” And I was just like, “Yey!” Because there’s no way I’d be able to interview somebody at 5 o’clock in the evening in Kent. It just wouldn’t happen. So this tool opens doors. You know, it’s certainly opened doors for us. I’ve mentioned Jason a few times, but I’m going to reference him again. He did a remote mode tool in our office and we were running two offices where he was using one as a lab and we just booked another meeting room as the observer room.
And we had a lot of staff attend that session, which was amazing. But for the rest of us, all we could hear was this crying baby, and people around the office getting a bit, “Where is that baby coming from?” And I had to kind of go around the office and said, “I’m really sorry about the noise of this baby but, you know, Jason’s interviewing a lady about life insurance and she’s…” I forget where she was living now but, you know, nowhere near where we were. And, yeah, it was a real conversation. She’s trying to sort her life insurance out whilst holding a baby. You know, you wouldn’t get that in a lab. She probably would have arranged care for the baby. So it really brings you into people’s homes and it’s a brilliant tool to use to kind of enhance that.
But, I mean, moderated skills is probably not something that those 25 are just going to pick up like that. But that’s something that, you know, moving into that player-coach kind of thing, that we can be there, we can support them. And there’s plenty of courses out there as well, but if you want to attend. And so, yeah. So that’s kind of how we’re getting there.
This is quite interesting. So what I was saying before about we’re not doing stuff, so typically, in the current setup, we would go out and test a new prototype, or we test a new piece of code or a new live site or a new image or whatever. That would be us and that’s what we’re calling validation research.
So that says, going out and validating a piece of work and coming back and saying whether something works or not. What’s not happening is generative research, which is your initial discovery, which is that going out and understanding and getting the empathy through the staff. We’re not doing that currently and that’s a massive piece that’s missing for us. So what we’re trying to get to is by using that 25 staff or so, who can use UserZoom. They’re going to support us in that validation piece so we don’t have to.
Now, when we first started talking about this to some of our staff, one of the feedback we got, which was a little upsetting, I have to say, was, “Oh, I’ve heard that you’re just passing off all your research to everyone else. So what are you two doing?” And I kind of thought, no, that’s not really the message. That’s kind of not what we’re trying to convey here. So, slowly but surely, we’re kind of feeding that message through that we’re actually, you know, this is an opportunity to upscale and to get involved with other parts other than kind of what you’re the expert on.
So for the validation research that’s your prototype testing, and anything to do with life, and where they kind of just need that piece of validation, really. We’re opening that up to those people and largely they’re going to be using the UserZoom tool to do that. The other piece that allows us to really get into is this generative piece. And this is the area that’s of really, really interest to us where we really get to the start of the problems. What are the barriers and fears that people have? I mean, it’s not just insurance products. We have money products and money is, as everybody knows, the issue of a lot of depression and anxiety, right? So why are we not going out and talking to people about how our services could help people like that? Which has kind of opened this inclusion and diversity piece.
So this is a really, really important project for us this year where we’re committed and we’ve had board approval and they’re backing this as well, which is amazing. So you actually go into this. So now we’re targeting age. We did age last week. It was brilliant. We hired 12 over 70s to use of service for energy switching and for home insurance and that was a complete eye-opener. We made loads of assumptions upfront about how we thought those sessions were going to go. Those assumptions included assumptions from some of our exec, which is another brilliant way of kind of getting your exec on board because if you can disprove some of the thinking, then you’ve proven that they actually don’t know their customer.
And so we did age. It was brilliant. We are targeting visually impaired next. So we are going to be working with the RNIB who are going to help us to run some user testing on our website for visually impaired. Q3, we’re going to be looking at that whole area of mental health issues, the anxiety, depression. So we’re probably going to run some of our money channels through some of that testing. But we’re looking to do that and then sort of Q4 we’re looking at dexterity and mobility issues. And what does that look like when people are trying to get car insurance quite so whatever who have issues using the keyboard?
So it’s really, really interesting and really exciting. In terms of consistency, this kind of leads to some of what Brooke was talking about earlier. And to your question about where do you store all your stuff? We use Confluence. I’ve just got an example page here of essentially our homepage of our library.
We’ve broken it down by channels so people can easily access research for that particular channel or thing that they’re looking for. And as you can see, we’ve got our back catalogue of all the different researches that was taking place. That’s just one of the cards.
So once you open that, it kind of just shows you what we did, what were the key learnings. It’s super high level. This doesn’t go into detail but with that on purpose. We don’t write detailed reports anymore because we work in this agile environment. We don’t have time to write detailed reports that no one is going to read. So we now do this. We do this the day generally after testing. It’s live. It’s up in Confluence and everybody knows where they can kind of find those findings. Involving other teams. So we do an awful lot within our UX team. We’re upscaling them. We’re training them. But this is a really interesting one.
So you need to involve all the other teams as well. And this is kind of alluding to what Brooke was saying as well about kind of including others. We have a new customer team and our customer team includes our marketing, our call center, and our new market intelligence and market intelligence team. I can’t remember what they’re called. So we’re working really closely with them. We got a brilliant relationship with our testers and Devs. They come out with us and they’re watching user testing sessions, and so they can go back and build better products. Legal and compliance. Oh, my God. So, you know, we work in the financial industry.
We’ve got the FCA all over us. And having that brilliant relationship with legal helps us to work really well with the FCA. And we pass research back into as well. And, of course, our product management team. So we’ve got product managers across our banking insurance. We’ve also got apps now as well. So we kind of need to cover that. So there’s a lot we need to encompass considering we’re quite a small company, it’s about 750 in total of us across 3 locations. We’re currently only the two researchers across that. And we kind of need to be that central focal point that brings all of that together. And we certainly don’t have all the answers.
I certainly didn’t have all the answers when we started this at the start of the year. Like I said, I was actually a little bit worried about how I was going to do this. And we’re not there, but we’ve certainly made good strides to get there. And it’s just been that inclusive business really including everybody. I think some of the challenges that we’re going to face this year off the back of what we’re doing is how do you make it super easy for people to sign up to observe sessions? So we haven’t nailed that. We don’t know how we’re going to do that yet. And little intricacies like that, really that we need to kind of fathom out. But yeah, we’ve made a good start and we’re kind of going in the right direction. And that’s it.
Does anyone have any questions?
Thanks. That was really interesting. So I’m all for scaling other people up and getting other people involved in research. That’s fantastic. But at what point should companies actually just start investing more in hiring more UX researchers? How much is this just symptom of them trying to squeeze as much as they can out of us?
Yeah, that is a good point and probably true, right? I mean, ultimately, at the end of the day, a company needs to kind of make sure that it’s all covered. But I think we already have the people in our business. They already know our channels. They already know our customers. So why wouldn’t you use them to kind of naturally go into research? So for us, I think it’s just a natural next step to help support us. As we grow, and, I mean, we’re 750 at the moment, that’s probably going to grow. And we’ve been asking for a dedicated UX researcher for our London office. So they don’t have one.
So Jason and I are Northern-based and we support the North but the South work a little differently. So if I can get my way, I will get a UX researcher in the South. But I think for where we are at the moment, it just makes complete sense for us because our channels are quite…you think they were quite easy but, yeah, there’s quite a lot to them. So the fact that we’ve got all these people that know the ins and outs of them, that are quite close to the customer side because of the work that we’ve done it just kind of makes sense really. So I don’t see it as a bad thing.
It’s great that you’ve got this focus on accessibility and mental health. And I wondered if you had any plans to incorporate that more routinely into your research going forward once you begin to implement it and if so, how?
Yeah, so this whole accessibility piece, it’s something that we’ve been talking about for a while but I think because the way we’ve been set up traditionally with just the two of us trying to do everything there just hasn’t been that opportunity to include it. This year, we’re making a start to include it and we’ve got buy-in from exec. So I think what will happen is, I mean, the age one was absolutely brilliant and we got so much really positive feedback from that. And I think that’s just gonna continue as we go through. And it’s going to be really interesting tackling all these topics this year. But I think next year it will definitely increase.
I think this year the focus is the shock factor. So they want us to bring videos to the teams of people struggling and not being able to do it because if you bring that shock factor the staff suddenly, you know, have that feeling of…well, at least empathy, you know, so you can kind of see the issues that customers are having just trying to sort out their car insurance or whatever. So I think it’s the shock factor this year and next year it will be ramping up. And hopefully, we can do more, definitely more of it.
How does your team use Confluence?
So it’s largely used by the UXers. It’s kind of our depository of where we literally put everything. It is catalogued, libraried, everything is kind of in a neat order. When we do a piece of work and we want to talk about that, we usually include the confluence link so all those other teams are included there like compliance, RPMs, our customer team. They would get access to those pages and it’s just a case of just, “That is where you go to get it.” And it’s just kind of getting that message home really. Yeah.
How long did it take to roll out the plan?
So, yeah, it’s taken quite a while but actually, before even drafting, you know, we had several sessions to brainstorm, “What the hell this thing looks like? What do we include in it? What do we keep out?” You know. And we had to kind of map it a little bit, even before starting it but, yeah, no, I think it’s taken a good month or so I think to kind of put together.
We showed the first draft of it to our sort of, just because I’m really lame now, our researchers’ club where we’ve kind of got research so delegates in all our areas across the locations. So we kind of did a bit of a showcase on Monday. Everybody kind of loved it which was great. We’ve got a few things to amend. So we’re going to do that and then roll out on Friday to our teams. It’s not publicly available at the moment. I don’t know if it ever will be but, yeah. I think we are done? Are we done? Oh, one more.
How do you get stakeholder buy-in?
Well, I think you can find a middle ground. It depends on your relationship with legal, in all honesty. We’ve got a really good close relationship with them. Like I said, they show up at our call sessions. So because they’re there every step of the way on a piece of work, things aren’t a surprise. And they kind of see how we got there. So I think that’s kind of really helped. There have been issues and things that have come back where, you know, they kind of really push, “Why have you done this this way?” And that kind of thing. “How did you get to that decision?” And then that just kind of boils down to, “We need to dig into the research to kind of prove why we went down a certain route,” But generally, that doesn’t happen often a lot because they’re with us on that journey. So if you can kind of get a good relationship with them, hopefully, you know, if they’re there through all the sessions they kind of see how you got to that. I think we’re done. I think we’re done.
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