Introducing the people behind UserZoom's effort to improve it's own platform... using UserZoom!
You may assume that we’re either just a fully automated service floating around in the cloud, or that our sole employee is a giant orange owl. But no, actual people work here, and they not only ensure that our customers are getting the very best out of our user research software and services, but that the platform itself is as easy-to-use as possible.
With that last point in mind, I thought we’d begin with highlighting our newly formed Product User Experience Team, comprising Lead Product UX Researcher, Rose Leitner and Senior Product UX Researcher, Becky Wright.
Becky and Rose have taken it upon themselves to use the full power of UserZoom to make UserZoom a better product for you! It’s an exercise in eating-our-own-dogfood/drinking-our-own-champagne (delete whichever turns your stomach least), which we’ll document more fully in our forthcoming series on The UX of UserZoom.
Let’s find out a little more about the members of Product UXR, and why they’re so uniquely qualified for this project.
My background is in psychology and decision making research. I also spent some time working in mental health supporting clients by teaching them Cognitive Behavioural Therapy techniques.
After returning to research and completing my doctorate, I was at a business school helping to set up an experimental lab and had a brief stint at lecturing (sometimes though it’s pretty obvious you are not cut out for some jobs!)
I wouldn’t say I’ve had one lightbulb moment, coming from a research background it just seems so natural to run research with representative participants. However, when working on the UserZoom research team running projects for our customers, it was always great when you hear from them that the project was really useful because, “we never would have thought of it like that.” When you discover user insights that the customers are able to use to change something, either a live product or during the earlier stages of design, it’s a really great feeling.
When I joined UserZoom three years ago, I started in our research team that supports our customers, so I had to learn how to use the tool inside out.
On my first day, I remember looking at a potential customer project… We had some rough research questions and I spent the day looking at the customer’s website and working out some tasks we could run to get answers to their questions. In my past life I had spent weeks painstakingly coding and building my experiments for my research and using other tools for any follow up questions. I remember thinking how cool it was that you could record participants’ screens while they were completing a task on a live site, and you could ask them to complete other tasks or follow-up survey questions all in the same project!
Later I moved into a role where I trained our customers to use the platform themselves. It was interesting to learn about our customers’ research processes and experiences using UserZoom. These experiences have helped me come into my new role with a great sense of empathy for our customers and all their different research needs.
For me I was just excited to start helping by running research the Design and Product team needed. It was so interesting learning about how we work and how incredibly hard everyone is working in the R&D team to design and build better experiences in the tool. Being a heavy user of the tool and from my time spent working with some of our customers I can’t help getting very excited every time I see what the R&D team are working on and imagining the impact it will have – especially when it improves something I have seen a customer ‘struggle’ with firsthand.
Now I’m really enjoying the fact that I am doing the research in-house and getting to do it to help improve UserZoom. I’ve had my job described as very meta because I’m a UX researcher using UserZoom to test UserZoom in order to help other UXers do their UX research. I definitely feel like a UserZoom researcher through and through.
Although Becky comes from a quantitative background, I come from mostly a qualitative background. That’s the awesome thing about our team: Becky and I have complementary strengths and that’s one of the many reasons I love the opportunity to work together on UserZoom’s UX research.
I also have a background in psychology. I started focusing on neuroscience at Stanford, which is an incredible topic, but it was very micro-focused, and I wanted a bigger picture. I wanted to get results in my lifetime. I wanted to do things a little faster!
So the first user research job that I had was in a small online chat company. There was a customer community, and we used that forum, along with other methodologies and audiences, to gain feedback.
I moved over to Google as a contractor, and I ran a program there that was rapid-ish research where we did several topics per research session, and we would just churn it out at a regular pace, mainly for the purpose of quickly iterating on designs. This was Google Play, and that’s where I first used UserZoom.
There was never really a lightbulb moment for me. Since discovering user research, I understood the value of it. Since I’ve had experience in both academic research and in design thinking, all of that seemed to merge together in user experience research.
Understanding human behaviors and needs is intrinsically linked to the methodologies of design thinking. It just seemed intuitive to me that companies should be designing based on user needs from the beginning (although I learned over time that that’s not always the case, and people often try to start from an idea that can be monetized instead of solving for needs first).
It’s always such a rewarding moment when stakeholders and team members witness and empathize with what users say as it relates to their questions; it helps them see the incredible value that user perspective has in influencing design and product solutions.
I recognized it as a very powerful tool, and I was very excited about all the UX questions I could answer with it, but that made it a little overwhelming. At the time there weren’t research partners to help customers learn how to take advantage of the power of UserZoom, so I didn’t have the opportunity to learn as much as I could or as quickly as I would have liked..
I think for me, the first study that I did was a click-test and it was very difficult to get heat maps.* I thought to myself, “I gotta talk to them about this experience. And it’s gotta be easier. There’s gotta be a way that I’m missing.”
When I saw the opportunity to work for UserZoom, I thought it was very cool because I could help improve the product, and like Becky said, it was very meta. “Hey, you’re interested in researching researchers with a research tool that we’re researching.” Sounds great
*Editor’s note: We’ll be updating Click Test Results and heatmaps in our forthcoming Summer 19.3 release.
There are so many great articles/books/resources on how to start a user-centered culture, even with limited resources, but here are a few things I learned, which are important in any context:
Connect often with the PMs, designers and engineers working on your product. Ask them what they wish they knew more about, or if they have any doubts. Look at those questions as they relate to the broader business goals.
Do some secondary research on what users already say about the product (online ratings etc), and see if it relates to those questions.
See how other products have approached solutions to the questions (do competitive analyses, literature reviews, etc.).
Once you’ve built some foundational knowledge, dig deeper into understanding the user perspective on the same topics. Propose running a quick informal study on concepts related to the question list, or related parts of your site (this can be as simple as chatting informally with some users over a coffee or online).
Take notes on what they say, show the quotes (and video clips if applicable) to stakeholders. Share the knowledge you gathered with all the people who had those questions in the first place. They will usually see the value in the insights you’ve gathered, and will want more.
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Now that we’ve got to know them as individuals, they will now combine Voltron-style into Product UXR and will be rolling out their research process at UserZoom as one giant robotic legendary defender product research team.