Stop and chat: Marieke McCloskey on user research
There’s no way around it. When designing and building digital products the user should always be the focal point of attention. User research is of paramount importance here at In The Pocket, and we’re always eager to learn. That’s why we picked up the phone and had a chat with Marieke McCloskey, an authority on UX research. Here’s what we’ve learned.
Understand your user
If McCloskey’s years of experience taught her one thing, it’s that it’s vital to dig deeper into the underlying motivations of users. Users often describe a feature that they think they want, but it’s our job to understand the underlying need.
Conducting interviews with users is the most valuable tool to put your product to the test, but interviews are worthless if you don’t ask the right questions. Never hesitate to dig deeper into an answer to find out what’s really at play. So, as a general rule, it pays off to ask “why” a few more times to get to the bottom of a user’s needs.
Install the right processes
A good, and not unfamiliar, method to align research tools with a phase in the design process is the double diamond framework. At In The Pocket, we work with a similar methodology to design and build our products, called Shapes.
Basically, it’s all about designing the right thing and designing the thing right. In the early exploration phase, it’s important to uncover what your users try to do and figure out what’s hard and why it’s hard. During the refinement phase, you take the user’s feedback at heart to validate whether everyone can use your solution.
Democratise your knowledge
McCloskey also proved to be a strong advocate of democratising user research. Everyone in a product team should be involved in user research one way or another. Not every role in the team has to conduct user research, but they should at least be exposed to the insights that the team collectively gathers. Ideally, this knowledge should be available on a broader company-wide level.
"Everyone in a product team should be involved in user research one way or another."
In our way of working, we like to expose our cross-functional product teams to customer feedback as much as possible. Product managers typically conduct user tests every few months and motivate engineers, designers and other roles to join the tests. Architects perform deep research activities as part of their discovery work and we have a cross-functional user research team that focuses on advancing, developing and sharing our research methodology and experiences.
Avoid tunnel vision
All too often, McCloskey warned us, a single researcher ends up being embedded in a product team and risks losing a holistic view because they’re focused on one specific feature or product. A good way to overcome this is by creating a centralised insights team that executes strategic research, creates research tools, empowers product teams to continuously evaluate, and embeds researchers on teams where needed.
Our action points
Thanks to the insights of McCloskey, our very own user research domain has set up several initiatives to accelerate and widen the impact of user research in order
to ship better digital products.
We’re building a user community for testing as we speak and we already share our experiences company-wide through different research tools in order to make them accessible for anyone. But most importantly, we keep surrounding ourselves with experts in the field to keep learning and continue to deliver bleeding-edge digital products.