Remote user research enables us to reach a greater audience and get insights from end-users located anywhere in the world. It represents a significantly lowering in the costs of usability testing. Allows us to gather more accurate results, and with the help of technology and social media, great conversations can happen with users all around the globe. Which at the end, translates into richer and meaningful results.
User Experience Researcher at Stack Overflow
Beth is a User Experience Researcher with a PhD training in qualitative and quantitative methods, a M.S. in Management from INSEAD and a M.A. in Social-Organizational Psychology from Columbia. At Stack Overflow, she manages the collection and analysis of user insights for product teams. Previously, she worked at AnswerLab managing research for different companies (Facebook, Walmart, and Wells Fargo). Beth has lived on four continents which makes her to bring a global perspective to each project she takes part in.
Being the only UX researcher at Stack Overflow, how do you collaborate with the different teams of the organization?
Beth: Actually a few weeks ago, we just hired a second UX researcher. It is exciting to have company and someone to collaborate, bounce ideas and results with. But before that I did was just by myself and definitely in high demand (because of all the products we have at Stack Overflow), and this is how I did it,
- Focus on the projects/teams that needed my help the most and give them the majority of my attention.
- Enable people to do research without me. Explain the process, helping them invite different users to conversations, take turns moderating sessions, talking through some of the data with them.
Right now I’m so glad we have another person on board, at the time it felt like it was almost impossible to give everybody the research that they could have used.
Spreading the word of User Research through the organization.
Beth: I’m a huge advocate for research, it’s a very privileged position to have, I wish a lot more organizations, specially products and start-ups, would integrate it to their team, here’s why:
- Really helpful for Product Managers.
- Helpful for the entire team to have someone who’s looking at a level data gathered from metric dashboards.
- Having regular conversations with users, which allows the Researcher to store valuable information.
- Gather insights that really matter when the product is being designed or a feature is being changed.
- Time-saving to have someone specializes in gathering and analyzing users information.
How did the different profiles of the company (developers and product managers) took User Research approach?
Beth: The team embraced it, the developers saw the value and were really receptive. Stack Overflow is so interesting as a company because we have developers, and we care about them a lot, they are responsible for actually building Stack Overflow, but our users are also developers! So, it was kind of like Impostor Syndrome for me. I came into this role (I am not a developer) and I was telling developers how other developers feel about their work. I was terrified, but people were really nice and actually appreciated the work and the results gathered. It was kind of funny.
Advantages & Challenges of Remote User Reacher
Beth: I’ve done both, and remote user research is awesome, its advantages are so clear. You can talk to anyone, anywhere. This makes recruiting users so much easier, especially when a company/project requires really specific characteristics for the users.
You can have really enriching meaningful conversations over the internet, it’s amazing that we can even do this.
If you do research you should see if you can do it remote first, and then only do it in person if you absolutely have to.
Obviously there are challenges such as connectivity problems, or that you can’t see people in person interacting with our product, seeing people face to face to establishes trust and facilitates to have an honest conversation.
You want to make things as easy as possible for your users and remote research is definitely the best way to do that.
It would be so boring to talk to the same people that lived in the same part of the world, but with remote research I’ve talked to developers from all around the world. And since our product is being used worldwide, then we should be talking to users from everywhere and taking their opinions into consideration.
How you manage the big amounts of data and users feedback you gather?
Beth: We get feedback from a lot of different channels. Each product has their customer support channel: our job site, Meta (the forum where our users post feedback about Stack Overflow), Twitter, the Stack Overflow Developer Survey, etc. We are always thinking on how to do a better job in centralizing this data. We have a huge team of people that looks at these different sources — each team has a dedicated staff that is looking at the feedback. We all have regular conversations with each other (the different teams) and gather insights, but we are still working on how to integrate better and get the big picture.
Some Advice For Companies That Hesitate On Doing Research.
Beth: Don’t hesitate. It is so valuable to keep in contact with your users regularly. Remote research can be done really quickly! At first it might seem difficult, but once you know how to invite your users, and you have a good sense of how many invitations you should send, it all becomes very automatic.
The best time to do it: I wouldn’t say at the end, when you are refining a product, but at the beginning when your are thinking and defining the features. And of course it helps you when justifying certain things that are valuable to include in the product.
It is better to have the wisdom of crowds than to rely only on yourself and your team.