Rank #1: Lou Rosenfeld
May 01 2014
Rank #2: Russ Unger
Apr 02 2014
Rank #3: Steve Krug
Mar 03 2014
Rank #4: Whitney Hess
Feb 03 2014
Rank #5: Todd Zaki Warfel
Jan 02 2014
May 01 2014
Apr 02 2014
Mar 03 2014
Feb 03 2014
Jan 02 2014
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Kate and Laura drink and fight about what is wrong with user experience design.
Rank #1: Figuring Out the Possible.
In this episode, Kate and Laura argue about how understanding what you can do may affect what you want to do, which is exactly backwards from what they usually drone on about. Drink pairing: Cheap Chablis
Rank #2: UX Trends.
Kate and Laura answer questions submitted by the fine UXers at Tradecraft. This week, we completely fail to tell the future of the UX. Music: The Future Soon by Jonathan Coulton Drink Pairing: Vintage Champagne
In Conversation with UX Magazine: in-depth interviews with the world's leading experience design practitioners, hosted by UXM editor Josh Tyson.
Rank #1: In Conversation with Alan Cooper.
We talk with Alan Cooper about skateboarding, fatherhood, design, ethics, and the responsibility that comes with getting our seat at the table.
Rank #2: In Conversation with Joe Natoli.
We talk with Joe Natoli, enterprise UX consultant and author of the new book, Think First: My No-Nonsense Approach to Creating Successful Products, Memorable User Experiences and Happy Customers.
A free-ranging set of discussions on matters of interest to people involved in user experience design, website design, and usability in general.
Rank #1: Explain yourself! An interview with Tom Greever.
Articulating Design Decisions.
Rank #2: UX Careers: An Interview with Cory Lebson.
Stories, debates and advice. Austin Knight, a Product Designer at Google (formerly HubSpot), sits down with friends from around the world to discuss User Experience and Growth tactics.This show is entirely non-profit and independent, to ensure that the content is always of the highest quality. It does not have ads, is not associated with any business or organization, and does not accept donations. It is privately funded by the host.To learn more, visit us at www.uxd.to/podcast
Rank #1: Hiring & Getting Hired with Mike Gaiss (Founder of ThinkB1G).
What are the qualities and skillsets that the world's best companies look for in candidates? How can you position yourself or your company to win in the recruiting game? In this episode, recruiting expert and ThinkB1G founder Mike Gaiss shares insider tips for hiring the best talent and getting hired into the best companies.“Startups are not that interested in hiring candidates that are 'just looking for a job.' They're looking for passion, intellectual curiosity, somebody that is always trying new things. Part of that is because these companies require you to often times wear a lot of hats and pick up skills on the fly.” — Mike at 7:07Visit ThinkB1G: www.ThinkB1G.comEmail us: Hello@UXandGrowth.comAustin on Twitter: Twitter.com/ustinKnightGeoff on Twitter: Twitter.com/dailydaigleMatt on Twitter: Twitter.com/mattrheault
Rank #2: Onboarding Best Practices.
Onboarding is the process of introducing a user to a new software, app, website, or feature update. It is commonly cited as the most critical component to retaining users and is essential to the success of businesses of any size. In this episode, we share our thoughts and expertise on the best practices for onboarding."One option is to make users do something that challenges them; example is Duolingo. One is 'Batman Onboarding', which means that the onboarding doesn't show up until the user needs it; example is Slack. And the third is that you simply create an intuitive product; example is Atlassian." — Geoff at 36:57Email us: Hello@UXandGrowth.comAustin on Twitter: Twitter.com/ustinKnightGeoff on Twitter: Twitter.com/dailydaigleMatt on Twitter: Twitter.com/mattrheault
Hosted by @axbom & @beantin, UX Podcast is for those who are passionate about balancing business, technology and people within the realm of digital media. Recorded twice monthly in Stockholm, Sweden.
Rank #1: #176 The insane growth of UX.
Episode 176 is a link show. James and Per discuss two articles that have grabbed their attention. Article one is A 100 Year View of User Experience by Jakob Nielsen. “For all practical purposes, the growth in UX is still to come. I’m predicting that we’ll be 100 million UX professionals in the world by 2050. This corresponds to 1% of the world’s population.” Our second article is Five user research rules of thumb by Leisa Reichelt. “Over years of experience you begin to collect ways of working and talking about how you work that accrete into rules of thumb.” (Listening time: 38 minutes) Episode #176: The insane growth of UX https://t.co/aWw4OGOryp #ux #podcast #uxresearch pic.twitter.com/63zx98gGQG — UX Podcast (@uxpodcast) January 19, 2018 References: Article 1: A 100-Year View of User Experience By Jakob Nielsen Episode 23: James & Per find their breakpoint UX Sverige (Facebook group, Swedish) Article 2: Five user research rules of thumb By Leisa Reichelt Episode 96: James & Per give microfeedback Cover art: Chain links by Howard Lake (CC BY-SA 2.0) Cropped to 1:1 SaveSave SaveSave The post #176 The insane growth of UX appeared first on UX Podcast.
Rank #2: #216 Make it so with Nathan Shedroff and Chris Noessel (UXP Classic).
In this classic episode, Nathan Shedroff and Christopher Noessel, authors of Make It So, join us to talk about interaction design lessons from science fiction. For a number of years Nathan and Chris have been collecting and investigating interfaces seen and used in science fiction, that research has now made it into book form.We talk to them about the background to Make It So, how the book came about, the influence that Sci-fi has on real world interfaces (and vice versa), and we nerd it up on a few occasions with some specific sci-fi examplesEpisode 216: Make it so with @nathanshedroff and @chrisnoessel (a UXP Classic) https://t.co/Hd35A6PPwE pic.twitter.com/2LLk3DcEar— UX Podcast (@uxpodcast) August 2, 2019 (Listening time: 41 minutes, transcript) References: Full transcript for episode 216 Original episode 25 show-notes page Captain Picard: “Make it so“ Design Lessons from Star Trek to Consider Before Creating Your Next User Interface Make it so website Brainstorm (1983) and Strangedays (1995) Volumetric projections Memory alpha Riker’s joystick and The Riker Maneuver Voyager episoder “The 37s“ Destination Moon, Rocketship X-M and Nude on The Moon Quantified self Make it so book illustrations Flickr collection Cover art image from Rosenfeld Media Enjoy the episode? Become a patron of UX Podcast The post #216 Make it so with Nathan Shedroff and Chris Noessel (UXP Classic) appeared first on UX Podcast.
There are scores of inspirational UX Designers out there who are doing outstanding, innovative work and helping to shape the future in their struggle to solve important design problems while fighting for the users.In our highly accelerating world of technology, wearables and the connected life, there's never been a better time to be a great UX Designer.This podcast is aimed at highlighting those leading the way in their craft by diving deeper into who they are, and what makes them tick/successful, in order to inspire and equip those aspiring to do the same.
Rank #1: 002: Don’t Let Anything Get in the Way of What You Want to Build with Josh Tucker.
Josh Tucker shares with us the importance of determination and resolve when building whatever it is you desire to build. He also stresses the importance of knowing everything you possibly can about your users and designing experiences that delight them and improve their lives. Josh Tucker (The Interactioneer) is an Interactive Designer at Google and […]
Rank #2: 056: Building an Effective UX Portfolio with Sarah Doody.
Sarah Doody challenges us to think of our portfolio as one of the most important products we’ll ever create. She urges us to not only communicate our contributions, but to both show and tell the story of each project. In the end, she teaches us that using the right process is more than just about landing our next UX job–it will also make us better designers. Ideal Number of Projects (4:07) Lead with the Best Project (5:40) Alternate Portfolios (7:13) What a Recruiter Is Looking For Most (13:03) Proving Your Knowledge (15:52) What Does Storytelling Mean? (23:47) Edit Your Work (29:48) Do You Need a Website? (39:44) Build a Portfolio Quickly (49:36) The UX Academy (54:09) Best Advice (56:31) Check out the detailed show notes including mentioned links, transcript and Eli Jorgensen’s astonishing superhero artwork at userdefenders.com/056 This episode is brought to you by Adobe, makers of XD. Try it FREE at userdefenders.com/xd
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Rank #1: The Right Way to Train the Wrong Way to Research - UI Conference Podcast.
Transcript available. When we’re training teams on our design methods, what we perceive as ‘proper’ may in fact become a hindrance. Our dogmatic approach to our processes may prevent people from ever employing the techniques. Is it better to do it the right way, or to teach a wrong way that will get the job done?
Rank #2: Amy Jo Kim - Turbocharge Your Product Design with Game Thinking Live!.
Transcript available. You’ve got a groundbreakingly innovative product idea, and you’ve assembled a crack team of designers. You know exactly what you want to do, but you’re unsure of how to do it. Without a framework to drive your product development, it’s Game Over.
No chit-chat, just focused in-depth discussions about design topics that matter. Jonathan Shariat and Chris Liu are your hosts and bring to the table passion and years of experience.
Rank #1: Episode 25 - How to design a great portfolio.
This week Chris and Jon discuss one of the most difficult design projects of them all, portfolios. We talk about what they are, how they can help move your career forward, and how we're faring on this journey to portfolio greatness!
Rank #2: Episode 47 - How to plan your design career(from start to finish).
How do you get started in Design? What's next after your first job? What positions should I build to? What are the possible paths for a designer to take? We discuss these important questions and more in this week's podcast!
Join us for exciting conversations about UI/UX design, SaaS products, marketing, and so much more. My awesome guests are industry experts who share actionable knowledge — so that you can apply it in your business today.
Rank #1: Episode 42: Hiring for UX Positions with Sarah Doody.
Hiring a good designer has never been easy! Today I'm talking to Sarah Doody — a guru UX designer, teacher, and writer from New York City. You'll learn how to approach the hiring process in your particular case, whether education matters, how to navigate in the variety of design professions, and what skills to look for. Designers, on the other side, will get an insight how to better present themselves. Podcast feed: subscribe to http://simplecast.fm/podcasts/1441/rss in your favorite podcast app, and follow us on iTunes or Stitcher. Show Notes The UX Notebook — Sarah's awesome newsletter The 5-Step UX Research Formula — Sarah's upcoming masterclass 65 Point Checklist For User Research Projects — free UX research guide from Sarah The UX of Hiring for UX Positions — an article by Dan Maccarone & Sarah Doody Sarah's main website Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahdoody Today's Sponsor Today's episode is brought to you by Remarq — fast, professional formatting for your reports and proposals. Just focus on your content, while Remarq automatically creates beautiful PDF documents. Go to Remarq.io and use the coupon code UIBREAKFAST to get a 20% lifetime discount. Interested in sponsoring an episode? Learn more here. Leave a Review Reviews are hugely important because they help new people discover this podcast. If you enjoyed listening to this episode, please leave a review on iTunes.
Rank #2: Episode 137: Lean, Agile & Design Thinking with Jeff Gothelf.
There are so many design methodologies available these days — lean, agile & design thinking being the most popular. Could you use them side-by-side? Our guest today is Jeff Gothelf, author of Lean UX and Sense & Respond, and co-founder of Sense & Respond Press. You'll learn how to make the most out of these frameworks, help teams talk to each other, and measure customer outcomes (instead of your effort) using the right behavior metrics. Podcast feed: subscribe to http://simplecast.fm/podcasts/1441/rss in your favorite podcast app, and follow us on iTunes, Stitcher, or Google Play Music. Show Notes Lean UX, Sense & Respond, Lean vs Agile vs Design Thinking — Jeff's books Sense & Respond Press — Jeff's publishing house together with Josh Seiden Making Progress, Hire Women — some of the latest books by Sense & Respond Press Agile vs Lean vs Design Thinking — Jeff's original article Episode 131: Design Sprint with Jonathan Courtney AARRR! Dave McClure’s “Pirate Metrics” And The Only Five Numbers That Matter — an article by Walter Chen Jeff's website Follow Jeff on Twitter: @jboogie Today's Sponsor This episode is brought to you by Abstract — design workflow management for product design teams using Sketch. No more searching for the right version of the file, exporting and importing between tools, or trying to consolidate feedback. Now everything is in one place! Sign your team up for a free 30-day trial today by heading over to abstract.com. Interested in sponsoring an episode? Learn more here. Leave a Review Reviews are hugely important because they help new people discover this podcast. If you enjoyed listening to this episode, please leave a review on iTunes. Here's how.
The podcast where we talk with the people who lead user research in their organization.
Rank #1: 7. Judd Antin of Airbnb.
We kick off the second season with Judd Antin, the Director of Experience Research at Airbnb. Judd and I speak about their model for embedding talented generalists with product teams, skill-sharing among researchers, and just what exactly makes research “sexy.” I don’t know of another way to do things better than to give and get feedback. It should flow like a river. And I think that can be hard, to be open, to focus on strengths rather than weaknesses. To be humble is a thing we’re always seeking to be better at, but that’s how I approach the task of building a team. – Judd Antin Show Links Judd Antin Follow Judd on Twitter Airbnb Trello Alex Schleifer Kathy Lee Janna Bray Steffen Kuhr Natalie Tulsiani Brian Chesky Joe Gebbia Katie Dill Adrian Cleave Improv and user research French Culinary Institute Your Data Are Wrong: The Hype and Reality of Big Data The Incredible Hulk Follow Dollars to Donuts on Twitter (and Stitcher) and take a moment to leave a review on iTunes. Transcript (French version) Steve Portigal: Welcome Judd. Judd Antin: Thanks, Steve. Steve: It’s great to speak with you. Maybe let’s just start as we always do with just kind of the broad strokes. Do you want to introduce yourself? Tell us a bit about you and what you do, what your role is. Judd: Sure. Sure, happy to. So I am the Director of Experience Research here. So experience research at Airbnb is a team that was formerly called Insights, but what we really are is a UX research team. We are embedded in our design organization so we have designers, content strategists, product managers, engineers, data scientists as our partners and we’re a team of 17 folks at the moment. We have a pretty diverse group of people on the team which is something we do on purpose. And everybody is sort of embedded in their teams, working directly on the day to day of products for guests and hosts all the time. So, yeah. Steve: That’s good. And of course those intros, as we know from research, like we could just follow up on all the things that you said. That would probably fill our whole interview. Let me go back to some things. Can you explain Airbnb? Judd: Sure I can. Let’s see if I can do this in a nutshell. So Airbnb is a marketplace that let’s hosts who have space come together with guests who need it. So…we provide an opportunity to travel in a much more local way. So I think you know, it’s – you know Airbnb has been one of the poster children for the sharing economy but I think for us the way that we think about it is that Airbnb is an opportunity to connect hosts and guests together, to have much more genuine local experiences. Local in the sense that you’re traveling to a place that is pro-, potentially just in a neighborhood. You may be staying in a spare room or a place where your host is either there or they’re on vacation and you’re sort of experiencing their city from their point of view and you know getting recommendations from your host about where to go in the neighborhood. So I think that is the thing that makes Airbnb really beautiful and unique is that it’s kind of this view of travel which is to say yeah you show up in San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz and Coit Tower, those are important things that we know from research that everyone wants to see, but if you never left Union Square and Fisherman’s Wharf it would be hard to say that you got a real sense of what San Francisco is like. So Airbnb really lets that happen. Steve: And you started off at that great explanation by contrasting sort of a common or public perception around it – you said “poster child for sharing economy.” Is there something that – and obviously everyone in the company – everyone in any company understands the contrast between how they’re perceived and – I’m just thinking about you in the role that you have and what your team does. Do you deal with that – I don’t know if it’s a gap or delta – the world thinks of us as this. You know we go out and people to sort of understand. I don’t know… Judd: Oh yeah Steve: You’re nodding so I’ll let you answer. Judd: All the time. We spend all of our time talking to guests and hosts on Airbnb. We make a concerted effort through travel and remote research to get outside of the Bay Area bubble for example because, you know, Airbnb is very much present here. But what that allows us to do is see what the everyday experience of traveling or hosting on Airbnb is like for people and I think that means that we get a huge dose of real talk. You know we have a mission – you know sort of our tagline as a company is belong anywhere which is something that we all pretty deeply believe. We want people to be able to have a travel experience which lets them have a really genuine welcoming experience of a place that they can start to feel at home there and belong there. But we learn a lot about how that vision sort of translates to reality in the everyday life of a host, or the everyday life of a guest who is traveling. For host that might mean we expose the diversity of hosts. So for a lot of hosts we talk to the – the money is really an important reason that they do it, but they also feel a strong connection to hospitality. They like to experience people who are visiting them from all over the world and they talk about that as a motivation for doing it. For travelers, similarly, we find out that finding a cheap place to stay is often – I mean let’s – however much – that’s not going to be a part of our vision at Airbnb, but it is a reality of the way that people think about Airbnb when they travel. It is a part of their motivation for getting on the platform. And so I think one of the great things about the research team is that we can be that dose of real talk. We can say like okay this is important. This vision is important. The mission is important. But let’s talk about the real lives of guests and hosts and what matters to them. Steve: How do you characterize – I don’t know, I can only ask it through suggesting an appropriate metaphor that – and I know the synthesis or the ping ponging, if you’ve got – you know here’s public perception, here’s what real people involved – here’s what the real talk says. Here’s what our internal aspirations or you know Kool-Aid or whatever it is for any organization – I mean how – what’s the sort of – tell me about how those things come together. You have to deal with what’s believed and what the aspirations are, with what the world says and with what the real talk from real people is. Judd: I think we have a pretty happy balance between the Kool-aid, or mission driven aspect of what the company does, and the real thing, the real talk of people. What we do most consciously is probably to remind people in this building that we are nothing like the vast majority of people on Airbnb. And that’s where I think the real talk matters because if you make a bunch of assumptions on the basis of what seems obvious or intuitive to us here in this fantastic building in San Francisco in SOMA, like we’re going to get it wrong. We’re going to get it wrong for California, for the United States and certainly for the world, the vast – the majority of our business doesn’t happen in the United States. So I think that is one of the most important roles of real talk is just to say… It’s not that difficult. I don’t think we feel a real tension between the mission and the values and the everyday lived experience of guests and hosts. We just have to remind people that most people’s daily lives are nothing like ours and so we just have to keep that in mind when we make design and product decisions. Steve: I love that that’s not a tension. Those things can work well together. Not every organization is the same and maybe elsewhere you’ve observed that as more of a tension. Judd: Yeah Steve: But, why? How does that work well here? What’s going on? Judd: Here’s my theory. My theory is that it’s because we’re a travel company and here’s a list of things that we don’t have to worry about – advertisers, monetizing engagement. What that means is that to the degree we can get people to find the perfect place for them, where they want to travel, get them out of our digital products and out into the world to travel, that’s success. You know what I mean. And so I think we don’t have to make a lot of assumptions about what motivates sort of digital behavior. We have to get people to travel and I think it attracts a certain type of a person who – and you know that combined with our mission for belong anywhere, we think it’s easy to have that kind of empathy for the world because traveling is such a – as an experience is kind of full of empathy. It’s like understand the world from someone else’s point of view. And as a research team we kind of focus on that too. We’re like hey product team, let us help you understand the world from another point of view, the point of view of guests and hosts that are nothing like you. Steve: That’s wonderful. So the company that’s about getting out of – giving people the chance to experience something differently than what they’ve experienced, in other words travel, is one way that a culture gets created that there’s a hunger to understand – a willingness and a hunger to understand. Judd: Yeah. Steve: The world is different than what we’ve assumed. Judd: Yeah. And I think that’s a big selling point for researchers who want to work at Airbnb because you know they think – travel is such an evocative experience. You know if you look back at the – I think the average person who thinks back over their life to the 10 experiences that were most educational, most instructive, most inspirational for you, a good chunk of them are probably travel experiences. So people’s eyes are open. Like it’s emotional. It’s intellectual. And so as a topic for research, you know facilitating that kind of travel experience is really sexy for most researchers we talk to. It feels really good. It feels really real. You know I think sometimes working in the domain of digital products you can think what does this all add up to? You know what experience I’m really making. Like we don’t have that problem because travel, we’ve all had experiences of travel that are truly sort of transformation. Steve: So what are the experiences that researchers have? Can you give some context or situations where researchers are involved in – are researchers traveling to study travel for example? Judd: Yes. So we have done a fair amount, not as much as I want us to do, but we have started to do travel, primarily as a way of understanding – getting outside that Bay Area bubble. We spend a bunch of time in the homes of hosts. That’s one thing I think we do a lot of. So one thing we haven’t done yet is kind of like I think a travel along project. You know if you research at Uber you could like ride along with an Uber rider or driver. We haven’t done a travel along. I don’t know, that seems a little invasive and weird. But we spend a bunch of time in hosts homes and one of the reasons we do that is because that’s one of those things where it’s very difficult to get a full picture of the day to day of a host, the things that challenge them just in the flow of trying to provide hospitality and use our products without really getting into it with them. Find out what’s their routine of sort of messaging with potential guests – you know scheduling, cleaning, doing key exchange, all of that day to day stuff. It’s really hard to find out the mechanics of that without being there. And it can be very difficult to get the context and depth and empathy we need about motivations for hosting, let’s say, without a really in depth face to face conversation and where better to have that conversation than in the home. Steve: Right. It’s just funny sitting here that you refer to it as their homes. Of course it’s their homes, but I’ve only ever been a guest, never been a host. So the unit that you’re referring to, this environment, it’s a place that I stay. I forgot that it’s somebody else’s home. So to hear you say that, even the language, which I think is probably a key – that’s probably key for you guys to be talking about these as homes. Judd: Yeah. No, I think it’s true. And you know I’ve been thinking a lot about the language we use. You know I think in research – you know I don’t know many people in user experience who use the word subjects. We mostly talk about participants and we use – you know sometimes we talk about users. You may – you know we can talk about whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I kind of always want to turn to guests and hosts – the things we do for guests and hosts because it’s a reminder of – it’s similar to the way you said oh right it’s someone’s home. It’s like right, this is a guest, this is a traveler and this is a traveler who is showing up in somebody else’s space, in their home where they live and sharing that space whether or not the host is physically present at that time – they’re sharing that space. And on the flip-side like this is a host. Not only is hospitality and hosting something that we care a lot about as a company, something we try to promote with our products and look into with our research, but it’s a home. You know it’s really personal. Again, like that is a sexy thing for researchers because it’s like one of the most important things in your life is where you rest your head. And the idea of letting somebody else into that home can seem – you know that’s where the issues of trust come in that are so interesting to look at because you have so many dimensions of that. You have the sense of trust that’s instilled in Airbnb as a brand, Airbnb as a platform. The way we facilitate relationships between guests and hosts. And then you have this face to face personal think where I am letting you into my house if I’m a host or I’m going into your house if I’m a guest. And you know I have a lot of people when I talk about Airbnb that ask about trust and safety and things like that. And the only thing I’ll say about that is it gives me a huge amount of faith in humanity how rarely there’s a serious issue. You know. The number – like millions and millions of nights are stayed in Airbnb’s and the number of serious issues that happen when people trust each other and guests go into homes is just minuscule. From our point of view it’s too many – one is too many. Steve: Right. Judd: But it’s really sort of restoring a faith in humanity and I appreciate that we are constantly on the lookout for doing research that can facilitate that. Like creating wonderful rich, trusting interactions between guests and hosts. Steve: And another reframe for me that’s helpful to think about this is these two groups of people that are being connected as opposed to a bed and a toilet for the night. Judd: And to the end of real talk right. There are some guests who do see it as a bed and a toilet. You know, it’s a cheaper bed and a toilet then they can get at a hotel. But not all guests, probably not most guests. You know the aspect of hospitality, the aspect of getting into a neighborhood, living like a local, it’s really powerful and I think it’s a real motivator for Airbnb. Steve: I want to dive into some other language that you used and maybe get you to unpack that a bit. You said a couple of times that certain kinds of problems or areas are sexy for researchers. So that suggests some insight into what appeals to researchers. Like what we like doing. So what does sexy mean for researchers? Judd: Yeah. So in my experience, when I say sexy – when I say sexy I mean two things. One, a topic for research which is really meaty, which you can really wrap your arms around and spend years at a time diving into. It has a lot of dimensions. It’s not easy. It’s probably a challenge. I think most researchers find the challenge sexy. For example it is something that requires us to deeply understand a problem and figure out how to translate it into design and product and communication. So that’s one aspect of sexy. And then the other thing that’s sexy I think for a researcher is the fact that they can be set up for a direct line to impact product with their work. I think when I talk – I talk to a lot of candidates and when I think about how research is structured in their organization what I hear is well they had to advocate for budget, for a study, and it took them several months to do that. And then they completed the study and then they had to present it up the chain three or four or five levels to get that VP to advocate another VP to get that PM to put it into the roadmap. And it hurts my heart. You know it’s like the worst way to do research. And so I think researchers find it sexy when they don’t have to do that which is – which is one of the beautiful things of Airbnb which is that we don’t have a perfect situation but we have researchers set up as partners, with designers, with PMs, content people, data scientists, engineers, at every stage of the product cycle. The way that they have impact is through being there every day for direct conversations about what we should build? How should we build it and why? Are we doing it right? Iterative development, launch and learn, repeat, you know. And that is sexy to a researcher. Steve: Can we talk more about that staging or how people are set up? So there’s a number of individuals with different roles that are partnered together. Judd: Sure. So, yeah – so we have an embedded model for research where – which I would contrast to the more service-based model where there’s like a central organization that sort of fields requests and sends out a researcher into the field. Our model is an embedded model where a researcher gets situated into a product. Let’s say that product is search. That researcher sits physically next to, hopefully between the PM and the designer, the engineer, the data scientist. And I make a big deal of that physical presence because I think that’s where a lot of the action is. There are a lot of – I’ve had conversations with researchers before where they say I need to get into that meeting. I go, what meeting? And they go that meeting where all the decisions happened. And usually I look into it and find out that meeting doesn’t exist. That meeting happened like in between her desk and his desk at 1:45 and it happened because – like I’m elbowing a shoulder right now. Steve: Um-hmm. Judd: Like that’s why it’s so important to physically have that person there, physically present for everything that’s going on in the product cycle. And that person finds partners in all the other functions. So certainly with design – we have very close relationships with design, product managers. We have a strong and wonderful data science team here. Engineers of course. Content strategists. Everybody is kind of at the table, one very collaborative team trying to make great product. Steve: So I have a dumb question and we can say there are no dumb questions. Judd: There are dumb questions. Steve: Thank you. Thank you for affirming my dumbness. You know product cycles, development process focuses on different tasks are hot and heavy at different points. So I’ll just ask this in the dumbest way possible, what’s the researcher doing at different stages of that? What does it look like for them? Judd: Sure. Yeah. So I guess it would start with an exploratory or formative stage where we’re trying to figure out what we should build. What are the problems? What do they look like? Why are they problems? So very often that’s a place for in-depth qualitative research. We love to have a model where we do in-depth qualitative research and then we follow it up with really rigorous larger scale survey work to check prevalence. So that kind of one-two punch is really powerful for us so we can say here’s a deep, contextual rich understanding of these problems and we know a lot about how prevalent they are and we can segment them a little bit in ways that matter to us. So cool, we did that. Okay now maybe we have a product road-map. Or we’ve decided to build a thing in a certain way and the designers were hopefully participants in that research from the very beginning. Very often they are in the observation room and they’re coming on home visits. They’re participating in feedback on interview guides and surveys, all that stuff. But then I think they really kick into gear at that point where the implications for design kicks in from the study and we are starting to do sketches and ideation and visioning work and I’m a huge advocate of low fidelity prototype testing as a way of sort of pointing the ship. So at that point the researcher might be doing sort of a rolling study where at first mocks maybe Framer prototype, sort of golden path, Wizard of Oz-y things that are a little bit more rich and interactive. Doing repeated user studies with those. And then at a certain point in our cycle we’re sort of iterating and we end up passing off to engineering. Again, like the engineers are often there through the whole process, but then the sort of hot and heavy engineering kicks in. At that point there might be some more design refinement that can go on, or if there’s a concurrent project that the researcher is working on. But we get towards a stage where we have a functional prototype we can test we tweak that before launch. We launch. Now we can talk to real users in the wild and we get all that great ecological validity and then we’re back to square one in a way which is okay. Maybe we worked on a thing, we improved it, but a whole new set of problems reveal themselves. Like no design solution is perfect and so the researcher’s job is never done. Steve: That’s awesome. I feel like applauding that narrative. So everybody’s busy doing this stuff. Again, I guess that’s the embedded model kind of brought to fruition. In a service model you probably wouldn’t either have the resources or wouldn’t choose to do it that way. Judd: Yeah, I mean – so here’s – like the way that I think about that trade-off is that – the greatest thing about a service model that I can see is that you can really provide the person with the perfect expertise for a product – for a research project that’s being requested. We have to have a model that’s a little bit more like a generalist. So people on my team are generally expert at something. So maybe they’re just more passionate and experienced with diary studies, or surveys. They do little stats. You know we’re a very multi-method team. But they kind of have to be a generalist because whatever – if you’re embedded, whatever research need is kind of thrown at you, you need to handle it. You need to handle it. You need to collaborate with another researcher who’s an expert. If it’s sort of at the edge of your skill set you need to work with the data scientist. But it demands this generalist model. And then the other thing that I think is important is that in the service model – like I – we don’t spend a lot – like the amount of time we spend on reporting varies a lot, but it is generally not a huge proportion of their time. I think of a huge amount of time spent on beautiful Keynote or PowerPoint decks as the price you have to pay for a service organization rather than an embedded organization because when a researcher is embedded presumably that PM, that designer, the engineer, they were along for the whole thing. They’ve seen it at every stage. They were in the back room and you debriefed after every session or at the end of every day. They participated in the affinity diagramming and so we may still do a video reel, cut together some clips. We may put together a Keynote, but that’s not the primary deliverable. They’ve been getting it the whole time. It was a constant back and forth. I just think that’s so much more efficient and it lets a researcher develop like real product expertise in that area rather than parachuting in and out all the time. Steve: Are there ways that – as you said they have to work as generalists. But you have diverse staffing, people with different backgrounds and different experiences. Is there any sense of kind of community practice that you get very specifically in that centralized model? Like the researchers sit together and they share stuff, but what’s the gestalt you can create in this model? Judd: I think we have to work just a little bit harder for it because the peripheral awareness isn’t necessarily there, the way that it would be if you had one team and sort of everybody knew who was allocated to which project at which time. And honestly like we don’t have a perfect solution to that yet. I’ve never been a part of a research team where we didn’t have a problem with that type of information sharing and it’s really important and we’re trying to do better at it. Actually we’re talking about it right now because number one we want that community of practice. We want feedback to flow. We want people to find beautiful, like synergy of research questions. We don’t want to have people doing the same project in parallel or reinventing the wheel. And all those things require that kind of peripheral awareness of what everybody is working on, or the ability to get that information quickly. On the other hand you have this sort of classic, collective action problem where if it’s too onerous for any one person to provide that information, or consume it for that matter, then the whole model falls apart because it’s sort of only as strong as its weakest link. So we have to figure out how to create a lightweight model. And to be honest the way we’re doing that right now is with Trello. I don’t know if you ever use Trello? It’s a pretty low tech tool in the sense that it’s like the closest analogy – Alex Schleifer, our VP of Design and my boss, he calls it like a digital whiteboard. It’s got columns and cards and columns. So a product team has a column and a card is an active project. And it might have a link to a research brief or an interview guide, but it’s just that simple. And that’s it. And people can check that to find out what’s going on. They can update it. They can move a card into the done pile. I don’t think it’s a perfect solution, but you call that a real problem that we work hard at. Steve: So everyone can see what’s being researched? Or see what has been? You can look in the done pile and see what’s been done? Judd: Yeah. So we’re still working this out, but the model is that things that are recently completed stay in the done pile. Eventually they kind of get archived and they’ll live in kind of a research repository elsewhere. But things that are active or recently completed, it’s sort of a one stop shop to view them all. We’re going to try it out and see how it works. Like I don’t think there’s a perfect solution for this, but it’s something that I hear from the team that we need to work hard at. Partly because we find those collaborations and cross-pollinations and partly because it helps us feel like a team and like we have that community of practice and that’s something that we work on actively promoting. Steve: That sounds like another sort of – that’s the tension of the distributed – I’m sorry, the embedded vs. the centralized model. Not that the centralized model has it figured out because you know creating deliverables – I don’t know how many times I’ve encountered the like – I’ve had – I’ve been the vendor outside an organization and had people in that organization come into a new role and not know of the project and have to reach out outside the organizational walls to get that collateral or those deliverables from a vendor from a year ago, me. So it’s not like if you – it’s not like the centralized model always works for that. The deliverables just have a shelf life and they disappear. Judd: For sure. Steve: So is this knowledge management we’re kind of talking about here? Judd: Yeah. You have somebody with institutional memory and they’re always there. Although of course moving from team to team to sort of cross-pollinate is a good thing, but we probably do that on the order of like 18 months to 2 years. I think everything is a trade-off. I choose to optimize for perfectly positioning a researcher for impact and to be a voice, a constant voice in the product process. The trade-off of that decision is that we have to work harder at the community of practice bit. Thankfully we have a really passionate and collaborative group of researchers at Airbnb who are devoted to that, actively seeking that and we’re small enough that we can have – you know small enough physically in that we can all sort of see each other in the space of 30 seconds and that we can meet in a reasonable sized room and share ideas on a regular basis. Steve: Are there – do you have regular meet-ups or certain types of activities that are meant to make that happen? Judd: Sure. You know we are in the midst of a concerted effort for information sharing. So we meet all the time. We meet every Monday morning for a standup which is sort of go around the table and everybody say the two things they’re working on that week. We meet every Tuesday for a kind of what I could call more like a team meeting. Like we get into it. We talk about recruiting and hiring. We often have special topics. We talk about growth. We have – growth in the sense of team growth and individual growth. We talk about sort of big picture product and design context stuff that’s going on. We also have something that Kathy Lee (one of the researchers on the team) put together which is Shop Talk. So it’s like a Friday event in which people can have a beer and give a presentation they would have given to their product team to the other researchers. And we’re also instituting skillshares. I sort of demand that everybody on the team – so my model for this is sort of, in my memory as somebody who got a PhD – so when we get a PhD you become the world’s foremost expert at some tiny little thing that nobody cares about and then you write a dissertation which if you’re lucky your advisor will read and then you’re kind of done with it. But, so clearly that’s why I’m not in academia, but one of the great things about that model I think is that you carve out this niche for yourself which is your calling card and that’s a thing that I ask every researcher on my team to do. Yes there’s this baseline that we must be rigorous, beautiful generalists, but what is the thing that you’re uniquely good at as a researcher? What is your calling card? What is the thing that you want to at first sort of really consume all the materials you can find about, go to seminars, take workshops and read books on and then before you know it you’re writing the books and you’re teaching the seminars and you’re giving brown bags to the rest of the team. I just think if you have a team where everybody has that unique team, an aspect of methodology or practice, communication or whatever it is, that they are passionate about developing into a unique skill and they’re all committed to sharing it with each other, that’s my model of a team that grows individually and grows as a team. Like that sounds awesome to me and we’re work- you know I don’t think that we are perfect in that regard, but we have that as an aspiration. Steve: What are some types of things on your team – topics for different researchers, that’s there thing? Judd: Sure. There are methodological topics – just as simple as survey best practices. So we have somebody on the team, Janna Bray, who has made it sort of a thing she’s really vocal and generous about to raise everybody’s game at surveys. We have another researcher, Steffenn Kuhr who is really passionate about rigorous evaluative research in which you are trying to bring as much objectivity to the sort of usability and user testing process as you can and he has some really interesting ideas about how to do that that he’s honed over his career. There are also folks who want to bring aspects that are a little further from sort of core research methodology as their special sauce. So for example, Natalie Tulsiani is a researcher on the team who recently gave a workshop on moderating the observer room. So the topic is as a researcher moderating the group of people who are observing a study. That just kills me. I’m like that is so great. You know what I mean. I worked with a researcher at Facebook who her thing was improv comedy. You know she thought improv could make you a better qualitative researcher and I believe she’s right. So that was her thing. She was passionate about that. I think it could be all over the map, but I just love the idea that everybody on the team has their thing and they’re just chasing it and bringing everyone along with them. Steve: Those are great. Those are good examples. So the idea of the individual passion is a driver here. Judd: Yeah, I mean look, the research shows just in general that when somebody stops growing in their job and they feel like they’re in a rut they’re going to leave. So just from a purely practical point of view, it’s like in my interest as somebody trying to build a team to keep everybody growing around things they’re passionate about. But I also think that’s the shortest path to everybody building everybody else’s game to be stronger. Everybody raising everybody else’s game. We will – that is the path to becoming a world class research team and I think it’s both demanding of an individual to always be raising their game and demanding of that person that they be generous and collaborative with the researchers around them to do the same. Steve: Right. So as a member of that team I am getting energy and reward from being able to follow that passion, but also I’m receiving from others. Judd: Yeah. Steve: From them, so I’m always growing and developing as part of that team. Judd: And if you do that I think developing that community of practice is easier. You know it’s easy to see where it comes from and how it grows. Steve: So you’ve talked about growing the team. Can you go back in time and describe a bit of the history, the evolution? Where you’ve come from? Where you’re looking to go? Judd: Sure. So my history at Airbnb is admittedly a little bit short. I’ve been here since the middle of May, so what amounts to about 6 months. I was the 10th researcher. As of this week we have 17. So we’re growing quickly, but we’re not growing for growth sake we’re growing because – I think because the embedded model we have means that awareness of research is high, the team is producing great work, and it’s just I’m getting more demands than I can reasonably service right now. So I need more researchers and that’s a beautiful problem to have. Steve: So there are teams that don’t have an embedded researcher that… Judd: That’s right. Steve: That team needs somebody. Judd: That’s right and we’re in this moment of accelerated hiring which is necessary in my mind because there are enough teams that have no point of contact, that getting – I mean going from zero to one is sort of technically an infinite improvement, right. And in the research that we do it is really dramatic at that moment. And I think this is – so we’re trying to take advantage of that inflection point. A lot of research teams in industry go on a ratio, right. So a ratio of designers to engineers, researchers to designers, for example. So they might say like 3 to 1 is the right ratio. One researcher to three designers, or one researcher to three designers and PMs together. And what we’re trying to do is just get ahead of that and then back off. And the reason that we’re trying to get ahead of it right now is because we’ve – I think we’re at that moment where having a research voice in all of these teams that have sprung up and don’t have any research representation is going to be disproportionately valuable. So we’re trying to concentrate growth right at this moment and then we’re going to slow down. Steve: So there’s a context here of sort of shift in product development – let me see if I can ask this properly. You’re describing the teams are springing up so that says that what the product is is evolving and growing – do you call the thing a product – what you as a company provide and the different pieces you’re creating to do that… Judd: Yeah. Steve: …is evolving and growing so there’s a thing that’s being made that maybe wasn’t being made at some point and that’s a new team? Judd: Right. Or you know – and I don’t – I’m not an expert in the growth of companies or product teams of course, but in this one, you know I think as the product organization matures there are two things that happen. One, new products spring up. The other, existing products, the pie grows, right, so that the amount of work is – becomes specialized enough to carve out a new team. It’s just too much. So where there was just one team before that for example looked after all the things we do around host dashboards and host tools, for example, well now we’ve a reached a scale and a complexity of the product such that there are several important work streams. And then they break them out and PMs and designers and researchers and data scientists specialize in those areas. And so I think – that’s a thing that’s kind of been happening, like spawning teams at Airbnb, and in that moment having a researcher at the table is super crucial. We don’t want to lose that momentum and there’s enough important work there – a lot of those people have come from other teams where they had a researcher and they’re like hey I’m working on this new thing, where’s my researcher? I love that. I love getting those requests. Why isn’t there a researcher in the room for this. I means I have to say no more than I want to, but I’ll take that problem any day. Steve: Are you trying to hire with specific team roles in mind? Judd: Mostly no. Mostly what I want to hire for is talented generalists and that’s because of what I think of as the virtue of that embedded model and because I don’t want to create – well I don’t want to create an environment in which there’s a bunch of people who are really only either happy or well suited for one type of work because stuff changes. The product moves. The demands of research shift such that okay I need to move some researchers around to tackle this new product area and I don’t in general want to have researchers who I think I’m going to make dissatisfied or their skills aren’t going to be a good fit if they need to slot into a new areas in 6 months or a year. Steve: So you’re using the demand to figure out how big your team needs to be, but it’s not sort of slot filling, it’s capacity building. Judd: Yeah. Overall capacity building. I think if we chase anything at all as a team we chase diversity. Like I want a team full of people with different methods, different perspectives, different backgrounds. We just hired this talented researcher named Andrew Sweeney who is going to be our first researcher in Portland. Portland is where a lot of our Customer Experience team is and so Customer Experience, those are the people who answer the phones. If you have a problem before or during your trip that’s what they’re for and they have a whole suite of internal tools that they use to handle these problems, to track information about cases that are open. Those tools are not as good as they could be and we have never done systematic research on those tools. So in comes Andy Sweeney who has – Andrew has a background working on complex, information rich tools, right. So his approach to the problem is different than the one that I would take. He goes to system usability scale for example which is not the first place that I go, but that’s brilliant for this situation because we’re talking about understanding information flows in a complex information environment. Efficiency is important because we want to enable Customer Experience agents to be going as fast as they can and not blocked by the fact that they have the information tool, like a CRM, and three spreadsheets and a notepad and their workflow is just broken. So chasing that diversity as a team is something that I think goes to the earlier point about raising everybody’s game where everybody is helping each other out. I want to learn about system usability from Andrew. Steve: And so Andrew’s – he’s tackling a new problem space. That’s not hosts or guests? That’s the new organization and being able to deliver a good experience. Judd: That’s right and I think he – so in a way we’re taking on a new sort of constituency which – as a research team – which is our internal CX agents who we call crewbies. So we have hosts and guests and crewbies. Steve: Say the word again? Judd: Yeah, crewbie. People who work in CX, manning the phones and doing Chat and email. They call themselves crewbies. But I mean they’re the most talented, empathetic people on the planet. Like we – many people who work here do these shadowing sessions where we’ll sit with crewbies and sort of just observe their day to day and we do that to gain empathy for the problems that guests and hosts have during and before trips and after trips. But these are some of the most patient, amazing people on the planet and we’re, you know, in the process of working towards better tools for them. Steve: Okay. So that sounds like a marked evolution in what – in how the work that your team is doing is impacting the company. Judd: Yes, it’s a more internal focus than we’ve had before. I think it’s fundamentally the same sorts of things which is like do rigorous research that is deeply understanding the problems and needs that people have and understanding potential solutions, but it’s in the context of making our business more efficient and providing better service. Steve: So will Andy have access to the designers and the engineers that are creating those tools for the crewbies? Judd: Oh yeah, there’s an entire products team that’s spun up in Portland and in San Francisco just to work on this. Steve: So once you have a product team then that’s – in your embedded model – that’s when the request for the researcher comes? Judd: That’s exactly it. And I think I look at a lot of things that way. So I could have hired Andrew 6 months ago when there was no product team, but the reason I didn’t is because he would have had nowhere to land. I think that’s setting a researcher up for failure. You know I want to know – you know a researcher can do the best work in the world, but if there’s no landing zone for that research then they’re not going to be able to have a lot of impact most of the time. Steve: So at the risk of re-asking a question I brought up earlier, we were talking about slot filling or not, is Andrew someone where you saw his particular – what made him a diverse candidate? Can an individual be diverse? I don’t know. What was unique about him that contributed to diversity? It sounds like the thing that he was brought in to do is perfect. For the company, perfect for him. Six months ago were you saying that the right project for him wasn’t there? We talked before about capacity building versus slot filling, but I’m wondering is there sort of a nuance to that that goes with the diversity aspect? Judd: Yeah, I mean – I guess I would be lying if I said that there was never an appropriate time to look for a specific skill set and that it was always just general capacity building, looking for great researchers. This is a case where absolutely I thought I’m sure we can find an incredibly talented researcher who has experience working with information rich internal tools and making them work better and understanding complex workflows and efficiency and all this stuff. I’m sure we can find that person and low and behold we did. At the same time I think, you know Andrew has done a bunch of things in his career, not to emb- I’m sure he’s going to be embarrassed about this and – and he just started on Monday by the way, but – he’s done a lot of things in his career and he would be perfectly capable of filling almost any other slot. He just happens to be a great fit for this role. Steve: Let’s go back in time. As you said you’ve been here “x” amount of time, but you must have some sense of the history. You were #10 you said. Judd: Yeah. Steve: Do you know the story of #1? Like how did research become a thing that was hired for and done? Judd: Well research is in the lore of Airbnb. One of the stories that gets repeated internally is about one of Airbnb’s early investors who at a very early point in the company turned to Joe and Brian (Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, two of our founders) and he famously said go to your users. And so they spent several weeks in New York City with some of the first hosts on the platform, deeply understanding what they were going through and what their experiences was like. And Joe and Brian are designers by training. They were at RISD and I think that having designer founders – having you know two of our founders be designers has sort of infused this kind of design and research sensibility into the whole thing . And that’s been beautiful for us as a team because I don’t – let’s say to the degree anyone cares about buy-in from the top, which I think realistically every team needs to care about, relatively speaking we do not have to worry about that. We have people like – we have a whole bunch of leaders saying where’s the research. Let’s look at the research. Go to your users. So it’s really embedded into the lore of the company. I wish I could be more specific about the history of this team in particular, but honestly I can’t. Steve: So with that caveat I’m going to ask another specific question which you can then throw back and say you can’t answer. Especially for this podcast, I think an implicit topic – I think it’s implicit – is this idea of research leadership. And the trajectory often in organizations is a researcher is brought in. Sometimes they’re a junior person and they kind of work for a UXer design person, depending on the industry. And then some organizations there’s a point at which it’s acknowledged that this is a specific thing and it needs to be led, not by someone who’s a designer, but by someone who that’s what they do. That’s my sort of general sense of the pattern and I wonder, do you know when did that happen at Airbnb? When was research a leadership – when was there leadership in research? Judd: Yes I do. Steve: See! You said you couldn’t answer it. Judd: I can answer a few questions. So in the beginning of the team it was just one or two researchers and obviously the design team was much smaller and it was just one big team. Everybody reported to Joe Gebbia. And over time what happened is the design team grew. I think the research team, which was at that time called Insights, was not growing at the same rate, and partly because I think of a – the fact that it’s hard for somebody who’s not a researcher to know how really best to leverage and grow that organization. But the partnership was there. They were doing great work and then at a certain point Alex Schleifer showed up. Alex is our VP of Design. He’s been at Airbnb for about a year and a half and he took over leadership of the organization and almost immediately recognized the need for research leadership. And it took him awhile – it took me awhile to meet him and I think to his credit he gives me a lot of freedom and says like Judd I want you to build a world class organization and I want to support you in that, what do you need? And he gives me a huge amount of context and feedback, but he’s set me up with his team such that my peer now is Katie Dill who runs sort of the organization of designers. Adrian Cleave who runs our design operations organization – but we are Alex’s first team and he treats us like peers and so there is no sense that even though I’m in the design organization I don’t have the sense of – that some – of research being – the sole value of research being to feed design for example. I feel genuinely like we are equal partners in a product process and I give Joe a lot of credit and Alex a lot of credit for recognizing that that was a useful and valuable thing to do with research from a pretty early time. Steve: So the position that you came in to take was a new position? Judd: It was a new position which was to lead the research organization. Yeah. And I was and have been given like a fair amount of leeway to say how should we do this. And that feels great. I don’t have the answers. You know when he said that I was like great I don’t know how to do that, but I’d love to work with you and figure it out. Steve: That seems really key and I don’t know if that’s just part of the overall culture or something that is unique to you, but – and I’ve had this conversation with people a number of times about knowing the solution versus knowing how to get to the solution and the comfort with the ambiguity. You’ve mentioned a number of times in this conversation that we don’t have this figured out. We don’t have the best solution but we’re trying this. Judd: Yeah. I think anybody – you know it’s interesting because we were recently having some conversations about the structure of product teams in general and how hard that is and going why hasn’t this been figured out by now? Shouldn’t there be one canonical way to set up a product team? No. There is no one canonical way because every business is different, every product is different. Values are different and that implies different things for structure. Well I think it’s the same thing for research, for design, for product overall. I feel everything that I do is to make good principal decisions in response to the realities of the situation at Airbnb. To try to build a research team which is uniquely responsive to Airbnb and at the same time embody some qualities that we really care about – world class rigorous research, perfectly positioned researchers every time. Those are kind of our two mantras. Center of excellence, perfectly positioned. And those are sort of – there’s no playbook for that. I think we apply those principals. We apply them systematically and we communicate a lot. And I don’t – it sounds stupid when I say it out loud, but I don’t know of another way. I think I’ve been really, really hard with my team and they are embracing of the idea that feedback is the most important thing we do. Feedback for each other, feedback for me, feedback for me with them – because I say to them I don’t know of another way to do things better than to give and get feedback. It should flow like a river. And I think that can be hard, to be open, to focus on strengths rather than weaknesses. To be humble is a thing we’re always seeking to be better at, but that’s how I approach the task of building a team. I welcome any and all feedback. I don’t pretend to have all the answers. I just think I have a principled way to get there. Steve: I’m going to ask sort of a clichéd research question but I think it follows from what you’re saying. In a purely speculative way, like if we were to be talking in five years let’s say, what do you think – what could you imagine the state of research at Airbnb being? Judd: Five years is a long time. Well, hopefully we will have scaled to the point where we have what we would consider full research coverage. To me that means being sort of lean and agile, but having a researcher represented kind of at every level, from the ground level up to the leadership level and we’re definitely not there yet. It takes time to build that capacity. You want to build it from within too so we’re growing that capacity at the same time. I also think in 5 years we’re going to be a company that has already hopefully long since already embraced the idea of like a really global/local product so that we have product teams that are staffed all over the world and I have researchers embedded in those teams and they are connected back to San Francisco and they are providing this very difficult thing which is how do you create a product which is sort of you know 80 or 90% core, but that 5% or 10% on either edge is the real local bit where the rubber meets the road. So how do we create a uniquely Singapore product or a Germany or Brazil product where we represent belonging in a way that resonates culturally where we have tweaked our onboarding process to highlight different value propositions. Where we do special things that facilitate trust between guests and hosts that are unique to an Indian market for example. And I think that’s going to take an organization which is global. Like I don’t think that sending researchers from here out to those places is going to cover that. So that I hope sooner than 5 years will be true. And then the last thing I’d say is that I hope that by that time we will have created not just a product organization, but an entire company which is totally driven by research and insights in which – you know I don’t think that we need to do all the work, but whether we’re talking about marketing or legal or policy or local operations or customer experience there are research questions in all of those places and I want us to be able to have an organization where somebody on my team is the glue to every one of those teams. Steve: So taking embedded beyond product? Judd: For sure. Because I mean – for example name a – it’s a little bit stupid to me that most organizations have a product research and a market research organization. Name a product question which doesn’t have an influence on marketing and advertising and vice versa. I’m sure somebody could snark and think of an example, but that would be the exception that proves the rule, you know. I’m not saying – there’s no need to have one big kumbaya team, but there is a huge amount of value to saying like look fundamentally we’re just researchers applying our expertise in different disciplines and in different ways, let’s be more together than not. And in my experience most organizations are not like that. So I don’t know. That is a big aspirational goal for this company. Steve: I love it. Just so well put. So that’s kind of the looking ahead. It’s a lovely vision. I want to go back. You mentioned a few things about yourself – PhD and some other places that you’ve worked. Maybe you could just talk about – I’m just curious about sort of parts of your background, whether it’s professional, personal. Judd: Yeah. Steve: Go back and talk about some of the things – what are some of the things that are in your background, experiences or education or whatever, that are really present for you now in the way you’re looking at the world and the kinds of things you’re trying to make happen? Judd: Yeah, I mean, I guess if I – that’s a really – you’re forcing me to be introspective. Well I began – as an undergraduate my major was cultural anthropology and so I began my career as an anthropologist. You know very focused on meaning and understanding and writing culture and the idea of culture and what it meant. And I feel like that’s really important to me now, especially at a company that’s focused on travel. It gives me a lot of empathy. You know I feel like I studied a lot of kind of epistemology that gave me like a fundamentally subjectivist approach to research which I think makes it valuable – makes me a better multi-method researcher and leader in the sense that I think objectivity is a myth. That I think everything has a cultural and social lens and all we’re doing is like seeking confidence and that confidence is built through multi-method research, through looking at the same problems from multiple directions and perspectives. So cool, if you do that there’s no territoriality. We just need all the methods. They’re all flawed and they’re all powerful. So I think that was influential for me. My PhD was in social psychology and information systems so I took a real jag into experimental social psychology and data science. That I think informs me because I, you know, have had now very deep experience with both the most ethnographic qualitative work there is, you know in which I spent six months at an after school arts and media program in the Bayview learning about informal learning outside the classroom. And I’ve done a huge amount of experimental social psychology and data science and I can appreciate – you know I can hold my own with basic statistics and write R and Python and PHP and talk to an engineer in code and stuff like that. So I think having had that experience is deeply influential for me. And the last thing I would say is that I think – so after I graduated from undergraduate I went to culinary school. So I spent six months getting a degree at the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan and then I worked as a chef for awhile. I actually – I was not destined to work as a chef. That was an extremely difficult life and I found that out and was grateful to have kind of something to go back to which was anthropology, and graduate school. But having been a chef, having been somebody who worked with my hands and really embraced that kind of creativity and appreciated flavor and the craft of perfect taillage, like knife skills. I think that helps me have like a little bit of a window into a design world. I don’t think that I have a lot of a window compared to the amazing people I work with on the design team, but I think it gives me an appreciation for craft, for art, for the details, for the menial but beautiful handwork that makes great food for example. I think I can apply that to research and to design. Steve: That’s awesome. You know we talk about researchers as kind of translators and even this – the diagram you drew of somebody elbowing somebody they’re sitting next to. It’s kind of like a translation thing and it seems like the experiences that you’ve had have given you a lot of vocabularies to translate between and maybe even the translation was sort of an ingredient in those. Judd: I agree with that. I think – you know recently I gave a talk – I’m not sure I should say this, but I’ll say it anyway. Recently I gave a talk at a learning lunch here at Airbnb, mostly to a data science crowd, and the talk – this is also a talk that I gave at a design conference in Philadelphia. And it was basically a social psychology talk. It was about the ways that we are all biased. It was about confirmation bias and minimal group bias. It was about post hoc bias. And like the point I was making is research is human and research requires human – humans. Every type of research does and humans are flawed. We cannot avoid our biases. The best we can hope to do is counteract them. By hanging out with each other. By trying multiple things. And that talk got me into a little bit of trouble only because I think it seemed like what I was doing was being unduly negative about different methods, and I was. It was kind of one of those talks where you crap on everything and that was my point. It was like okay everybody spends time exulting the virtues of their particular method and that’s great. They’re all strong, but they are all weak and we are weak. And so I think part of the translation for me is to be able to speak to everybody and go okay I get the strengths of your method and I get its weaknesses and this one too and this one too. So let’s just get past that and work together. Steve: And that’s being human. Judd: How can you avoid being human? Steve: Yeah. Is there anything we didn’t talk about in this conversation we should cover? Judd: I guess one of the things that is on my mind a lot is, because I’m growing a research team, is the idea of responsible growth for a research team. And what does that mean? I’ve been thinking about it because we are growing and I want to make sure that we do it in the right way. I’ve experienced both types of growth, responsible and irresponsible. And the way I think growth gets irresponsible is not even really in a headcount way or a budget way. It’s probably more like a communication and culture way. So the things that I want to promote in the content of responsibly growing this team at Airbnb is radical transparency and communication. The worst outcome in the world is if new researchers look at old researchers look at managers look at me and go I have no idea what these people are thinking. Or I don’t know how to plug into this decision making process and I don’t feel like I have a say. How did this get to be this way? I don’t think it’s right but I don’t have a voice. Okay, terrible, terrible. Need to avoid that at all costs. So the way we do that is by being fundamentally transparent and collaborative. Like everybody from me on down, we talk about what we’re thinking and why we make the decisions we make. We open them to feedback and maybe we form a committee in which everybody has a voice. Okay, committees, that sounds kind of bureaucratic, but what I mean is like involve everybody from the intern to the senior manager in doing something like how should we build a skillsharing system? Cool, we can all be involved in that. And then the other thing I think is responsible growth is making sure that everybody has a path forward in their career because other than feeling like you’re stuck in a rut, the other thing that I think is a recipe for a researcher being dissatisfied is feeling like they have nowhere to grow. And so making sure that everybody feels like they have a path is really important to me as the team grows. That path is building out your unique niche, working on your core skills and expanding them, taking on more stakeholders, taking on more senior stakeholders. And you do not have to become a people manager to be a lead. That is another thing I feel like is really important because people management is a set of skills that is unique and crazy difficult and learned. And you choose to focus on them. Not everybody wants to do that. It is absolutely not the case in this organization that the only path forward toward seniority as a researcher is through people management. It can be through research leadership, through product leadership, not just people leadership. And so as we grow I think the responsible bit is making sure that all of those paths for growth are open to everybody and everybody knows about them. I spend a lot of time thinking about that because it’s scary to think that we were 10 when I started, we’re 17 now. I don’t know, we’ll be 25 or 30 in the next year or year and a half. That’s a lot of growth and everybody thinks the next person in the door is going to be the one that changes the culture, but I don’t think that. But I think we should be deliberate. It should happen on purpose not by accident. That kind of growth, the planning around it. So that’s what I seek by doing it this way. Steve: That’s fabulous. Do you have any questions for me? Judd: Why are you doing this podcast? Steve: Why am I doing this podcast? You know it’s self-serving I think. I’ve been around long enough that the best work was being done by vendors. Let’s just say that. And I still am one. I hate the word vendor… Judd: The “v” word. Steve: …we all know what that means. You know people who work outside organizations. Teams like – companies like this didn’t exist. Teams like this didn’t exist. Leadership roles like yours didn’t exist. It’s a big change that’s happened in the last few years where now – I mean the kinds of vision for what research can be and how it can impact. You know it has to be done inside. It’s not to say that – I’m not saying that my work doesn’t have value, it’s just different. If you work with organizations the context has shifted. There are people inside organizations that have roles and titles and responsibilities that didn’t exist before. So my professional life has changed. So it’s self-serving because this is a chance for me to learn about this shift. It’s fun to be able to do that. It gives me an excuse to have conversations with you and learn things I wouldn’t otherwise learn. And you know I think much of the best work – whatever the percentage is – amazing things are happening inside organizations. So that’s the place to kind of look and learn. I’m not – I like working outside organizations so when you’re a consultant or a vendor you journey from place to place, like in The Incredible Hulk. You know you have these adventures and then you have to leave at the end which is an obscure reference for people that didn’t watch the T.V. show in the 80s or 70s or whenever that was. Judd: I didn’t get it. Steve: Okay. Judd: I liked it though. It’s a good reminder of how young this field really is. Steve: Especially in the form that it’s in. The conversations we’re having about change in design, insourcing and acquisitions and so on. I feel like research follows design and kind of we’re trailing by a couple of years. But we’ve seen research firms get bought too, not just design firms, you know in our recent history. We’ve seen that happen. So I’m curious. Judd: As much there is no one canonical way to build a research organization there’s also no information out there about how to do that. And so to have a resource where you can learn from people who are trying to build those organizations is really valuable to the UX community so thanks for doing it. Steve: Alright. Well it was great to speak with you. Thanks so much for being a guest and for being my host here today. I’m throwing those words out in a really confusing way now. Judd: Nicely done. Thank you, Steve. It was a pleasure.
Rank #2: 14. Monal Chokshi of Lyft.
In the final episode of the season I speak with Monal Chokshi, Head of User Experience Research at Lyft. We discuss traditional paths to a user research career, creating routines for meeting different types of users, and the emergence of leadership roles in user research. As researchers we love having curiosity and it’s fulfilling to do the hands-on work. That’s what makes us passionate about research, but in a business one of the dangers is getting too far into that fascination, but then not taking that next step. Maybe that’s where managers can help with making sure that the data and the analysis and then these insights and actionable recommendations are affecting product. We’re not just doing the research and being fascinated for our own curiosity and fulfillment, we’re making sure it’s put to good use. – Monal Chokshi Show Links Monal Chokshi Follow Monal on Twitter Lyft Lyft partners with Didi John Zimmer and Logan Green Commodore 64 VIC-20 Trilogy John Morkes Jakob Nielsen Sun Microsystems SoundCloud Terry Winograd Don Norman at UCSD General Assembly Lyft’s partnership with National MedTrans Network Follow Dollars to Donuts on Twitter and help other listeners find the podcast by leaving a review on iTunes. Transcript Steve Portigal: Thanks, Monal for being a guest on Dollars to Donuts. Monal Chokshi: Yeah, sure. Well first Steve thanks for having me on your podcast episode. Really excited to talk more about user experience research at Lyft. So my name is Monal Chokshi and I’m the head of user experience research at Lyft. Steve: And if I didn’t know what Lyft was, what would you explain to me? Monal: Yeah, so Lyft is an on demand transportation service. So for those not familiar, basically all you have to do is download the Lyft app, open it and tap a button and basically you have a driver ready to drive you wherever you want within minutes at your doorstep. Steve: Where does Lyft operate? Monal: So the headquarters are in San Francisco. We also have offices in Seattle, Nashville and New York. Steve: And where do you have drivers? Monal: Drivers all throughout the country. I believe we are now in over 190 cities. Steve: This is an American operation? Monal: Yes. Steve: So drivers in the United States right now. Is there an international goals for the company? Monal: Well right now we recently in the last 6 to 9 months announced some partnerships with international ride sharing companies. For example with Didi which is the largest ride sharing company, similar to Lyft, in China. And Grab which is in Southeast Asia. I believe they’re based in Singapore. So the idea being that travelers from the U.S. would be able to travel to one of these places, open the Lyft app and call a car. It wouldn’t be a Lyft car. It would be one of these folks from our partner companies coming to pick them up. So we haven’t launched that yet, but that is a partnership that we’ve announced and we’re really looking forward to getting that going. Steve: It makes me think of like code sharing and airlines where you can purchase through the sort of front end that you’ve always used, but the service is delivered through a partnership with somebody else. Is that a, is that a – does that comparison apply to something like this? Monal: I think it might. I think it’s a pretty good way to think about it from an analogy. Steve: I’m sure there’s probably better analogies for how products and services in one market end up in another, but that’s the best I could think of on the fly. That’s really interesting. Monal: Yeah. Steve: And I’m sure there’s going to be design challenges – what does that experience look like in that different situation. Monal: Yeah, we’re really excited about designing this new experience just because of the various challenges that come with different cultures and different transportation schemes for various cities, especially international. As we all know the cultures, the modes of transportation are different from city to city in the US and then overseas there are various challenges with language as well. So there’s a lot of really exciting things to think about. Steve: I love like the really specific use case you’re looking at now which is I’m from the United States, I use Lyft here. I’m in a different context so how can I bring access to that service with me. It makes me think about what people that use Netflix complain about it or I think I hear this with the iTunes store. For example, you can’t get the same access when you’re in a different place. So this gives you – I’m sort of imagining it gives you – you can sort of bring your Lyft travel experience with you into these other environments. Monal: Yeah. And people use and are comfortable with Lyft here. We want to be able to make sure that they have the comfort of the same kind of service over there, something that they can trust and feel good about. Something that’s familiar in an area where everything seems unfamiliar to them. Steve: Can you talk about the work that you do here and what is research like at Lyft? Monal: Sure. So research at Lyft has always been part of our core DNA in a sense. The founders, Logan and John, are really focused on treating people better and that includes all of our users, our drivers, our passengers and so really understanding who these people are and figuring out how to create the best user experience for them has always been top of mind here. Before I joined we did do various research activities and there were several initiatives happening at Lyft. Once I joined, I joined to sort of make that part of our regular product and design processes and so the kinds of research that our team does really runs the whole gamut of what UX research can do. We do everything from field studies and surveys to user and usability testing of new designs and products. So yeah, it’s been a really fun place to work, just also because user experience is so well regarded and supported here. Steve: When did you come to Lyft? Monal: I’ve been at Lyft for about a year. Steve: So you’re describing a little bit about how – you know what you were brought in to do, to sort of – I don’t think you used the word formalize, but that’s sort of the word that comes to mind. I guess is the question about – you know what that change has been that you’ve helped drive. Monal: Sure. I think a lot of the research previous to when I joined hadn’t been formalized in a sense that now it’s much more a part of the regular, daily, weekly process. And I’ve also joined to basically build a world-class team of user researchers so that – you know Lyft has grown so much in the last year and we are continually growing at a very increasingly rapid rate. So there are a lot more needs that we have from a research perspective and I think as we grow the company there are more needs for insights. So, bringing that to the table and helping build a company that’s very data and insights driven is a priority for the company. Steve: I’ve seen sort of two different modes of how insights – I’m sure there’s many more, but two kind of primary modes in terms of how insights can impact decisions. One is sort of the reactive and one is sort of the proactive. And you know where reactive is somebody comes to researchers with a question and says ‘Hey, can you help us make a decision about this?’ and the other is researchers often who have done research are evangelizing those insights to try to bring them out to find the people that can use them to make decisions. I don’t know if you even buy into that kind of framework, but I’m wondering a) does that ring true and b) if so like how does that map to what you’ve seen in your work? Monal: Yeah, sure. I think we do a mix of both. When I first joined I think it was more the former in the sense that people have specific questions and we’re always aiming to try and answer business questions using various methodologies, whatever is going to work best to get those questions answered. But there are definitely times when we actually see something that is interesting and we’ll probe further on it in order to say actually there’s an opportunity here, or actually there’s some pain points or something that we need to look at further here and we’ll bring that to the attention of stakeholders in the company for further investigation. Steve: So it sounds like part of that evolution, the growing of the company and the growing of the role of what you and your team are doing is – I mean developing the ability and developing the context to have those conversations. Yes we can answer the questions you’re asking and hey everybody else here’s things that we’re already doing or can do to support you. Monal: Um-hmm, definitely. Steve: So maybe that’s – maybe what I sort of asked inarticulately a moment ago, maybe that is the vector of a growing research practice is that you shift from reactive to more kind of reaching out. Steve: Okay. So we’ve talked a little bit about sort of some of what you’ve been working on in the last year, but maybe we can just go back, back, back and maybe talk about how did you end up being a researcher? What are some of the things that you’ve done that have led to today? Monal: Yeah, definitely. It’s funny, I often joke that my background and my entrance to becoming a UX researcher is very non-traditional just because it is in fact on paper very traditional. I’ve been focused on this area since the beginning of my career, even back in my days at Stanford as an undergraduate. So I think that’s pretty rare for folks in our area. So yeah, when I was growing up I always had a fascination for computers and technology and played a lot of video games as a kid. Started programming on my own for fun when I was in middle school, on my Commodore 64 – dates me a bit. And when I went to school in the mid-90s I was lucky enough to be at Stanford where a lot of stuff with the Internet was just coming, seeing light, and getting out into the world. So very lucky to have been there and found my major which is called symbolic systems. So symbolic systems is an interdisciplinary major made up of core classes from computer science, philosophy, psychology and linguistics. And I graduated with a concentration in human computer interaction. So a lot of what I do today is rooted all the way back from that time and one of my first – I guess the – my start of my career, I’d say I did – I was more of a – what we would call today a UX generalist. So back in the dotcom times, as you remember – sorry to call you out… Steve: Hey, I had a VIC-20. I had an older Commodore computer than yours. I’ll own it. Monal: Cool. So as a UX generalist – I’d maybe call someone like this today – I did everything from front end coding and UI design to information architecture and user research. And back then, I mean I was really seeking more objective ways as a designer to know how do I go about my design. And unfortunately I think most user research at that point was limited to usability testing. So while I had done a summer internship while I was in school at Boeing in a usability lab, I grew more interested with various kinds of methods of research. Like what else can we do, how else can we learn about users? And I was very lucky to have had a mentor at this company called Trilogy – it was my first company that I worked for – someone named John Morkes who now has a consulting company in Austin, Texas. He’s had it for many years now and back in the late 90s he actually worked with Jakob Nielsen at Sun. So he was probably the best mentor I could ask for and we together built a usability lab at Trilogy and he mentored me while I learned more about doing things like contextual inquiries, focus groups, all kinds of methodologies and that’s what got me really excited about focusing my career in this area. And I had some really big successes from doing multiple method research in terms of helping the company understand what was actually happening with users, even at that time and this was back in like 1999. So I saw the power and the value of what user research could provide. From thereon out it got a little more challenging as the fall of the dotcom era occurred and at that time user experience research or usability they called it – I guess UX was sort of coming to bear around that time, the term. It was much harder to find a job doing this because at that time it was seen as somewhat of a luxury kind of a position. Companies didn’t necessarily see the value in having it beyond something that if they could afford to do it, great. It wasn’t table stakes. So I focused on continuing with design, but I kept coming back to research in my mind, this is what I want to do. So I eventually went back to grad school to focus on understanding more different kinds of methodologies, how can I apply this? How can I become a UX research as for a career. So I went to UCSD and studied cognitive science there and eventually started working as a UX researcher and I have been ever since. So prior to Lyft I was at SoundCloud in Berlin for 2 years, starting a research team there. And prior to that Intuit and Yahoo for several years. And you know as I mentioned around the dotcom time I worked in some various startups. Steve: You prefaced this whole story with – that your story, it’s a traditional path which makes it sort of – as you said, that’s the exception. Monal: Exactly. Steve: So I was listening as you were talking and think well what is the traditional path. So I don’t know. I’ll just throw it out as a question. What about your story and the path you’ve gone through, what makes it traditional? Monal: Traditional on paper. Steve: Yes, I’m sorry, yes. That’s an important disclaimer. Monal: Right, right. Well it’s because I actually, you know back in 1994 I took a class at Stanford called introduction to Human-Computer Interaction with Terry Winograd where we were actually designing and looking at user interfaces for software. So this to me is something that most people, maybe going back that far, didn’t necessarily look at at that time. And even when I talk to folks today, you know 20+ years later, folks are still like wow, what you do is really cool. And I say yeah I know. They’re like how do I do that? How do I get into this industry? I want to do that, but I don’t have the background. I didn’t go to school for it. Should I go to school for it? Should I take classes? How do I break in? And I think there are a lot of folks who – most folks I know who are researchers today, even designers, people in the UX field, they’ve come from all different paths and I think that’s part of what makes it a really interesting set of folks because we are so diverse and we have lots of different paths that we come from, but all of ‘em include doing something with people, trying to understand people and enjoying that. Steve: So what’s your answer to those people that ask you how do I get into this? What would you tell them? Monal: Well I think it depends on the circumstance. My advice – I mean, and it depends on what kind of career they’re looking for, but there are more classes today which I encourage people to take. There’s lots of stuff online and I mean obviously the best thing would be to just get the experience, but I think it can be very difficult to do that cold. I know there have been folks who have just gone out and done research on their own and said hey, look, I’ve done this about your company. I’ve used your app. I tested it. Sent it over to the company and sometimes with really great success. I’ve even had some people send me stuff like that about Lyft. So it’s really interesting to see how folks are basically trying to break into the industry. But I mean definitely a traditional on paper route is very helpful, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Steve: So in your traditional on paper route – it sounds like I’m talking about a paper route – I mean, you know the – it seems like there was this culmination for you with UC San Diego. It seems like that’s where you said oh I’m going to go become one of these things and that’s the way that you went about doing it. And of course you had all this background, going all the way back to Terry Winograd’s class, but like a graduate degree in – what was it, cognitive science? Monal: Um-hmm. Steve: See, I don’t know. My perception, that seems not traditional on paper to me. That sort of seems like more in the HCI realm and less in the – although having said that I’m not sure is it a social science degree or a design degree. Like what’s my perception of the traditional on paper thing? So the fact that you and I don’t even share definitions of traditional on paper even though – we have – I’m a little older than you but we have – we’ve seen some of the same eras of this work. I don’t know I think it only goes to bolster your really important point that the diversity of backgrounds and disciplinary orientations and all that that make up the work is just part in parcel of what this practice is about. Monal: Um-hmm, definitely. I mean I chose to go to UCSD because – well first it was on my radar because of Don Norman and you know the Design of Everyday Things, previously called the Psychology of Everyday Things, really resonated with me and that was sort of my bible for – for you know when it first came out. And then there were multiple labs there that were focused on using ethnographic techniques in order to design technology for everyday use and so that was one of the things that really resonated with me in terms of going there. It wasn’t so much the cognitive science academic courses. It was more about the folks there and the opportunities to do research there where people were thinking very similarly in terms of you know how to do research and it was very applied in that sense. So yeah, so I – even though it does sound somewhat orthogonal to UX it was actually very close to it. Steve: Especially once you explain it. Yeah, seeing an academic use of ethnography kind of in terms of using technology that seems very – that’s still cutting edge for the work world and it’s extremely cutting edge for academic back a few years even. Monal: Yeah and back then I think in the early 2000s – I mean when I graduated from Stanford I always wanted to go back to school ‘cuz I’m always like wanting to learn and a student at heart and I wanted to work first. And so I already had on my mind getting a graduate degree and craving the desire to go back to academia at some point. I just wanted a break and some real practical experience, but that said it wasn’t that I hadn’t tried becoming a researcher. Back then you really needed an advanced degree to get into that field because I had tried. And part of it was the fall of the dotcom era. So it was really difficult to have those opportunities, but the companies that were still looking for folks like that, like some of the bigger folks – I mean I don’t even think Google –Google definitely didn’t have folks then looking at that. But maybe Yahoo or eBay. That you definitely had to have more of an academic background to enter. Steve: Right and such a contrast to now where as you said there’s a lot of classes out there where these classes, and General Assembly springs to mind, but I think there’s probably dozens and dozens of other examples, but they seem to be maybe the most common brand that I come across where that – like a UX Intensive from General Assembly, like that’s the that’s sort of the symbol of qualification where an advanced degree was something. So that’s – if you just compare and contrast what it takes to get an advanced degree vs. what these kinds of programs are providing and sort of the coin to the realm has really shifted. I don’t know part of me things the population has – of researchers has just exploded between the time that you’re talking about and now. I’m now sure what the – do we know what the cause is and what’s the effect? Or what has led to what? Monal: Yeah, it’s a good question and actually before I left for Berlin in 2012 I really feel like there’s been a shift. I mean – when I finished my degree and started working again I thought wow I’m always going to have to work at a big company because I still had this mindset of what I explained back in the dotcom days where this was a luxury. You’re the last to come into the company and you’re the first out. But that’s no longer the case and I’ve thought about this a bit and I sometimes think that maybe, you know back then it was all about the technology – wow, this is really tough to build. There’s a lot that needs to go into this. Just getting that done was a really big accomplishment. And I think now – not to say that building code is easy, or writing code, but building an app it doesn’t have to be that difficult. And so it’s become really important in the marketplace to have a great experience. It’s not just about having the functionality now, it’s the form as well. It’s a lot of times a differentiator as to why people choose your product vs. another. And I think that’s part of the reason why people are jumping on the bandwagon of oh yeah, actually this is really impactful. We can learn how to get our product to be successful in the marketplace. Steve: And that think about the importance of the experience, I agree with you totally and it’s – we keep getting it demonstrated to us over and over again – I mean as consumers I guess we see this. It’s really hard to do that. And you know we have lots of good examples of a good experience and it’s just amazing to see how it’s impossible to sort of replicate. I think it you look at sort of the battles between mobile phones over the last 8 years or something, like it’s hard to – just because someone does one that has a good experience you just see these terrible things come out of other companies. And if we were two people wearing – you know with design in our title, we might talk about that issue in a certain way. I wonder if you have a perspective, wearing a research hat, like why do you – what’s the conversation a researcher should be having about why it’s hard to – we know that a good experience is important, but the creation of that experience is like amazingly elusive. Monal: Yeah, I don’t know if it’s necessarily something that researchers can always pinpoint too. I think a culmination of factors have to come together. Various things and some of them are just very emotive and users can’t describe them. Researchers might be able to observe it happening, but I think it takes a really good researcher to be able to dig in and understand all those things that are happening in this person’s subconscious so to speak. Steve: Yeah. That makes me think of a comment you made early on where you used the phrase ‘world-class research team’. Can you define what that is? Monal: Well I’ll tell you a little bit about what I look for in a researcher. So there’s three main traits that I sort of boil down to what I think are most important for researchers – user researchers to have. First people need to be empathetic, so have user empathy – and part of that is being a really good listener. So being a good listener, being a very observant person, also being personable and approachable because any time you’re with a user or someone that you want to learn from and about they need to feel comfortable in your presence. And along with the user empathy piece and the definition of being empathetic is you need to be able to look at things from that person’s perspective. So if someone is really judgmental that’s going to detract from their ability to be a researcher just because you have to be able to consider their point of view. The second thing is analytical thinking. So obviously strong one. One of the things that I think can be the most impactful for the quality of research is being able not just to collect all the data, which you might use the empathy skills to do in a sense, but to then take those insights – well take the data and the findings and turn them into insights and actionable recommendations that will drive good results for the business and for product design. So there’s a lot of other areas also where analytical thinking can come into play, but I think that’s what’s unique to this field and this profession. And lastly, this one is probably overlooked by many, but I would say having really great project management skills and being organized because oftentimes as researchers we are managing so much when it comes to participants, sessions, multiple projects and you have to be organized and keep all of your data very organized. It’s just part of the territory in terms of having those skills to manage all of that. And oftentimes manage the teams and stakeholders that come along with that so that you can ensure that people are there to observe, to participate. You know there’s some administration work – administrative work going on here, but a lot of it revolves – your success as a researcher resolves around you being able to stay on top of it and be very detail oriented. Steve: So those are things you look for, right. How do people exhibit those characteristics in a way that you can assess? Monal: Um-hmm. I mean it’s definitely hard to do in a single interview. During the interview process I definitely like to be able to see them in action. We have folks do – typically do like some kind of homework during the process and I often like – like very many companies like to have them do a challenge in the office where we recreate, you know kind of a real life scenario, some role playing, and so we can kind of see how they tackle problems as well as interact with folks and understand how they may work with stakeholders. I mean teamwork, all these other things are also very important, but the three that I pointed out were specific to, I think, user experience researchers that are not necessarily applicable to other fields for specific reasons. Steve: I like that your three kind of span a research project, for lack of a better noun. I mean you’re not looking at people’s data gathering abilities. Or not just that, but what you do with the data and then how do you help it – how do you help that result succeed in the environment in which you’re working. So sort of managing the logistics of your stakeholders and their participation and kind of their engagement and so on. I like your list quite a bit. Monal: Thank you. Steve: I think those three things make sense, but is there anything controversial there or anything missing or where you would dispute how other people approach this? Monal: There’s definitely a lot missing from the list. I think these are just three things I keep in mind, but of course there’s plenty of other traits that are important. You know, as I mentioned, teamwork, being a fast learner, being adaptable to change. So many things that we probably look for on a holistic level. You know if you want somebody on your team you want to like them. There are lots of things that I think can be applied to many different roles when you join a company. I mean at Lyft we definitely get excited about folks who are also excited about our vision and the vision at Lyft you know is something that attracted me at first. Having lived in Berlin for 2 years, coming back to San Francisco I didn’t know much about Lyft, just because we didn’t have it over there and I’d heard a lot of friends and other folks talking about this company. So I finally decided to give it a try when I was on a visit here and thought it was so interesting, like the whole sharing economy and talking with my driver and I started thinking about Lyft as a company and realized I didn’t know much about them, let me check ‘em out and searched them online and started reading about their story and that’s part of what got me really excited because our founders were really interested – they weren’t just interested in building a better taxi. They were really interested in kind of the long term, big picture vision of creating better communities and reconnecting people through transportation. You know the long term vision is redesigning cities. It’s really cool. I mean this is such a hot space right now and we’re working on so many exciting projects as a company. One of the things I love is that we’re constantly executing. We’re getting things out the door. There’s always something big happening, but the vision is always what keeps us focused on what it is we’re trying to do. And that vision is something that I really can get behind because it makes my job feel a lot more meaningful. I mean I think as UX researchers, you know having empathy is something that we just innately have within us and we desire helping others and so when you look at the meta, for this company that’s what we’re aiming to do as well. So, you know we’re looking at reducing the carbon footprint, getting fewer cars on the road, putting more people in vehicles, making rides cheaper through ride sharing, Lyft Line, and building communities through that experience. I’ve had so many amazing conversations with other passengers or drivers in the car and I always just leave with a smile. So it’s really fun to work on something in the office, take a Lyft home, and actually talk to my driver about oh, wow, you have this issue, we’re actually fixing that right now. I can’t actually tell them that, but it’s really neat to know that we’re making a difference on a daily basis. Steve: It’s fascinating to hear you talk about the relationship between, especially between you as a researcher, but with your researcher sort of identity on, between being a UX researcher and the vision of the company. So you talked a little bit earlier on about the different users. You kind of said, like you talked about passengers. You talked about people using the app which I guess might not be the same as the passenger. You talked about drivers. Tell me about, who do you study? What do you look at? Monal: Well as you said, definitely passengers. People who are looking to get a ride, who are using Lyft to take rides. And then the drivers who give rides. So currently the Lyft app that we have today, the single app, serves both of those types of folks. And for people – most people probably don’t ever see the driver’s side, but once you apply to be a driver, are approved as a driver, there’s a whole nother world on the other side of the app. So we look at both those users and more recently we announced at the beginning of this year a partnership with a company called National MedTrans Network. So their users are a whole new set of users for us to investigate and learn about. I can tell you a little bit of a story about them. So they – National MedTrans Network is a company in New York. They work with insurance companies like Medicare and Medicaid whose patients are these elderly folks who basically need routine medical rides, rides to doctor’s appointments. A lot of times – all the time non-emergency rides. And they often don’t need to be transported in an ambulance or any special kind of vehicle. So National MedTrans has all these relationships with various car service companies, including taxis in New York City. One of the interesting things that came to bear was that whenever they have a taxi or car that doesn’t show up for a patient or cancels for one reason or another, which is pretty common, it takes – in New York City it takes them about 45 minutes to get that passenger, that patient, another ride through the taxi company. And so they started using Lyft and found that wow you can get a ride in just a matter of moments using Lyft and get this patient home so they can take their medication, so they can do whatever it is they need to do and not have to wait there on the street or whatever. And these folks have a lot of times more special needs then some of our normal types of passengers. So the great thing about this is in terms of building this new product research was highly involved. And so I went over to see National MedTrans, brought a designer with me and as anyone who’s done contextual inquiries know there’s so much more to learn when you’re in that environment and learning who the users are, what their daily tasks and processes are and the entire environment. And this company where we visited them was like people in cubes functioning as a call center. They’re scheduling rides. They’re working with taxi companies. They’re talking to patients, caretakers, people who are managing transportation needs for these patients and it was really, really insightful for us to be there and use the insights there to figure out how to build the best possible product for these users. It’s something totally different than what we have in terms of our native app offerings today. Steve: And who will- within that use case are there multiple users there that have different experiences with Lyft? Monal: Well the primary user in this case is the person at Nat MedTrans who is requesting a ride and managing the ride. So right now a lot of these elderly folks, they don’t even have smartphones. So it is a little bit of a juggle in the sense that Lyft wasn’t necessarily designed for this use case from the first and so we’re getting to the point where how can we build the best possible product. There’s the driver, there’s the passenger and now there’s this middle person who functions as if – kind of like the app does for you or me who might be taking a ride today. Steve: It just speaks to a really, really (in capital letters for me) BIG idea. A lot of the technologies that we see are apps and there’s interesting – I don’t know let’s just call them democracy or democratic access I guess is probably a better word for this. If you don’t have the income or the technology, sort of know how to use those things you’re shut out of a whole bunch of ways to participate. And what excites me about what you’re talking about is that it’s a fascinating research question then is how do we make non-mobile device users Lyft users? Those principals can apply to anybody but you guys are digging into that. It’s really fascinating. Monal: It is actually really fascinating and just being there and thinking through these whole – you know this set of issues and this problem, it really brought me back to my roots where this feels like a true user experience problem to solve, you know. Lots of different players, various tasks and processes, how do we make this work? Steve: I hear the sort of analytical aspect of it as you talk about it, but I also hear your sort of – your point one about empathy. Like there’s something in your voice which won’t come through in our transcript, but there’s something in your voice as you talk about it. It seems like this touched you or this struck you in a certain way. Monal: Yeah, definitely. I mean the thing that I think struck both me and the designer when we were there was like wow we’re there in this call center, someone called in, a patient who had been waiting and they couldn’t get a ride and how quickly they were able to resolve the issue with just using Lyft. And it just blew our minds. We were like wow. It was just really cool. Like we made this person’s day so much better by just getting them home. Steve: So that project sounds like a sort of a special one, maybe sort of outside. Or it’s a new area for you to be looking at beyond the traditional set of users that you’ve been thinking about. I don’t know, in the life cycle of doing the research, whether it’s getting your data or helping the teams make use of it, I don’t know is there any spots that you find particularly challenging that you’ve had to dig into? Monal: Well another thing that actually drew me to Lyft was the fact that I think there are a lot of really interesting research challenge with our product. We’re really on the cutting edge with regard to mobile devices, being completely mobile, having to try and do research in a very constrained environment which is a car. And I think that there are a lot of methodological challenges that come with that. So for example if you think about it the best research comes from real life situations. You want to be able to observe – from of course from life qualitative user research. You want to observe what’s happening in the real world, or simulate it as closely as possible. And if you want to find out what’s happening in ride experience, if you’re in the car you’re already biasing what’s happening there because you need to announce yourself as the researcher. Everyone knows you’re from Lyft. People are going to be a little bit more cautious about how they act. Let’s say take the researcher out of the car. Let’s just put a camera in there. Well then there’s legal constraints as well. You need their permission and if you have their permission then of course they’re again going to be a little bit on guard and this will really bias the results if this is what you’re interested in learning about. So we’ve had to come up with some creative and innovative ways to study some of the things that we’re interested in learning more about and I think along with that you know recording, conducting research, and huge amounts of data are always challenges for researchers across all industries. So specific to Lyft though, and specific to this area in particular, I think we have some really interesting challenges and it’s fun because it’s – you come to work every day thinking about – you’re really stretching your brain and you feel really good when you come up with something new and get to be creative in those senses. Steve: Are there any process innovations or anything that you can share? Monal: Not exactly (laughs). I can tell you about one of the first programs that I started when I joined. So we wanted to ensure that we had user testing for most of our projects coming through on a regular basis. So I started a program called Drivers in the Office, so D-I-T-O, which we call “deeto”. And along with that PACSITO, which is passengers, which we often abbreviate as PACS, in the office. So DITO and PACSITO, it’s like a weekly user testing cycle and it’s been a lot of fun. We have people come into the office here in San Francisco. Occasionally travel to other cities and occasionally do some remote studies wherever appropriate. But what we do is we have, and especially for drivers, for DITO, what we’ll do is we’ll actually have drivers come and bring their car, park in our lot and then we’ll have them use a prototype of a new design or product that we are testing and this allows us to capture everything that’s going on while they drive. So it’s one thing to be a passenger, in your house, on the street, looking at the app. You can stop, you can look at it for as long as you want in a maybe normal situation let’s say. But as a driver you have so many other distractions and concerns. I mean it’s a very cognitively complex activity. You are doing so many different things at once and now we’ve just added one more thing to pay attention to which is the app. So it’s a huge design challenge for our team and also from a research perspective it’s really important for us to be able to get the data in the right environment, in the contextual way that they will be using it because they’re using the app at an arm’s length. They can only look at it upon glance, most of the time when they’re driving for safety reasons. And we have to be really cautious about ensuring that it’s not overly distracting. So one of the things that’s been really great about this program is that times when we’ve tested like more low fidelity prototypes where we can’t go in the car, versus going in the car, we’ve learned quite a bit. Steve: There seems like there’s an interesting, maybe sort of a hybrid – there’s like a semi-contextual aspect here where they’re not in a lab, there’s a high fidelity simulation of what the thing might be. You’re dealing with their actual car, you have realistic use cases, but you’re not also sending them off into the wild to live with this thing for a day. It’s a constrained experiment, but you’re sort of creating I guess as much context within an experiment as you can. Monal: Um-hmm, right. And I think that’s important for us to – it’s a big part of how it’s going to be used in the real world so we need to capture that – how they do so in that environment. Steve:What about other examples of kinds of, within what you can talk about, what are some other kinds of research that your team has done? Monal: We basically try to do as much mixed methodology as needed. We do surveys, as I mentioned contextual inquiries. We’re basically employing everything that we need to design the right kinds of studies to answer the business questions. You know we have some user interviews coming up. We have – what we also try to do is work very closely with our analytics team. Steve: Can you talk about anything that has – that people that use Lyft has experienced that’s changed as a result of some of the research you’ve done? Monal: Definitely. One of the most exciting things that I feel user research has impacted was our Lyft app redesign that launched at the very end of last year. So we did a lot of iterative user studies, user testing especially around various versions of designs and the product moving forward and most of the product and design decisions relied heavily on the research that we did. So by the time we launched the app, the new redesign, we felt and our team felt very confident that it would be successful once it launched and it definitely was. We’ve seen really great results and have heard a lot of great positive reviews and comments about what we did and I think a huge part of that, I feel really proud to say, was due to the research that we did. So whenever you can affect the flagship app on such a big scale with this design you can feel really good about it. Of course we don’t take all the credit. There’s such incredibly talented people here that you know we were just lucky to be part of that process. Steve: I think even just this phrase about sort of being proud of what you accomplished, it makes me think about how do you lead a research team. I mean giving out kudos, I think that’s one part of it. I’m just projecting on you here a little bit, but what are other things. Talk to me about being a leader in research. What does that mean? Monal: Yeah, I mean it’s interesting because I think until recently there weren’t a lot of leaders in research. Primarily I feel like research has had a lot of individual contributors and that’s how we’ve been seen in a lot of ways, people who are providing data analysis, insights, and hey, great, thanks you did your job. And now with the growth of research and especially user research we’re seeing more roles where there are leaders. And I think it’s great for all individual contributors because a lot of times – and this still happens today – the individual contributors who have worked as researchers in the past haven’t always reported up through someone who understood what they were doing. And so it’s great to see that that’s changing to a degree now and I think just in that sense of having the empathy (back to empathy again) for understanding like what these researchers are trying to accomplish, what their personal goals are – I think a lot of what researchers in general – I’m just thinking back through my career as well – have felt is, I mean we really want to make a difference. We really want to have influence on the product or the design. We did this great research, we want to make sure that it gets in there. And this hasn’t always been the case for me in past companies. And one of the great things here at Lyft is that what we’ve produced has been so highly utilized, probably more than any other company I’ve worked at. So coming back to your question in terms of leading, I think ensuring that the work that we do does get implemented or is seen as respectable, credible, and that people understand what we do and how we do it. And bringing them along for the ride too, it brings us to a point where within the organization you’re seen as oh wow, like they do really great work and they’re going to affect really positive change for us. So sort of helping the team be known and understood as experts and ensuring that the work that they do has a positive effect on the company and for themselves. Steve: And you’re right. That fell on the individual contributor to sort of – you had to do all that you had to do and you had to be able to do that. Monal: Um-hmm. Steve: And so you’re talking about like what a good manager does. They sort of, they advocate for their team, they… Monal: Um-hmm. Steve: …protect them and champion them. Monal: Definitely. Steve: You talked early on about this really important mentorship relationship that you had in your career. Are there commonalities between what you experienced kind of as the recipient of mentorship and what you try to provide as a leader now at this point? Monal: Definitely. I mean John who was my mentor back then, he gave me so much and I feel like I’m at the point in my career where I definitely can do that for other folks as well. So right now it’s primarily here at Lyft, but I’d love to do that outside of Lyft as well. Steve: How do we define mentorship? We talked about leadership, but what’s the difference between mentorship and leadership? Monal: Yeah, I think mentorship is a little bit more focused on – well in my mind helping folks develop new skills as well. Leadership doesn’t necessarily have to do that. I think leadership can do that. I mean if there was a Venn diagram it would probably be overlapping in the circles, but I definitely believe that a good mentor will help someone on a personal level develop into whatever career goals they have. Helping them along that path to get to where they want to be. And for me I learned a lot of methods from John. I think I’m trying to do that as well on a mentorship level, but also just be someone always who’s there to talk through, you know, career related growth. Steve: You know in some ways – we’ve talked a little about sort of the evolution of the field and it makes sense that at that period of time developing methods, not that that was all you were learning, but that was kind of a key. And I think about your three areas – I mean the first one you listed, you kind of titled it as empathy and then you listed like 18 other, like really important sort of soft skills that are crucial to being a researcher. So when you’re there for people as you say I think that’s starting to model, yes the methods, but also now these other pieces that are so important to being a good researcher. Monal: Um-hmm. Steve: That are just very, to me very human skills that we all can – we all can do to work on. Monal: Um-hmm, definitely Steve: Are there other things about you and your background that we should understand to know what kind of researcher you are? Any weird dots you want to connect for us? Monal: Yeah, actually I think one of the things that’s really unique to me is that I previously had another life as a professional athlete. So I was very active in team sports and that’s a big part of like my philosophy too. Very team oriented. I started playing soccer when I was six years old and I got a scholarship for running when I was at Stanford. So that’s been a really big part of my development and who I am and the really cool thing about running at Stanford is that when I started there and started running on the cross country team there we weren’t nationally ranked. And by the time I was a senior my teammates elected me as the captain of the team and we won the NCAA national title that year which was less than four years later and so it’s been really interesting to draw a lot of comparisons and parallels to my athletics career and how I’ve envisioned like sports and teamwork and accomplishments and my working career. And it’s funny, I don’t even realize I’m making these analogies. I started talking about it to a coworker the other day and I’m like wow I do this actually quite a lot. But there are so many parallels to draw with regard to pushing yourself hard, getting to the next level, goal setting, you know the competition and teams, relating to people, supporting one another. And one of the reasons why I think we won the national title back in 1996 was because we had such a tight, supportive team and I really feel that we have that now at Lyft as well. User research is part of the product design team and we are such a close team. Actually we just came back from a weekend retreat in Tahoe. So we’re kind of like a tight-knit family and I really feel that that support and that kind of environment fuels – helps fuel really great success. Steve: So some of these parallels you’re describing, they seem about what athletics teaches you about working and collaborating. Are there any threads that you can pull from athletics that go into things that are specific to UX research? Monal: That’s a really good question. I think I need a minute to think about it. It’s something I haven’t thought about before. I’m sure there are. I think I need to noodle on this, but I like the question a lot. I think because a lot of what – the parallels I’ve drawn have been more meta, like high level. Yeah, nothing springs to mind, but at some point I’ll get back to you. I’ll be like ‘Steve guess what, I figured it out and now my life’s questions have been complete Like I know. I see the light!’ Steve: Do you have questions for me? Monal:Yeah, actually, so I was curious because you’re one of the few UX research veterans in the field and I was curious what kind of trends you’re currently observing in our little field that’s growing? Steve: Yeah, I think – I liked what you said about mixed methods. I think that seems to be, you know, where traditionally on paper there was a lot of us and them. I feel like I’m hearing more harmonious stories and I think it behooves us as a practice to tell harmonious stories, but because that speaks to a successful, integrated, mature, not a diva, you’re wrong, this focus group sucked, blah, blah, blah. Like that’s sort of – that’s what we’ve been saying and I think true or not it’s sort of disharmonious and I feel like the stories of how groups have come together, to me that’s like oh we’re a little more mature as a world now because we can coexist well with everybody. And the qual/quant things used to be cats and dogs, but as you said you guys integrate well. I’ve heard that from lots of groups that I’ve talked to and I’ve seen that. You know clients I work with start to say like oh yeah, we have this group, this group, this group and we can kind of poll lots of – so that’s mixed methods. That’s also, you know – I don’t know sort of mixed disciplines I guess. So it seems like that – to me there’s just a maturity level there with that. Yeah, that’s my big one I’ll leave as the answer for that. Monal: I agree and I really think that in order to have the most robust insights we do need a good triangulation of different types of data to be able to tell that story. I was also curious, I mean as we talked about UX research has come a long way from you know the mid-90s and where the worldwide web was at that time. I mean just technology has come a long way and UX research has alongside of that. So that said, where do you think UX research needs to develop most given our current landscape? Steve: These are the questions I should be asking you but I didn’t. Monal: The tables have turned. Steve: Yes. Yeah, what’s the sort of opportunity? And this came up as a topic in an earlier episode of this podcast series where I don’t know that we answered it, but we talked about just this idea of research sort of evolving to the point where it disappears. That research right now there are leaders that are trying to develop in a business, but – and you’ve talked about the successful collaborations and so on. Is this an activity or is this a discipline. You know I hear so much about teams trying to – I mean one way to deal with the overwhelming demand of research is that research leaders are empowering teams to go do their own research and so then they have to deal with this question of well what do we do as the researchers vs. what do we kind of let everyone do. I mean that’s the consequence of the evolution of research and we’ve been saying, as part of that evolution, like everyone should be doing it, everyone can do it, right. There’s books that teach people how to do research, like that’s a change and so we – I think in the early days we struggled with do we let go of this or do we hold on to it and we chose to do a bit of both. So how does that play out I think is an interesting question? How should it play out? And research doesn’t exist in a vacuum, so how technology has developed. You know we are in a lot of the way – in a lot of environments that research is being used it’s a close colleague of design, right. I mean you talked about being part of the product design organization, not some other – part of the market research organization. That’s who our sort of, our teammates are. And design is changing and you talked about this already too, right. That companies used to just do technology and sort of experience was secondary. So I think where research goes we’re sort of subject to these larger changes in how – in how experiences are created. So I don’t have an answer to that and I’m not sure it’s a need. I don’t feel like oh we better get this sorted out or we’re dead. I just feel like there’s some interesting, sort of existential questions to reflect on. You know I mean over the course of our careers you and I have seen what kinds of organizations and what kind of roles are there for us. It’s shifted a lot and as you said there weren’t leaders like yourself a few years ago and not in the numbers that there are no. So even just for our own careers, like it’s going to be different in a few years. I don’t know. It’s tough to predict the future, but I think those are the – those are interesting, if abstract areas for me to keep looking at. Monal: Um-hmm, definitely. I mean I think it’s – I agree with you and I also think it’s really great news that the discipline is growing because there is a lot of value that we can provide. And you know the Lyft research team is also growing so I think it’s a really good sign of, you know how much we’re able to impact the organization in a positive way and I love seeing now, after having come back from Berlin – previously it was like oh we can only work at big companies. And now I feel like every startup has a researcher. Maybe not every startup, but it’s becoming more and more common which is amazing. Steve: You know the designer as founder sort of thing, it’s like a – it’s a thing that gets recognized and talked about and I feel like maybe we identified with – I feel like I was on some Slack channel or some list and people were saying well when do we get our first researcher as founder. I’m probably misquoting someone that said that to me and I apologize for that and that company may exist, but certainly that idea is nascent whereas designer as founder in the startup world at least is well established. Maybe that’s the, you know sort of next wave for us. Monal: Um-hmm. Cool. I have one more question for you. Steve: Alright. Monal: So I’m really curious, and I know you’ve had a lot of questions about this podcast, but I was curious what you’ve found to be the most striking similarities between all of whom you’ve talked to so far. Steve: Don’t you love when you go out in the field and the person at the end says like “hey what else have you heard?” Or “am I normal?” They want you to kind of normalize them as part of it. That’s not exactly your question here, but yeah, what do researchers have in common? I think the emphasis on product is really, it’s like a thing that we should be proud of as the field and it goes back again to your list of three things that you talked about. As you kind of researchers needing to do good data collection – I’m paraphrasing you here – make sense of it and then sort of help it live in the organization. I am definitely twisting what you said, but that’s sort of thrust I took away from it. And I don’t know, I carry some scars from my early days of coexisting with people that – where research was their end – they loved – and you know I guess scars, but I’m also definitely guilty of this myself. Like research is fascinating. If you do it well the experience is great and you learn things that have no relevance. And I mean I’m a big fan of not knowing if it has relevance, but you learn things that you don’t know if it’s what you’re going to do with it, but you also learn things that just are great and they’re not applicable, but are part of what you have to do on that journey. And then you make sense of things and you find some really interesting takeaways, or things that are potential takeaways that aren’t necessarily usable by the company. Of course then you find here’s the things that we learned and here’s what we need to do about it and here’s all – but all the way along there’s a lot of fascination, right, like… Monal: Um-hmm. Steve: …it’s super engaging and to me very creative and I don’t know. I can be seduced at many points along the way. I mean, I don’t know – I think I’m good at making sure I get to that end point, but there’s a lot of seduction along the way with just stuff that is super inspiring, super thought provoking, that you kind of dig into and start synthesizing and organizing. So the scars are around, you know maybe sort of early days in the field, or my early days, where that’s where people kind of dwelled and someone had to come along and kind of pull them and say like okay you can’t deliver that. You have to show actionability. That sort of discussion was needed. And I mean it makes sense that the people that I speak to, like you who are leaders – I mean in order to be a leader you have to be beyond that. There may still be practitioners and contributors who kind of need to learn more of that, but I feel like if I take the temperature of the practice in terms of how it’s being led it’s about what we do with research. Monal: Um-hmm. Steve: And that is a massive change again over when I started in my younger days. And so to see that in common – again, maybe you go well of course Steve look who you’re talking to and what kind of jobs they have and look at what kind of companies they work for. You know again, yeah, you might find people at that skill level, like yourself, and experience level – if we were to like shift back 10 years you would be maybe working in an R&D lab or an advanced products group or something and not shipping stuff. So yeah, I think one of the commonalities is like these are people making products, or helping companies make services, whatever the thing that their company does they’re doing that and obviously that’s – I think that’s really, really good. Monal: Um-hmm, yeah. One of the things that struck me about what you’re saying is that fascination and I think as researchers like a lot of what we love is having that curiosity and it’s so fulfilling just to do the hands-on work. My role is managerial, but I’m always still – you know I do some hands-on, individual contributor work as well. I just love doing it, right. That’s what makes us passionate about research, we love doing it, but I think in a business one of the dangers is getting too far into that fascination, but then not taking that next step. And maybe that’s where managerials, or managers can help with making sure that the data and the analysis and then these insights and actionable recommendations happen and are affecting product. That we’re not just doing the research and being fascinated for our own curiosity and fulfillment of that, but that we’re actually making sure it’s being put to good use. Steve: I think that’s really important and it reminds me of just a period in my own career where I was managing my own team in my consultancy and I think like – we always had many different projects for different clients and I want to say maybe for a period of 18 months, which is a long time in sort of consulting years right, I didn’t go in the field at all. I was doing what you’re talking about, right, sort of managing the problem, helping with the synthesis, kind of trying to tie everything back. Sort of a creative lead and it was really cool to sort of – you know you remove one part of the puzzles and the other parts – I guess the other things kind of rise in prominence. So it was real interesting for me to step out of certain tasks and step into other tasks in a larger way. And I actually remember the first time that I went – it just worked out that like oh yeah I was going to do some of these interviews and I almost had a panic attack. Like it had just been so long. And I was not on my own. I just remember like kind of coming up to the door of somebody’s and just about freaking out. And you know the way I work now I’m sort of – I do more of everything, but having had that experience of sort of again playing just part of the role was really, really interesting. It’s good to hear that you – it sounds like you’re in the right spot. You still have your hands in things, but you can lead and kind of manage in that spot. Monal: Um-hmm, yeah. Steve: Alright well that’s maybe everything we have time for to talk about today. But this was really interesting. It’s one of these conversations where now I’m curious about a million other things. I’ll have my imaginary next 90 minute conversation with you. But yeah, thank you very much. You’ve really shared a lot today. Monal: Thank you Steve. This was a lot of fun and yeah, I really enjoyed it.
Boagworld is a podcast about digital strategy, service design and user experience. It offers practical advice, news, tools, review and interviews with leading figures in the web design community. Covering everything from usability and design to marketing and strategy, this show has something for everything. This award-winning podcast is the longest running web design podcast with over 380 episodes.
Rank #1: An old guys guide to building modern websites.
[S02E09] Boagworld.com is the first site I have personally coded in a long time. Things have certainly come a long way and become very exciting.
Rank #2: 193. Get more from Google Analytics.
On this week's show: Paul and Marcus are joined by Matt Curry who shares some advanced Google Analytics techniques. We have a review of Fancy Form Design by Jina Bolton and Paul goes on endlessly about the Website Owners Manual.
Iterate brings together the best designers and app producers in the business to talk user interface and user experience from concept to implementation. Hosted by Marc Edwards, Seth Clifford, and Rene Ritchie. Loop until done.
Rank #1: 48: iOS 7 design special (Part 1).
Loren Brichter, Sebastiaan de With, Marc Edwards, Rene Ritchie, and Dave Wiskus discuss iOS 7 and the new design language Apple unveiled for it at WWDC 2013, including icons, fonts, physics, interactions, and more. (Part 1 of a 2 part special edition.) Show notes Apps are content too Multiplane Binary Bonsai on iOS 7 Matt Gemmell on iOS 7 iOS 7 is the most skeuomorphic, most liberating version ever iOS 7 and the continuing gamification of interface Panel Loren Brichter of Atebits Sebastiaan de With of dewith.com Marc Edwards of Bjango Rene Ritchie of iMore Dave Wiskus of Better Elevation Feedback Yell at us on Twitter/ADN via the above accounts. Loudly.
Rank #2: 55: Eric Mayville, Clayton Morris, and Read Quick.
Eric Mayville of Wondersauce and Clayton Morris of FOX news join Rene and Mark to talk about their speed-reading app, Read Quick, and what it took to bring the interface from iPad to iPhone.
"The user experience is a metric." Now brief high-level practical design thinking by Michael Schofield. Previously a bunch of fun episodes with Tim Broadwater and Amanda Goodman. metric.substack.com
Rank #1: Questions UXers should ask in Job Interviews.
In this episode of Metric, we talk about questions UXers should ask during job interviews, and what about that interview or organization are red flags.In the gloss, look for chatter about the origins of our usernames, how to pronounce "schoeyfield" (and how that's not my last name!), and a game recommendation for Ninja Theory's Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice. Follow Metric: the UX Podcast on Twitter @metricpodcast Follow Michael on Twitter @schoeyfield Follow Tim on Twitter @uxbearGet on the email list at metric.substack.com
Rank #2: 60: The Worth of UX Certification to Tim Broadwater.
In this episode of Metric: The User Experience Podcast, I chat with friend-of-the-show Tim Broadwater, a UX Master Certificate recipient, about the value of User Experience Certification, or even that of a more traditional route through college. This covers everything across the diversification of UX roles, leadership and management, and -- of course -- Scream Queens. A transcript of this show fully marked-up with links and the like can be found at www.metricpodcast.com Follow Michael on Twitter: @schoeyfield Support this podcast on Patreon: patreon.com/michaelschofield Get on the email list at metric.substack.com
Helping you become more effective in your UX work and career. We talk with experienced pros and industry leaders to share practical advice on building skills that get the best outcomes for our users, our teams, and our UX life. UX life is hard... eat more cake.
Rank #1: Creating Personas That Align Stakeholders.
Ep. #10: We’re talking with Tamara Adlin, a persona pioneer, about a process for creating personas that not only aligns executives and stakeholders, but that also actually gets those personas used. Tamara’s honed this process over the last decade, and she shares with us what "alignment personas" are, how and why she creates them, and how you can create them too. Plus, how to navigate this potentially political process that is fraught with danger!
Rank #2: Better Cross-team Collaboration - Made Fun!.
Episode #3: Collaborating across teams is hard, and it doesn't happen without intention, and some structure. But the benefits for your product, wow - it's like the difference between a beautiful chocolate soufflé and... just a mess on your kitchen counter. (Guess which one has a better UX.) David and Mary Sherwin are experts in teamwork (and design & innovation) and, as they put it, 'helping teams make better cake.' They joined me for a fun and informative conversation about how to make a better cake... er, better teams (sorry, we really like cake metaphors!).
A weekly conversation about design process and culture. Hosted by Marshall Bock and Brian Lovin.
Rank #1: 58: Fat Cat Cat Chat (feat. Kyle Meyer and Charlie Deets) .
In this episode we caught up with Kyle Meyer and Charlie Deets, two product designers that have a huge range of experience in the design and development world. We chat about design at Facebook, remote working, unsolicited redesigns and the power of sound. Come chat with us in our new Slack team! Over 750 designers and developers have already joined our team, chatting about the latest tools and news in the design world. Each week we also host a community critique with a special guest host. To join our team visit our Slack invite page and we'll send you an invitation! If you have feedback or suggestions please don’t hesitate to reach out to us on Twitter at @designdetailsfm! Sponsors: Dropbox Iconfinder - use the promo code 'ROBOT' to save 50% off your first month of Iconfinder Pro Kyle on the Web: Website Twitter Dribbble Blog Instagram Charlie on the Web: Website Twitter SoundCloud Dribbble Blog Instagram Show Notes: 4:00 - Introductions Facebook Groups MOON app Cat Chat Rethinking the Destiny Companion App 10:00 - Unsolicited redesigns Four Ways to Redesign Facebook Wilson Miner and Ryan Sims on Design Details 14:00 - Backstories Big Cartel 27:00 - Facebook Groups, games, sound design Will Littlejohn Messenger sound design Messenger Hearthstone it's pollinating time Immutable Charlie on SoundCloud 44:00 - More backstories Electric Pulp Blind Browser Duo App _57:00__ - Workflows Wake Peek
Rank #2: 271: Principles of Design.
This week, we dive deep on several design principles that will help you make better decisions when creating interfaces and interactions. In Follow-up, we discuss the etiquette of responding to recruiter emails, and in News, we cover Twitter's latest exploration into presence and status. And as always, we share a couple cool things, including an innovative basketball shoe and an updated personal site. Self-sponsor: This week's episode was brought to you by the Spec Job Board If you're a designer or a developer, or if you're looking to hire one, check out the Job Board on Spec.fm. With listings at $100/month, it's super affordable to find your next hire through Spec. Follow-up: Here's Morgan Knutson’s tweetstorm again, for reference News: MG Seigler tweeted: "As redundant as it may sound at first, I love the Twitter “status” idea. A throwback to OG Twitter too! (Still don’t love the idea of presence though.)" Article: "Twitter tests new profile features, including presence indicators and ‘ice breakers’" Site: Spec.fm now has a "global player" that continues playing as you browse Listener Question: Dmitry Veremchuk (@d_ver on Twitter) asks: "Is there a limit to number of the side projects one takes on? Because personally, I am interested in animation, video editing, illustration, programming, photography, and many more things. Starting projects in all of these fields would be daunting and of a low quality." Discussion: Site: Jon Yablonski collected these Laws of UX Fitts' Law: "The time to acquire a target is a function of the distance to and size of the target." Article: Luke Wroblewski wrote "Designing for Large Screen Smartphones" Material Design: Floating Action Button FABs in Material Design 2.0 can be centered for better reachability Action sheets in Apple's Human Interface Guidelines Jakob's Law: "Users spend most of their time on other sites. This means that users prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know." Loren Brichter introduced pull-to-refresh in Tweetie Video: "Loren Brichter on Tweetie" Apple uses scroll-jacking on their Mojave site Bock's Law: "Most people don't have the newest shit." Note: The "grandparent phone" Marshall was thinking of is called Jitterbug Wenni's Principle: "Don't move tap targets." The Doherty Threshold: "Productivity soars when a computer and its users interact at a pace (<400ms) that ensures that neither has to wait on the other." Article: "Improved Perceived Performance with Skeleton Screens" Hick's Law: "The time it takes to make a decision increases with the number and complexity of choices." Video: "The paradox of choice | Barry Schwartz" Book: "Thinking Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman "Faster Horses" is a quote by Henry Ford Miller's Law: "The average person can only keep 7 (plus or minus 2) items in their working memory." Gestalt Grouping Law of Common Region: "Elements tend to be perceived into groups if they are sharing an area with a clearly defined boundary." Law of Proximity: "Objects that are near, or proximate to each other, tend to be grouped together." Law of Similarity: "The human eye tends to perceive similar elements in a design as a complete picture, shape, or group, even if those elements are separated." Image: iOS Settings GIF: Emergency Alert System Image: Don't Dead Open Inside r/dontdeadopeninside Affordance: "the qualities or properties of an object that define its possible uses or make clear how it can or should be used" Book: "The Design of Everyday Things" by Don Norman Article: "Norman Doors: Don’t Know Whether to Push or Pull? Blame Design." Video: "It's not you. Bad doors are everywhere." Article: "Affordances and Signifiers in Mobile Interface Design" GIF: Apple Music's Now Playing sheet Image: Confusing segmented controller (Which one is selected?) Did we miss your favorite law, rule, or principle? Do have one of your own principles? Let us know on Twitter :) or Spectrum One Cool Thing: Marshall shared the new Air Jordan XXXIII Note: Marshall mistakenly called it the "Flight System," but it's really called "Fast-Fit". Way off. Brian shared his updated personal site Design Details Blog The Internet Archive Project Design Details on the Web: We are @designdetailsfm Brian is @brian_lovin Marshall is @marshallbock @Sarahberus and @Luperdev make us sound smarter than we are Join the conversation on Spectrum or leave us a review on iTunes Stinger: Master P - Make 'em Say Ugh (Ft. Fiend, Silkk The Shocker, Mia X & Mystikal) BYEEEEEEE!