Labs Live Episode 2 | UX Design Research with Lauren Mathieson (Video, Audio & Transcript)
Tobi: I have optimism bias, so I’m always like-
Dan: Optimism bias?
Dan: What does that mean? You just assume you did better all the time?
Tobi: No. I think I just am like things are always going to work out.
Dan: You must be disappointed often.
Tobi: No, you actually would overcome disappointment faster.
Dan: But do you manipulate what success is, then?
Dan: Like do you see the, so if you have optimism bias and something doesn’t actually work out, do you say, “Oh, but this one small piece did, so it’s successful.”
Tobi: No, you kind of embrace-
Dan: So, you’re just that successful at all times.
Tobi: No, no, no. You embrace the failure and you soak it in, and then you move on.
Dan: Soak it.
Tobi: Yeah. But you don’t dwell on it.
Dan: Hey, in this new setup, did you know that Dave, our producer, is now mic’d up?
Tobi: I’m excited for that.
Dan: I am, too.
Tobi: I have some questions.
Tobi: Hey, what have you been reading, Dave?
Dan: Dave has been reading about mass extinction, because that’s nice nighttime reads. Everyone loves a good terror sweat in the middle of the night.
Tobi: Yeah. Exciting. I like this new setup, too.
Dan: Yeah, I like the mics. I think. I’m still waiting for my bandanas from Steven Tyler. Do you know who Steven Tyler is?
Tobi: I know him. Yeah, yeah.
Tobi: He has a really tiny voice?
Dan: He has a what?
Tobi: He has a really tiny voice?
Dan: A tiny voice? Yeah. Very small.
Dave: Really big mouth.
Dan: Yeah. Yes. Big mouth, little voice. Yeah.
Tobi: Oh, yeah. He was in a Super Bowl commercial like three years ago or something.
Dan: That’s how you know him?
Tobi: Yeah. I’ve probably heard his song.
Dan: Do you know the band Aerosmith? No, not his song.
Dan: Do you know Aerosmith?
Tobi: Sounds familiar. Yes.
Tobi: Sounds like something I should know.
Dan: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Tobi: Let’s just agree that I know that.
Dan: What’s one song that they sing?
Tobi: Wow. You really putting me on the spot.
Dan: I’m trying to put you back in the saddle again.
Tobi: What was their most famous song?
Dan: It’s a lot of them, man. “Sweet Emotion.”
Dave: There’s “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” from the Bruce Willis movie.
Dave: Yup. Right.
Dan: Is that where they drill a hole into the earth?
Dave: They drill a hole into an asteroid and drop a nuclear warhead into it.
Dan: Oh, is that it? What’s the one where they drill a hole into the earth?
Tobi: Is this a movie?
Dan: That’s Tremors that I’m thinking of.
Dave: They don’t go that deep, dog.
Tobi: Is this a movie or a show?
Dan: Those worms show up out of nowhere. How are we doing on time? When do we want to go live? I will. I mean we are alive, but…
Tobi: We’re kind of live.
Dan: But I mean, when do we want to start the show?
Dave: You’re very live.
Dan: Like reality TV.
Dave: Whenever you want. Three after?
Tobi: Oh, got two minutes.
Dan: Wait two more minutes?
Tobi: Two more minutes.
Dan: What does do it mean? Like wait two more minutes or do it now?
Dave: Wait two more minutes, talk more about Tremors.
Dan: Kevin Bacon. It used to be on like TNT or TBS all the time, and then it was only replaced by Shawshank Redemption, which is now on at all times. Have you seen that movie?
Tobi: I should. It’s a great movie. I’ve heard good things.
Dan: Wait, wait, does that mean you haven’t seen it?
Tobi: I haven’t.
Tobi: That’s something I’m actually ashamed to admit, because I know it’s a great movie, and I’ve seen the-
Dan: Well, it seems like you don’t know it’s a great movie.
Tobi: I have heard so [crosstalk 00:03:10]
Dave: Somebody send that DVD in for Tobi.
Tobi: Is it on Netflix?
Dan: No, it’s VHS. VHS. It might be two VHSs. You probably don’t remember that. Like Titanic would come in two VHSs because it was too long for a standard VHS. It was before DVDs and Blu rays.
Tobi: I’ve been watching old movies lately, and not long ago, I saw Titanic for the first time, and not long ago, I saw, is it Gone With the Wind or something?
Dan: Yeah, Gone With the Wind. That’s a way older movie.
Tobi: Yeah, I kind of liked that, though.
Dan: Did you cry at all during-
Tobi: Gone with the Wind?
Dan: No, Titanic.
Tobi: Oh, Titanic? I did not cry. I saw it in three sittings. So, first day I watched like an hour, second day I watched another hour.
Dan: It’s hard to get emotionally involved when that happens. You got to really buckle in and watch it.
Tobi: Yeah, I was so noncommittal to that movie, and I knew the end as well.
Dan: The ship wrecked.
Tobi: Oh, what happens to the ship. Yeah. Yeah. That was like, if I didn’t know.
Dan: Spoiler alert. Yeah. How do they do in the water?
Tobi: In what way?
Dan: Well, do they die.
Tobi: Well they should. I think they died.
Dan: They should?
Tobi: How do you survive that cold water? I think they did die.
Dan: Yeah, they didn’t have wetsuits. I heard the water was chilly.
Tobi: Such a tragic story.
Dan: Well, they were really confident in the boat, right? They called it Titanic. They said it was unsinkable and iceberg right ahead. Gone.
Tobi: It’s life sometimes.
Dan: I think we’re ready to go.
Tobi: Let’s move.
Dan: All right. Welcome everyone to our second episode. I’m Dan, your host, and I’m joined by Toby, cohost, and this is Labs Live. It’s the only tech show in Detroit at Thursdays, at 3:00 PM, live on YouTube. So, if you have tuned in, it’s because you have nothing else to do, and we appreciate that you are here.
Dan: So, about the show. No, let’s just talk about subscribing. Take a minute, hit that red subscribe button. Hit the bell icon to be notified, because otherwise, you don’t get this alert when we go live. And you’re really going to want to have that.
Tobi: And you’ll want to get it. Yeah.
Dan: And I was going to talk about the show being available after, on YouTube, but Cory mentioned that if they’re watching this, they may not need to go after and watch it on YouTube, unless they just want to watch some highlights and reruns and replays.
Tobi: People watch videos more than once.
Dan: This is one of them that you think they’re going to watch more than once?
Tobi: Absolutely. Great conversations.
Dan: Okay, so it will be available. Also, there’s a little chat room. If you have a question, then put it in there and Dave will attempt to let us know that there’s a question, and we will attempt to answer it.
Tobi: Dave is mic’d up.
Dan: Dave is mic’d up today, so if you’re just joining, our producer, Dave, has a mic today. So, you can say hi.
Dave: Mic’d up. Mic’d up.
Dan: That was aggressive. On to today’s show. So, we have a great guest for you. Lauren Mathison, a senior product designer at Detroit Labs, and she’s going to be talking about user experience research and why you should care. And I’ll be talking, and I’ll be calling it UX research as we move along, because user experience research is very difficult to say many times over.
Tobi: Yeah. Try to say it really fast. It just throws you off.
Dan: Yeah, go ahead.
Tobi: You get lightheaded.
Dan: Yeah, try it.
Tobi: User experience research.
Dan: Okay. So, first, before we get into that, we are going to do the news with Tobi.
Tobi: Oh yeah, let’s go.
Dan: So, first thing, Facebook. Do you use Facebook?
Tobi: I used to. I don’t have Facebook anymore.
Dan: So, they just got fined by the FTC $5 billion and $100 million by the SEC. You’re shocked at this, right?
Tobi: Absolutely surprised. But you know, $5 billion sounds like a lot, but to a company like Facebook, it’s just like a slap on the wrist.
Dan: Yeah. Which is unfortunate because it really just goes to show you that anything you put on the Internet is out there. Privacy is a thing of the past, and it’s interesting. They always say that humans, if you provide them with enough value, they will give up more information.
Tobi: Yeah. Unfortunately.
Dan: Yeah. I’m not seeing the value in Facebook.
Tobi: And also, like, from the fine point of view, the cost of doing something illegal, it should be considerably higher than $5 billion. So, for a company like Facebook circumvented privacy and just being said, like, “Oh, don’t do that again.” It doesn’t.
Dan: Yeah. Next, AI beats five poker champs. This was interesting, too, because AI playing poker is not new, right? They’ve been doing it for a while ,and it’s always done pretty well against one or two people. But the complexity of throwing five people, and the different variations of hands and things like that.
Tobi: That’s impressive.
Dan: You’re in the chess world, big chess fan. What do you think about AI playing some of these strategy games?
Tobi: It is great. It’s actually counter intuitive, because when, for example, you play a game that AI has been introduced into, you would think that you’re just going to hate computers because they can be better than you for sure. But in chess, I think computers and AI in general has kind of improved the game. The quality of grand master games we see these days is like off the charts.
Dan: Are they improving the one on one personal skills? If you play against an AI in your free time-
Tobi: That’s how I practice, actually.
Dan: So, you play against AI? Okay. I assume that makes you better rather than playing against a person?
Tobi: Absolutely, because when you play against a person, they would make mistakes. But if you play against AI, generally, they play very sound. So, your game is stronger. So, when you play against a person, you just crushed him.
Dan: Does it eliminate emotions from the game? I mean how emotional is chess?
Tobi: No emotions, in my opinion.
Dan: I assume it’s like a heated battle.
Tobi: It is a battle. Your knights.
Tobi: Knights and rooks and Queens. It’s no emotions. It’s just dominance.
Dan: Escalated. Alright. Amazon. They’ve taken a lot of heat lately over the treatment of employees. I think they just had a strike at some of their fulfillment centers, but they did announce that they’re going to invest $700 million to retrain a third of their workforce.
Tobi: Okay. Yeah. This is, as you said, they’ve had some bad press lately and this is one of the good kind of highlights, because when you’re trying to transform a company, or you’re digitally transforming somewhere, it starts with people. You need to train them and give people skills to be able to keep working. Right.
Dan: It’s cool because at Detroit Labs, we’ve had that, the apprenticeship program, since 2014. And, well, by no means has it been $700 million. The great thing is it’s been a really wonderful opportunity for us to bring in diverse talent, diverse folks. Over 50% of our team members here came in through the apprenticeship program, believe it or not.
Tobi: Yeah. A lot of our senior developers started, once upon a time, in the apprentice program, and even some people who are no longer here are doing great things in other companies. So training, retraining and training with new technology’s always a great idea.
Dan: It’s kind of cool, because you know we think tech and we think automation and people leaving, but really, you have to invest in people to enable the tech to do a lot of these amazing things.
Tobi: Exactly, exactly.
Dan: Now, speaking of investing in people to make tech great, Slack. So, we use slack.
Tobi: A lot.
Dan: Quite frequently. Lovingly and hatingly use Slack, right.
Tobi: Lots of memes.
Dan: Maybe some work being done in there. But Slack just did a rewrite of their web and desktop application, and it is now 33% faster.
Tobi: I noticed.
Dan: And 50% less memory.
Tobi: I also noticed, because now I can run Slack alongside with our programs I run. Formally, you just needed a machine dedicated to Slack just sucked memory.
Dan: You had a full Slack server at all times.
Tobi: Oh, yeah. Worth it, though.
Dan: Yeah. This is kind of interesting, right? Because, typically, product companies, it’s all about how many features they can, every release, it’s all about features, features, features. I mean, it takes a lot of courage to say, “No, we’re not going to do features. We’re going to do a rewrite because we’ve hit the point where the platform’s just not growing, just not scaling. And then we need to switch language.” They ultimately switched languages, right?
Tobi: Yeah. Yeah. So, basically, the engineering team wrote this nice blog post, and they went through why they decided to rewrite. They highlighted [inaudible 00:12:01] updates, and also you can be part of multiple Slack workspaces at the same time. And they had to rethink that architecture, and they made a point that was very striking, that every software project has a lifespan. There comes a point where you have to either gradually rewrite, or just completely rewrite, because technology has moved so much farther and there are better ways to do things now, which they did. So, they switched to React and using Redux and Redux Thunk to kind of redo the architecture of workspaces, and also updating your emojis and stuff like that.
Dan: It’s also kind of cool, because we’ve been using React here for a while, internal projects and for client projects. So, it’s always nice when a big company like Slack comes out and uses the same platform that you’ve been using. Same framework, if you will, that you’ve been using. It validates that a little bit, right?
Tobi: Yeah. I think React is here to stay.
Dan: You think so?
Dan: You know React pretty well, right?
Tobi: Yeah. Yeah. I started out using React Native, and then more recently, learned a little bit of React, and just the way and the community as well, is very, very vibrant. They release stuff every time.
Dan: Excellent. Alright. On to the last piece of news. I’m a sneaker head, so you know we have to cover sneakers once in awhile. Converse is releasing a really cool collaboration with Chinatown Market. It is a white tissue that, when you take outside and it gets UV light, specifically, it changes to a rainbow color.
Tobi: Wow. That’s a lot of pizazz.
Dan: It’s just a lot of bling. It’s really fantastic. The cool thing is it happens fast, relative, I guess, but when you take it outside it’s better than, you know the glasses that change? The UV glasses, and then, when you go back inside, they never ever change back. So you’re wearing sunglasses inside at all times?
Dan: So, it’s faster than that, which is really awesome. And just kind of an interesting piece of technology.
Tobi: Are they out yet? Do you know?
Dan: I didn’t read that far down in the article. I didn’t prep that well.
Tobi: Probably will be out like next month-ish.
Dan: I don’t know. It’s sneakers. So, that’s probably sometime in 2021. Because you got to get the hype going. All right. That’s it for news, Tobi.
Tobi: That was fun.
Dan: I thought so, too. Now, we’re onto our guest. Again, Lauren Mathieson. You can move down over there. Lauren Mathison, a senior product designer at Detroit Labs, and we are going to be talking about user experience research. How we doing, Dave? How are we feeling?
Lauren: Hello, Lauren.
Dave: Really great. A lot of great energy.
Dan: Okay, excellent. All right. Lauren, what is user experience research and why do it? Especially at the beginning of a project.
Lauren: So, I think the importance of user experience research is really to set really great foundation. It really just helps us make better products. It helps us empathize with our target users. It helps us kind of make sure that we’re connected to them, make sure that the goals of the product match the goals of the user. And I think the biggest thing that a lot of people don’t think about is that they’re not typically the target user themselves.
Dan: It seems to be natural for a human to just assume that, “Oh, the way I use the app is the way anyone will use the app.” Right?
Lauren: Yeah, absolutely. Especially if you’re building an app for a very specific process, or a very specific market, you never know what’s happening in context when they’re using it. So, it’s great to be able to figure that out.
Dan: So is that first step just really coming to the realization that, “Okay, I get it. I’m not the user of this, and there may be people in the world outside of me,” type thing?
Lauren: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely.
Dan: Okay. So from a business standpoint, so if I’m a product owner, I’m a business owner and it makes sense to invest in UX research, why would I make that investment? It’s upfront. That’s cost, that’s time before building a product. Why do I do that? What’s the value?
Lauren: Well I think it really goes in line when we think about Agile, as well. It’s easier to iterate and correct or adjust in the beginning. And back to what I said about foundation, spending a little bit of time at the beginning and make sure what you’re building, isn’t it going in the right direction and setting up the goals, to be scientific, like any hypotheses you would be kind of thinking about as you build a product. That way you can always revert back to them and use them as starting points.
Dan: And do you help define some of those metrics up front, too? Because if you’re trying to figure out what… That’s one of the challenges with any software, right? Is ROI. Is that part of that process early on, trying to figure out what some of those metrics are, to figure out if you are achieving some type of a return?
Lauren: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And you can use some methodologies to get there, but typically part of spending that time upfront is to really help figure out what the users are actually going to do in the product. And then you can try to set those metrics, so the business may have a goal that they’re tracking [inaudible 00:17:10], then the user experience person would then define a way to be able to meet those goals. And then you can track them.
Dan: And you need a very tuned in client, right? That’s not just going to throw it over the wall. You need somebody from a client side that’s really passionate about this as well, hand in hand with the UX team. Correct?
Lauren: Yeah. But I also think that, I’ve worked on projects in my career that we’ve had to definitely work a little bit to get buy-in, but I think that, a lot of times, once they see the results of our research or our testing, they’re usually bought in right after that.
Dan: Okay. So, UX, and especially UX research, a lot of times you hear about it from an ideological or theoretical type thing. Like you just need to do it because it provides better return. What are some activities, just some first steps that a business owner or a product owner could do, just to kind of get that first couple steps of UX?
Lauren: Sure, absolutely. So, I think the two easiest ways to kind of get your foot in the door when it comes to UX would be doing user interviews. So, that would just be talking to your target customer, asking non-leading questions, making sure that you’re listening and not guiding them. And then you’ll almost always uncover some insight that you weren’t accounting for.
Lauren: Back to that, you’re not the user, make suring that you’re eliminating any of that bias there. And then another methodology, and my personal favorite, would be user testing. And the statistic is that you can find up to 85% of any potential issues, usability issues, with just five people.
Tobi: That’s interesting.
Lauren: Yeah, so that’s can be a very low cost way to get fast feedback, and then you can use that feedback to kind of increase your confidence in your solution. And then doing that also tends to de-risk a lot of things. So, making sure that you’re building the right product, and then also making sure that you’re not losing customers due to frustration or usability problems or accessibility problems.
Dan: And is that something that you would do only up front on a project, or only up front during the product definition? Or is that something that should be done just ongoing?
Lauren: I think that it should be done ongoing. It’s really an iterative process. So, you can build it into your release planning. That kind of goes along with what is the base, and then as you learn more, and as you get more users in your product, you get more data through analytics or through testing. Then you can keep going on in build [inaudible 00:20:02] that product better and better.
Tobi: Do you kind of do it for every feature that you’re adding to the project?
Lauren: Yeah. So, anytime that there’s a new feature request or something that you might want to test out as a hypothesis, like we think this might be a good way to solve this problem, it’s always good to kind of frame that potential feature by using a couple of different methodologies.
Tobi: Oh, that makes sense. Yeah.
Dan: So, we were talking about this early on. There’s a common misconception that any designer’s a UX researcher, any UX researcher’s a designer. What is the difference between the two?
Lauren: Yeah. I think that’s, especially now that UX is growing and has been growing for many years, a UX researcher, a UX designer is typically going to be the person who does that initial research, what does that testing. And they’re really about defining what the product is. Like I said before, making sure that the business and the users meet at a good place.
Lauren: And then they do some things like wire framing or user flows. So, it’s really about focusing on that initial pass and structure of the product you’re building, versus what a lot of people traditionally think is a designer, who would be doing the look and feel, any brand translation or interactivity, innovation, et Cetera, et cetera.
Dan: I’m kind of reading through the lines here. So, you’re saying that, on a project, that makes sense to have too. It makes sense to have more than just a designer or a UX researcher.
Lauren: Yeah, definitely. There’s a lot of things that can be done at the same time in tandem. And there’s a lot of value that you would get just by having another set of eyes on something. A lot of people might know a little bit about UX or a little bit about UI, or a little bit about this or a little bit about that. And it’s always great to get another set of eyes on something, and also allow the information you’re gathering to kind of go through another mind as well. It’s kind of back to that bias, right? So, there are ways that we can kind of eliminate that, but it’s always just more efficient to work with two people, make sure that somebody can keep their full attention on one thing, versus the other, depending on their strengths. So, it’s definitely more efficient I would say.
Tobi: So, if a project has kicked off already, is this something that you can iteratively just get into the process, to kind of do it retroactively?
Lauren: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I’ve worked on projects with one designer, I’ve worked in projects on seven, and you can grow and shrink that, depending on what your needs are as you are going through your process. And you can definitely jump in and start incorporating some UX methods at any point.
Tobi: Got you.
Lauren: Yeah, there’s always at least a little bit that you can do on a project.
Tobi: Yeah, that makes sense.
Dan: Well, cool. It’s pretty cool, especially some of the projects within the last little bit that we’ve done a lot of focus on user experience research. I know you and another team member, and then a few other folks have been traveling places to go and actually talk to clients. Kind of put you on the spot here, but what does it like going into, essentially, a business that you may not have background in, or just a situation where you may not have a ton of prior experience? Is that a good or bad? It seems like that might eliminate some bias, but it might also be difficult.
Lauren: I actually prefer going in without a lot. I mean, you’re going to have some foundational research. You’re obviously going to know what the business is trying to do, and we might have some feedback from maybe our product owners or clients that can help us shape that. But we always make sure, when we’re doing that research, that we’re keeping it as neutral as possible.
Lauren: But also, I know I said that user testing was my favorite thing, but also I really love doing contextual research. I just really like to see how users use things in their environment, and kind of uncover some of those things that maybe you weren’t thinking about while you’re sitting in front of your computer.
Dan: I suppose it kind of hits on a couple of different things here, but the contextual piece of it, is that first seeing what they’re doing today, before a solution?
Lauren: Yeah, absolutely.
Dan: And then does that come into play later on? It’s almost the same thing, but with the product that’s being built during that iterative type of-
Lauren: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s a great way to measure some of those metrics that we were talking about. Test the product as it is now. Find out where those pain points are. Maybe only 20% of users are completing something, and then go through your process, come back with the new product, test it in the same way, and then you can really tell whether or not what you did was a success.
Dan: And do you film people doing that, or is it like you just write it down? Or is it depending on the comfortability?
Lauren: I think it’s depending on how comfortable folks are, and what your budget is, and what your time commitment is.
Dan: What would be ideal?
Lauren: I think it does depend. I think that if you’ve got a client, or you’re working on a product where you’ve got a lot of stakeholders that aren’t going to be with you during your research, it’s great to film, because nothing helps convince somebody better than seeing it themselves. I know that sounds a little bit snarky.
Dan: No, that makes sense.
Lauren: I’ve done that before. I’ve actually-
Dan: Sometimes you paint your own picture of what’s doing… Tobi.
Lauren: And then being able to film and show folks that aren’t in the field or aren’t doing that specific task really helps create credibility. A lot of times, though, we’re working very quickly. So, we do some more low fidelity stuff, like taking notes, maybe recording something on our phone. But that’s also another reason why it’s great to have two people, because one person can facilitate your conversation, the other person can take notes and capture data.
Dan: That’s awesome.
Dan: So, invest in user experience up front. It will pay off big time in the end. You won’t have to do a lot of rework. Right Tobi?
Dan: You agree with that?
Tobi: I agree, absolutely.
Dan: From the developer side, would that be helpful for you?
Tobi: I absolutely agree. We’ve been doing a lot of projects with, as she mentioned, we’d design first, and it’s made a huge difference. You just learn more things so you don’t have to like keep rewriting and rewriting.
Dan: Well, Lauren, thank you so much for coming on and joining us.
Lauren: You’re very welcome.
Dan: Now you all know that a focus on user experience research up front will ultimately give you a far better product in the end. Less rework, overall great experience, and your users will be happy. So, don’t forget to hit that red subscribe button. Hit the little bell icon to be notified. Tobi, you’re subscribed right?
Tobi: I am subscribed. Notified. Probably just got a notification right now.
Dan: That’s probably not good, because we started the live stream a while ago, so I’m hoping that’s when you got the notification. The goal is to do this every two weeks. Thursday at three, scheduled permitting. Sometimes, Toby and I have to travel, and we’ll see how that goes. Maybe Dave can host the entire thing by himself. That said, have a great rest of the day. Thanks. Bye.
Tobi: See you.