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The UI-niverse continues to grow! Our new Content Marketing Manager Lizzy Burnam introduces herself and reflects on her first week in UXR.
If you’re a close follower of our content, you might notice that I’m a new contributor to the User Interviews blog.
So I thought it’d be nice to quickly introduce myself as the new Content Marketing Manager at User Interviews. To which end...
I’m Lizzy. Nice to meet you. 👋
I’ll be joining Katryna, Erin, Roberta, Basel, and others as a frequent contributor to the blog and an additional voice in the UI-niverse (and I hope I get the chance to hear more of your voices, too!).
My background is in quantitative insights—before this, I worked in the customer data and analytics space—but in a way that was deeply entrenched in a user-obsessed, customer-obsessed, human-first mindset.
Still, as Dave Chen, Director of Consumer Insights at Flipp mentions in his interview on Awkward Silences:
“Quantitative data tells the what, but not so much the how and the why.”
As a heart-driven person, I’m interested in getting closer to the customer than a spreadsheet full of numbers or a templated persona will allow. In other words, I want to know not only what customers do, but also how and why they do it—and I want to hear it in their own words.
That’s why I was delighted to join UI’s all-star team and get more involved in the user research community.
As Eniola Abioye of SVB says in her interview on Awkward Silences:
“UX research is everywhere. It’s a discipline in so many different fields and job roles. A lot of people don’t call it UX, but it is UX.”
“User experience” is a broad term that encompasses everything from the location of the checkout button on an ecommerce website to the width and slope of the wheelchair ramp leading up to your favorite store. Any product or service with users offers a user experience, whether or not that experience was intentionally designed.
When you’re developing those products and services, UX research is your opportunity to ask: Why do we do it this way? And how will users respond?
Ultimately, breaking into UXR is really just taking a more focused and structured approach to asking “why,” something most of us do on a daily basis—and indeed, from the time we’re able to talk.
As children, asking “how” and “why” (and receiving accurate answers to those questions) helps us develop the confidence and security we need to navigate the world as we grow.
Likewise, examining our own ideas through the lenses of “how” and “why” can help us move forward with more confidence and urgency—both of which are needed to succeed as inventors, entrepreneurs, and product designers.
Spotify’s basic function is to stream music.
But if you regularly use Spotify, then you’ve probably used the app during some of the most significant milestones in your life.
For example, I used Spotify to create the playlist for my big sister’s wedding reception. I’ve also used Spotify to create shared playlists with coworkers, replay songs from my younger days with the made-for-you Time Capsule playlist, and compare my music streaming habits with friends when Spotify Wrapped is released at the end of each year.
Spotify is more than a simple streaming service—it also acts as a tool for connecting with friends and family, revisiting memories, telling stories, and more.
In her Awkward Silences episode, Babz Jewell of Variant refers to these other use cases as the “off-script” moments that are usually only discovered by listening to and empathizing with users.
In other words, although basic behavioral data can help you understand what users are doing, only the users themselves can tell you why.
By understanding these “off-script” nuances of your product’s role in users’ lives, you can create tailored solutions that better meet their needs.
Finally, UX research is important because it humanizes the end-user.
If you want to design products that attract and sustain long-term customer relationships, you have to design products for people.
“If we want users to like our software we should design it to behave like a likeable person: respectful, generous and helpful.”
Think of any person with whom you have a long-term relationship: A friend, a colleague, a partner, etc.
It may have taken months or years of getting to know that person before you could genuinely empathize with them and anticipate their behavior. You’re probably still learning new things about them to this day. If you’ve known them for an especially long time, then they’ve probably changed their opinions, behaviors, or appearance—and your relationship has evolved in tandem.
When you’re deeply entrenched in product development, it can be easy to forget that the user you’re designing for is human: A dynamic social organism who will sometimes behave in unpredictable ways.
UX research helps you understand and improve your product’s relationship with its users as real, unique people.
You wouldn’t stay in a relationship with someone who never collaborated with you to provide mutual support and care. Likewise, people are unlikely to continue using products that aren’t designed to integrate seamlessly into their lives.
Although I’ve been curious about UX design and research for quite some time, I’m particularly grateful to have entered the space through User Interviews: A company that serves as its own case study.
If you haven’t yet read UI's origin story, it’s really worth reading in full. But the TL;DR is that our founders’ first startup failed due to a lack of user research. When Basel, Dennis, and Bob realized how important—and difficult—UX research was, User Interviews was born.
The User Interviews origin story demonstrates a clear and striking difference in outcomes between a product built for the innovators and a product built for the users. That’s the difference we hope to make for our customers.
After just a week with the UI team, it’s easy to see how the company’s origins have trickled down into the current culture and operations. UItes are curious and inquisitive, eager for feedback, highly attuned to the customer experience, and not afraid of questioning their own assumptions in an effort to make things better (as evidenced by our Slack channel, #whytho, in which we ask why things are the way they are in hopes of finding better ways of operating).
Plus, we just crossed a very exciting milestone: 50,000 projects launched! UI’s growth and trajectory over the past several years are telling of a genuinely helpful product, and I can’t wait to see where we go next!
Five years ago, “user experience” was not even a part of my vocabulary.
I was a user of many products and services, as all of us are.
I had opinions about which products I liked better than others, as all of us do.
But I never gave much thought to my experiences using those products—or to the work it took to craft those experiences behind the scenes.
And that’s the point—I wasn’t supposed to.
Good UX is fluid to the point of being imperceptible to the user. Good UX means that the user doesn’t have to think all that much about how to set up their account or where to find the exit button.
But good UX isn’t achieved by accident—it starts with talking to your users.
Whether you’re a researcher or participant (or neither of those things, but still super jazzed about UXR), I’d love to hear from you! Shoot me an email at email@example.com to let me know what you love about UI’s content and any topics you’d like us to cover in the future.
Content Marketing Manager
Marketer, writer, poet. Lizzy likes hiking, people-watching, thrift shopping, learning and sharing ideas. Her happiest memory is sitting on the shore of Lake Champlain in the summer of 2020, eating a clementine.