“Other side of the table” is a series featuring user researchers, their work, ideas, and challenges along the way. This week we’re featuring Sarah Gagne, User Experience Researcher at LogMeIn.
Let’s get started with the basics, can you tell us a bit about yourself? Where you live, hobbies, family, etc.
I live in Somerville, MA with my boyfriend and our two cats. I enjoy traveling, yoga, and brunching like it’s nobody’s business.
What’s your current role and how did you get there?
I’m a UX Researcher on a fantastic Customer Experience team at LogMeIn. I started my career in CX as a UX Copywriter for a Healthcare IT company. I was an English major in college, and my program in Professional Writing and Technical Communications exposed me not only to writing effective content, but to information design and front-end development. Building on that foundation, my experiences in UX Copywriting became increasingly immersive in the design and research disciplines, and eventually I transitioned to a career that was more full-stack. After working as a UX Designer and founding a research program at a FinTech company, I had the opportunity to join LogMeIn as one of its first UX Researchers.
Switching gears a bit — what’s the best random thing you’ve found on the internet recently (preferably with links)?
What's your most useless skill?
Alright, let’s get into it — what is your favorite “war story” from a user research session you were involved in?
I had to turn away a participant after it became apparent that she was inebriated and incapable of signing in. To compound the problem, the participant was flustered about her broken flip flop, which had somehow fallen apart during her brief sojourn in our office. Heroically, our front desk staff stepped in to repair the individual’s broken shoe; but neither she, nor shoe, made it to the interview room.
There has been a big surge in “design thinking” recently, how would you like to see that trend continue to evolve?
We’ve seen a spike of “design thinking” being applied to business and corporate operations, and I would like to see design thinking continue to evolve in the education space. I’d personally like to see a broader adoption of design thinking from a curriculum and curriculum design standpoint. I think the skills and techniques, mindsets and philosophies intrinsic to design thinking are foundational skills and widely applicable. Our education system hasn’t historically emphasized Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). We know already that implementing design thinking in product development organizations yields lucrative results, but what if we were to think about how that might apply in educating tomorrow’s thinkers and leaders?
What do you think is the biggest mistake people make when approaching user research?
I think people get too attached to the outcome. We’re conducting research to learn, and sometimes we’re going to get results that show that we’re on the wrong track, or that we’re not approaching a problem in the right way. It’s all too easy to subconsciously bias the experimental design or the results in favor of a solution. Of course, if you’re in product development you want to be able to report back to your team, “This design did really well in testing,” but what we lose there is the opportunity to learn. It’s true that designs might test well, but the focus should always be on how do we iterate, how do we improve?
After years of doing user research, what is biggest lesson you’ve learned? The type of thing you wish someone had told you about when you were getting started.
Be creative with how you share your findings. Really consider your audience. It’s easy to get into the rhythm of creating beautiful slide decks, but eyes may start to glaze over after a while. Slide decks may be appropriate in certain situations, but it’s crucial to remain cognizant of how your audience will process your findings, and how they might be consumed as artifacts in future design iterations or product decisions. My research colleagues here at LogMeIn are really good about infusing insights into the organization creatively, and increasingly organizations are trying new things that are proving to be really effective.
Let’s wrap up with some quick hits. How do you like to prep right before sitting down with a user for a research session? Any habits that you find effective?
Caffeinate. Hydrate. Review the interview guide and test the recording equipment. Check predictions at the door.
What tools do you use during sessions? For interview guides, notes, recording, prototypes, etc.
For interview guides, we use Dropbox Paper, and for recordings we use either GoToMeeting or join.me. Depending on the study, we’ll use GoogleSheets, post-its, or printed templates for note-taking.
Are there any tricks you use to make participants feel relaxed or more expressive during sessions?
I like to use silence as a tool. It’s a tried-and-true method, but I think that reassuring participants with welcoming body language, and just letting them talk, is a great way to have people open up.
How do you and your team document and share the insights you collect from user research?
We often share research insights through either a formal readout or a workshop. Many of our insights go to live in a wiki we have for the research team.
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Research sessions don’t always go according to plan, but having backup plans and a user focused attitude will take you far
It's 2018-going-on-2019 after all