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February 1, 2023
UX research experts of UserZoom share their thoughts on the rise of collaboration tools like Figma and discuss industry changes.
UX is exploding! It's tremendously exciting. But much of the technology pushing the state-of-the-art has been around for over a decade. What are the key driving factors behind the rapid rise of new tools like Figma? What does this mean for the future of collaboration? How will this affect research practices?
Alfonso de la Nuez, Co-Founder, CVO & BoD Member at UserZoom, and Dana Bishop, VP, Strategic Research Partners at UserZoom, drop by to discuss the evolution of the UX and muse on Adobe's recent acquisition of Figma. They take Erin and JH along for a retrospective look at the past 30 years of UX, dig into industry trends, and explore the nuances of user research.
In this episode, we discuss:
Alfonso de la Nuez is Co-Founder, CVO & BoD Member at UserZoom. He has over seventeen years of experience in various disciplines, including UX, digital marketing, eCommerce, web design, and user-centered design. He is also the author of The Digital Experience Company, co-founder and former CEO of Xperience Consulting, and former co-founder and CEO of Xperience Consulting.
Dana Bishop, VP and Strategic Research Partner at UserZoom, has over twenty years of experience in UX research. After spending nine years at Keynote Systems, Dana worked at Key Lime Interactive until she joined UserZoom in 2017. Her work in UX research is primarily focused on competitive research and benchmarking. Currently, she is co-host of UXpeditious, a weekly podcast exploring the world of UX.
Alfonso - 00:00:01: I think that the industry has been maturing and therefore we're seeing more, much more specialization. And I'm not sure how we are today compared to how it was a few years ago, but I know that it was like that, right? Often.
Erin - 00:00:16: This is Erin May.
JH - 00:00:18: I'm John Henry-Forster. And this is Awkward Silences.
Erin - 00:00:23: Silences.
Erin - 00:00:31: Hello, everybody, and welcome back to Awkward Silences. Today we are very fortunate to be joined by two guests, both from UserZoom. We've got Alfonso De La Nuez and Dana Bishop, the Co-founder and Chief Visionary Officer as well as the VP of Strategic Research Partners. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Alfonso - 00:00:52: Thank you for having us.
Erin - 00:00:54: We're really excited to be talking about a big topic, which is UX research, which we always talk about, and the rise of product design tools like Figma with the big $20 billion dollar acquisition. Big news. What does it all mean? How did we get here? So excited to have some big experts here to talk about these things. So thanks for joining us.
Alfonso - 00:01:13: Absolutely, thank you so much for having us.
Dana - 00:01:15: Yeah, great to be here.
Erin - 00:01:17: We've got JH here too.
JH - 00:01:18: Yeah, I use Figma quite a bit, but I've never talked about it in this sort of lens. So I think it'll be a fun conversation.
Erin - 00:01:24: Fantastic. And we were just guests on your show not too long ago, so definitely check the back and forth out however you found us. That'll be a fun double listen for folks if you want to bench. So, yeah, let's jump in. So what did tools like Figma allow designers and researchers to do? That was difficult before with a big ticket acquisition like this? Clearly something new and meaningful has happened in the market. And so what is that new thing? What have you seen happen here?
Dana - 00:01:52: Sure. So I think we all know that Figma has kind of become the darling of the design world in a short amount of time. A couple of things that really stand out to me. First of all, it's really easy to learn, right? So even people with no experience can kind of quickly get up and running. And Figma, it's got a drag and drop interface and creating prototypes and products is easy, but it also is counterbalanced with also a lot of features and tools. So that's one thing very easy to learn. And then once you're in there, it's pretty easy to use. It's browser based, which is a big differentiator and that has become even more important in the last few years. Right. So browser based makes it very accessible and simple. No installations, no patching, no updates, all that kind of stuff. Right? And so collaboration, which is the piece that I think is the most meaningful in the last couple of years, it was really designed with collaboration in mind. So as we evolve, sort of scattered, I think one of the reasons their usage really skyrocketed over these past few years is the remote working environment and all the challenges that go with it, especially for creative teams. Right. You think about design teams, they rely on the ability to brainstorm, collaborate, go back and forth and knock it around, right? All of a sudden, we're scattered to the wind. Everybody's not in the same location. You can collaborate in real time, build the prototypes. And I think those are really important things in my mind of what I've seen and what I've heard from the folks that we work with.
Alfonso - 00:03:20: Yeah, absolutely agree with everything Dana said. I was mega excited to hear the news for several reasons. So I look at it a little bit different from a different lens. One is that I think Figma really focuses on UX design versus visual design. And I think that if they had started the company a decade earlier, maybe it wouldn't have been as popular. But design has been typically related or associated with visual and creative and Photoshop. But in the last decade, I think the fact that UX has become much more important, how things actually work for users versus how they look, I think that that focus has made them so successful. And that's also why I celebrated it, is because it is just another proof that UX design is so important versus, again, just visual design. We still hear so much from the likes of executives or people that are starting to really, I guess, get it. I still hear quite a bit that design is about visual and how things look. And I keep saying design is about problem solving and UX design. So I think that was something that really caught my attention, is that Adobe would be so interested in adding that part of design into their creative suite. The second one is, and this is before I get to how it's related to research, but the second one is the price. This is the single biggest acquisition of a private company ever. Okay? And so, wow. I mean, the multiple is so big that doesn't even make sense to look at it right. From a multiple perspective. I think the fact that it's so big, once again, just creates a lot of attention in the space, in the market. And it's a phenomenal inspiration and I guess, reference for all of us in the space. This UX design thing matters. And it matters not just to users, but it matters to those up there. Again, the Adobe management team, of course, understands how important design is, and they go and pay such a big price. And I guess the third thing I would say about the deal that I really liked is that, yes, UX designers, and of course, many, if not most of our users, UX researchers, are in Figma at some point. The collaboration part that Dana talked about is absolutely key. They're democratizing design. Is what they're doing really, or what they've done and what they will keep doing. And what we're seeing is that democratization of design also kind of relates to democratization of insights and understanding the users that you're solving a problem for. And so therefore, that collaboration aspect, that is not just the designers that actually spend time in Figma, but also product people, even executives, right. And of course, developers, et cetera, et cetera. That is also how we see ourselves, the insights and the research aspect of UX, which is that you can't just expect UX research to be in the hands of researchers, but it's going to be and insights are going to be in the hands of many others as well. So those three really is kind of what caught my attention about this deal and very excited about it.
JH - 00:06:37: Nice. Yeah. I'm curious how you think about so browser based, very collaborative as a platform focused on product design, all these rich features like prototyping built right in. Do you think that has changed how people are using prototypes in their research? Or has it just made it, like, easier and faster because you could do these things before with Sketch and Envision or even just paper prototypes or go back to Adobe Fireworks way back in the day, you could do things. Is it just that it's gotten easier and so that's been the unlock for research in product design, or is it you're doing new types of things because it has these capabilities?
Dana - 00:07:09: From my perspective, kind of going off of what Alfonso said earlier about democratization. One of the things that we're seeing, we have historically worked more in the past with researchers. Right. UX researchers were sort of primary users for a number of years, started to shift, and it's really shifted. And I think a couple of things are driving that. One is hiring of UX designers has really accelerated and outpaced hiring of UXRs in the last couple of years. Right. And so you've got more designers and everything, and then a tool like Figma is there to help them to really quickly and efficiently build prototypes and allowing a little bit more time in the sprints to then also you look to that growing team of designers and say, okay, now we want you to run your own research. We want you to go ahead and test prototypes. We're working with tons of folks on research and design ops initiatives. We actually have a documentation that we have developed for mostly UX designers called Best Practices for Testing with Figma prototypes. And we are sort of teaching that and going with that wave because it's happening. And so I think it's two things: less time and then also the necessity right, to plug designers into research.
Alfonso - 00:08:24: The technical aspect of being browser based is what's going to because to your point, JH, Envision was doing that already. I could go back to the 1990s, if I remember correctly. I mean, you know, there was already ways to put it up in the cloud. I just believe in the aspect of collaboration and the fact that a lot of people are in there. It's just much easier to one of the things that we always talk about in research is that research sometimes I think most people, if not everyone, is interested in understanding whether a website or an app works for users and what kind of feedback they provide. The question in research, in my experience in the last 20 years has been much more about operations, but how to make it happen and also how insights flow around. Right? So, by the way, something we focus on at users with the Enjoy HQ acquisition. If you build a research study and you launch it, you collect data and you create a PowerPoint which takes you, I don't know, a week. And then you present it, it takes you another day, it takes you this, and then it goes into some sort of drawer or folder. It's not the same as if it flows and it's kind of embedded within the stack, whether it's Atlassian or other project management tools out there. So I think that what's happening with Figma is they're making it so much more collaborative that everyone is working there. They actually call it a design system, not a tool. Right? And so I think that research is probably from a technical aspect, probably not changing much. I mean, there's probably some easy ways to just launch it from the web, from the browser and things like that. But I don't think that's going to create a lot more demand. It's just a matter of exposure and exposing those prototypes, wireframes, mockups ideas that are in Figma to the end users and then those stories should flow so that it can be more collaborative. You can analyze the results together and actually come to a conclusion, especially if you're remote in this remote world. Somebody is going to make a decision now in Australia for what was tested in the US. I don't know, just making it up. That's what I think has made the big difference.
Erin - 00:10:35: Dana, you mentioned you have a whole guide of best practices. I'm curious to hear any of them that you could share a couple off the top.
Dana - 00:10:43: You know, some of it is just really like tips and tricks for how to be successful. And there's a few things about hiding the UI and there's just kind of some sort of back end stuff. And again, we're kind of aiming it towards designers, to be honest, because we are seeing more designers running the research and taking their prototype and then taking it to the next step. And so maybe they're not seasoned on sort of how to do that and how to sort of get it to be external facing. So you think about collaborating with your internal team and then you think about end users looking at your prototype. There's a couple of little tricks and things you need to kind of do and how to hide it. And there's how to hide that interface, how to make publicly shareable links. There are things like that and that just kind of got incorporated into our conversation with our customers because again, it's kind of skyrocketing usage of Figma.
JH - 00:11:34: Have you seen like, anti-patterns emerge there? One thing that I always wonder is because Figma makes it so easy to work at a high fidelity and make a really rich prototype. You have all your components in there. You can link up all the frames, make all these interactions. I know I personally years ago when I first got introduced to and I was excited, made like a really overworked prototype, right, that had a million different interactions and all these frames and probably could have learned the thing I needed to learn in a third of the amount of work in terms of wiring it up. Is there some of that that you see or how do people make sure that they don't just get so obsessed with the capabilities that they're just playing with them and losing sight of what they need to learn and that side of things.
Dana - 00:12:09: That's interesting. I could see where that would happen, where you would fall into that because with other prototyping tools and in the past, the debate is always, hey, should we just make a happy path only prototype and keep it simple? And I think to some respect we have seen sort of people get over excited about what they can do quickly. And so maybe those constraints that in the past weren't a bad thing. We're in there. But I think kind of going back to some of the anti patterns and this is maybe less about figma and more about prototype testing is just resolving issues that are uncovered when you're prototype testing before kind of keeping that sustainable like doable pace and sort of addressing those issues and resolving them before moving on instead of letting it pile up. We've seen that sort of happen where people get over ambitious and they're like, hey, let's shorten our sprint cycles and let's do this. So that's one outcome that I've seen a little bit.
Alfonso - 00:13:09: I don't know if it's related to the question guys, but if I may, I want to tell you a story and anecdote. I actually started my career in UX with wireframing and prototyping. And back in the day, I think it was Visio, there was a tool called Visio that I think either Microsoft owned or something. I started in this career because designers and I got to say customers wanted to go indirectly into the creative right into the design. And so we spent I was working back then for one of the pioneering kind of design, web design and consultancies. It was called Icon Medialab, a Swedish firm that started in 1996, I think it was, and ended up being part of Publicis, right. So just one of those I think, Dana, you may remember that one, right? Because I know didn't you work for another one Proxycom or one of those guys, right? So, anyway, so I remember I was a project manager and I was in charge of delivering on time efficiently and on budget and with quality. Right. The end users back in ‘90s was not a really big deal. Of course, that's why I ended up going to research. But the point I'm trying to make is that everything was about visual design. And I remember that there was no UX designers back then. There were information architects, it's kind of how it was called. But basically there was no UX design. And so what I started doing is I started using prototyping and the method of prototyping and wire framing. Because the problem was that you'd go to the customer, you'd present these creatives, mockups, which they always ask for three at least, that would take a long time. And then the customer would say, I want this from this and this from that, and this from that, right? Cherry picking like that. And then the problem also was that the creative was not thinking about information architecture, menu, design, labeling, copywriting. It was all about just putting it out there. So for me, fast forward to today. Of course, Figma is what it is and has become this amazing company. But the value of prototyping and wireframing is so huge for UX and for good information architecture and navigation and structures and things like that. That's why I really like card sorting and tree testing and this, this methodologies. And I guess I just wanted to share that anecdote that it wasn't popular to wireframe before and I'm glad that it is now. For sure.
Erin - 00:15:40: Yeah. So there's more UX designers in the world. More of them are using Figma. Is there more research happening as a result? Is there more prototyping? Is that resulting in better outcomes for research, for better products?
Dana - 00:15:55: We've seen an uptick in the amount of research that's being done, for sure. And specifically methodologies that are about getting quick, doing quick, iterative design testing, right. We're not seeing a situation where designs are rolling out without ever being tested, which is a really good thing. Not only is it saving money of making mistakes and rolling it out into production and then having to pay a lot more to fix them, but we're really bringing the end user, the users, into the process, into the design process, and I see less fear around that. So I've been doing usability and UX testing for almost 30 years, and I've been doing it so long that we used to do paper testing in the lab and card sorting with actual physical cards. So, yeah, that's how long. But again, back then we didn't have the ability to test prototypes, right. Not interactive ones or the ones that we were, were not very user friendly. Right. So they were very internal. Like, we all got what was going to happen, and we could all sort of envision it. But it wasn't an experience that a user could really wrap their head around and go, oh, I like that, or, oh, that makes sense. And so it has definitely enabled us to put more things in front of the customers, the end users, and get quick feedback. And I see a lot less fear around that and a lot less hesitation. So I think that's been a great thing.
Alfonso - 00:17:28: But I'd say that's what we see from our lens at User Zoom, because everyone that buys User Zoom and uses User Zoom is running testing. And so we see the numbers of studies and number of completes just go like this for the last four years. I challenge, though, that everyone is doing testing. I think in general, there's still a long, long way to go to get as many people that are doing design to do research and testing. And by the way, again, I like to differentiate research being a little broader than testing, testing being, I guess, a subcategory of the broad UX research category. But I just want to point out that when we say, for instance, that more designers are using UserZoom, UX designers have different skills and different capabilities, and even training, I would say, even though there's not like a formal training, I guess out there in universities, I guess there's masters. But what I'm trying to say here is that UX designers are designers, yes, but they're not necessarily creative designers. Right, sorry. Let me put that back there. They can be very creative. In fact, there's a lot of creativity in UX design. I'm saying the visual designers, the graphic designers, right? That's what I'm trying to differentiate. And I always tell the story about how I attended Adobe Max Conference in Los Angeles about three years ago. I think it was before the pandemic. And I purposely wanted to kind of feel and experience a creative conference. I mean, we were talking 10,000 people. It was just packed downtown LA. And I remember talking to a lot of people and sitting in the in those round tables during lunch and breakfast and stuff, and most of them were graphic designers, right? And so I asked the question, hey, you guys run research when you're doing your design? Oh, no, we leave that to others. That was a very typical response. So I think the fact that we have UX designers, to me, they may not be researchers, but UX designers are a lot more curious, I feel, because of how they approach their work. They're a lot more curious, and they kind of need to have research in place to understand who they're designing for. And you could argue the same for the graphic designers, but the UX designers, it's like an absolute must. So I can see a lot more research and testing being done by UX because of the UX designers explosion, not just researchers, which, by the way, is also a growing industry, a growing profile, but the UX designer is sort of a researcher as well. It's kind of how I see it.
Erin - 00:19:59: Absolutely. We call them people who do research, not full time researchers, but they do research as part of their job.
Alfonso - 00:20:04: Exactly. And They are people.
Erin - 00:20:07: And they are people. Yes, absolutely. In our organization, product design, UX design, we could get into the semantics of what is what, but they're doing visual design, too, right. They're not passing that then off to another person to slap some colors on it. And so that research that they're doing or a part of is becoming part of that final visual product. And we did do research on our brand design as well. I'll just shout out Holly, which I know doesn't happen all the time. But I think your point that research can and should be incorporated into all manner of designs, right. Not just UX design.
Alfonso - 00:20:43: 100%. That brings me to another point that was very popular back in the day, maybe not as much today, the difference between the designers. Some companies and I've read this quite a bit, and I've heard a lot of people complain about this, try to have the same person do the research, the UX design and the visual or graphic design. And supposedly you have to have all of that. A lot of researchers obviously complain about the lack of craft, the lack of rigor, because if you're not trained, first of all, you could have a dedicated career to each of these three, I guess. Right. You could be a researcher full time. You could be a UX designer full time. You could be a graphic designer full time. And by the way, I can say this because my wife, for instance, is a graphic designer, visual designer. But she is not good. I can tell you that right now with the UX aspect. No, because she never really liked it. It was just like, no, I want to focus on colors and branding and images and photos and pictures. And of course, she's one of those that would tell you, no, I don't do these, I don't do research. So I think that the industry has been maturing, and therefore we're seeing much more specialization. And I'm not sure how we are today compared to how it was a few years ago, but I know that it was like that, right? Often.
JH - 00:22:01: Yeah.
Dana - 00:22:02: I think the other role that's jumping into research that I've seen is some content writers. So the content teams are that other sort of piece right. That are sitting around the table when designing a new experience or redesigning an experience. And I've had more folks come to me for advice and for feedback on their studies that are content folks.
Erin - 00:22:26: They're calling them content designers now.
Dana - 00:22:28: Yeah, it's fascinating that is brand new in my universe, right. Of really just the last couple of years. And so that's really interesting. So, again, kind of democratizing beyond just designers and everyone's getting in a little bit more. The other thing I can say before joining User Zoom, for about the 15 years or so, prior to that, I was mostly focused on benchmarking and measuring the UX. And so that was primarily live sites. So measuring your experience over time or against competitors, prototype testing wasn't part of that at all. Right. We're measuring the live experience and like I said, against your competitors to see who's best in class, what are the best practices, or how changes that you're making over time are impacting. Right. And we still do a lot of that, but basically that was years and years and years and years of focus without any prototypes.
Alfonso - 00:23:24: That brings you to the concept of specialization in research. Right. So qualitative versus quantitative or formative versus summative. Right. So benchmarking is not something that you usually do or use during the design prototype testing. You probably wouldn't do that much. You probably want to do that more when you're live and you want to compare against competition or yourself over time. Right. Benchmarking, which we do quite a bit at User Zoom, by the way. So, yeah, the specialization aspect of this industry is something I find fascinating.
JH - 00:24:01: All right, a quick awkward interruption here. It's fun to talk about user research, but you know what's really fun is doing user research, and we want to help you with that.
Erin - 00:24:09: We want to help you so much that we have created a special place, it's called userinterviews.com/awkward, for you to get your first three participants free.
JH - 00:24:21: We all know we should be talking to users more, so we've went ahead and removed as many barriers as possible. It's going to be easy. It's going to be quick. You're going to love it. So get over there and check it out.
Erin - 00:24:29: And then when you're done with that, go on over to your favorite podcasting app and leave us a review, please.
JH - 00:24:38: With more UX designers and access to these prototypes and doing more prototype testing, usability testing, all that stuff. Do you have a read on whether that is additive? It's just new research that’s happening in addition to all these other methodologies and stuff or in some organizations, is that actually replacing other methodologies that would still be adding a lot of value, but just because the prototyping thing has become so easy and it's sort of in the designer wheelhouse, that's kind of crowding other stuff out. Do you have any sense of what's happening there?
Dana - 00:25:04: Well, I'll chime in and working directly with some of the designers and the researchers on teams that I work with. The shift I've really seen is, like I said, as the UX designer hiring has sort of outpaced researchers. We're seeing that there was a small number of maybe UX researchers on a team, and there are a large number of designers and the researchers are becoming the bottleneck for being able to execute research right on everything. And so that is, is it more or is it different folks running the research? It depends who you're talking to and and which, who we're talking about. But, you know, we're just seeing so much. We are seeing more research being done. So I will say that we are definitely seeing more during the design phase, for sure, and we're seeing different folks getting involved. And so I think all three of those things would I guess the answer would be more research with some ends like and different folks are getting involved to help make that happen.
JH - 00:26:05: Yeah. Or maybe, maybe to phrase it a different way is are some of these UX designers relying on prototype and usability tests because it's right there for them when they should actually be doing some broader generative discovery stuff? Do we need to get that balance back or do we actually think that this has been more of just like a net positive.
Alfonso - 00:26:21: Oh, I hear where you're going and it's actually something that I can say without giving away much, but we are seeing things like that ourselves where there's such demand for more usability testing. I call it kind of tactical testing versus strategic research. And so, yeah, there's so much demand for it, JH, that I think probably there needs to be a way to find an equilibrium and run that research because it's clear that the need is there. There's a ton of prototypes being built and you want to validate and all that stuff, but if you stop doing more strategic research or even like benchmarking to really measure and just go beyond the ten users and the qualitative research, you're going to miss out and you're in trouble, I think. Right, I think that you have a point there. There's a danger of focusing too much on just validation and not kind of like stop or either stop or just have different teams. Maybe you have to have a different team dedicated to the other research. What do you think Dana?
Dana - 00:27:25: One thing that I'll mention that we've seen at several very large organizations that we work with, I won't name names, can't name names, but they've had mandates come down that say every single thing that we're designing has to have user research executed on it. And so that is a mandate from leadership, which is very interesting and obviously create some problems for some teams that don't have the bandwidth to do that. And so that's where we've gotten into the conversation and gotten involved of how do we help them.
Alfonso - 00:27:56: But Dana, the question I think it will be what is user research in this case? Because they have the mandate, does that mean that prototypes need to be validated and checked and have certain tasks or UX metrics?
Dana - 00:28:10: It means it needs to be put in front of their customers. Right. So in this case. That I'm talking about one of the cases no design goes out unless it's been tested. But yes, that's the question. How do we test it? Is it good?
Alfonso - 00:28:23: Do we do discovery first?
Dana - 00:28:24: Exactly.
Alfonso - 00:28:25: Is the design based on discovery research? And has there been could we look.
Erin - 00:28:28: At existing research before we went out and did new research? Right.
Dana - 00:28:32: A lot of times, no. People do not.
Alfonso - 00:28:35: We do an audit before we restarted the process. Let's say that they're going after version three and did we do an audit or some sort of measurement on how they are?
Dana - 00:28:44: So I will say that to your point, what I have seen is sometimes it creates a little chaos because there's this mandate without a plan. Right. And so that's where we've gotten into some conversations of like, okay, understand the mandate that's coming down. Understand how many players you have in terms of your team and your resources and design ops and things like that are helping to sort of scale and.
Erin - 00:29:09: Your participants have enough participants to talk to?
Dana - 00:29:13: Standardization participants? Right, exactly. Where are we finding those? Are they very special audiences? So it's interesting times. There's some growing pains, for sure.
Alfonso - 00:29:25: I mean, I'd rather have the demand like that versus no demand just go through it's just that we need to educate the demand or the people that demand this and tell them, hey, it's not just about validation or testing. You can do a whole lot of things prior to them. Like, for instance, again, I'm talking about discovery or basic benchmarking and auditing, what you're about to design or understand the person a little bit more before you even build a prototype. So if we can educate and kind of discuss that and make that the demand, like be user centric versus test your products or your prototypes before you launch, right? Yeah.
JH - 00:30:06: It's so important to make sure that you're using the right tools in your research toolkit to get the right insights you need and kind of avoiding the all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. It's like if all you have is a figma prototype, everything looks like usability research. You probably need to make sure that you're taking a look at the whole spectrum of research you could be doing.
Alfonso - 00:30:23: Exactly.
Erin - 00:30:24: That's one of the ways I think research has been at our organization really helpful, where they're very focused on sort of the empowerment enablement, model and democratization. And we have lots of people who are not researchers. Doing research is a consultative approach of I want to learn this, what's the best method to use it? Because that's not going to be the skill set of a lot of UXers or product managers, is knowing what tools to use, what methods to use. But you can very much get help doing that from someone who does know that.
Dana - 00:30:54: I've had a lot of conversations in the last few years of people coming to me and saying, so I want to run a card, sort that's always a bad lead in phrase, like
JH - 00:31:05: Like, why? What do you need to know?
Dana - 00:31:07: Back up, what are you trying to learn? What questions are you trying to answer? What are you trying to learn? And then they find out, oh, I don't want to do a card. Sort of different. So that's one of those red flags. You hear it, you go, let's back up a couple of steps. We started doing a master class, too, to address what's happening right now with Democratization called something along the lines of quality in the Age of Democratization, which is really talking about sort of that acquiring or up leveling UX skills in order to run research, but also being realistic, right? So phrase we like is bite size research, right? So we're not going to have designers doing UX benchmarks of quantitative data and things like that. But how do you successfully run iterative? Design research, do bite size research, get answers that you can feel confident about and share out and make decisions around with the testing methods that are sort of appropriate, right, for testing prototypes. So that's been really interesting and really popular and we've gotten a lot of good feedback about that kind of conversation and master class kind of approach to addressing this sort of burgeoning area of testing and population who's running the test. So it's been kind of fun.
JH - 00:32:27: I think we don't ever do this, like plug past episodes, but if you're listening to this and you're like, oh, I know research. And we had the head of research from DoorDash a while ago, Zach Schendel, and he gives a ton of very specific examples of this is the thing we needed to learn. And so we went out and did this methodology. And I remember walking away from that conversation being like, oh, this person knows research. Like, this is somebody who has a really robust toolkit of methodologies and stuff. So if you're a skeptic, maybe give that absolute.
Erin - 00:32:50: That was right. Because there are physical products. We talked about the different properties of lotion.
JH - 00:32:56: So many things that if you're listening and you're a designer and you're like, oh, I know research pretty well, go do a little poking around on that master class or look into some research because your eyes will open up a bit.
Alfonso - 00:33:06: And I'm not surprised because that product is pretty well put together.
Dana - 00:33:12:I have a great DoorDash story. I have a family member who works for DoorDash in marketing, but there's sort of a mandate that everyone on his team has to be a DoorDash customer once a week and they have to do a purchase. And so he was staying at our house and was like, okay, where can I get DoorDash around here? And I live kind of in a rural area. And I was like, oh, okay. And he was like, no, I have to do it for work. Once a week, I have to go through that customer experience to purchase something and go pick it up. And then they have a whole I'm not telling any big trade secrets, but it's very interesting.
Erin - 00:33:47: I thought you were going to say the opposite because I think they have folks be dashers too. Not once a week.
Dana - 00:33:53: He was being a customer. Yeah.
Alfonso - 00:33:56: I wrote an article about the competitor Grubhub and the relationship between UX and CX, because you just mentioned customer experience. And what I wrote was, hey, I was a user before I was a customer. Literally, it's a Friday night, my kids want pizza. And I think it was like raining or something. It was like perfect opportunity to order. It remote. It was the first time that I ever used it, a couple of years ago. And so I downloaded Grubhub and I was able to find a pizza and order a pizza and do everything, like literally before five minutes, in a few minutes. Great UX. I thought it was great UX now using it in the future. To be honest with you, I've used both DoorDash and Grubhub, and I can see them both growing. But I got a favor. I'm sorry, but I've seen better interface in DoorDash.
Erin - 00:34:48: They've really ran away with it.
Dana - 00:34:49: They're doing very well.
Alfonso - 00:34:50: Yeah, cool. Then I order the pizza and it's supposed to be here in 20 minutes. It gets here like 50 minutes, and then somebody drops off the pizza. And again, this is my first time experience. I've become a customer at that point. Right. Because I've ordered the user experience was great. But then they delivered the pizza. It's the wrong pizza. And then I run after the driver on the street. Hey, I'm sorry, sir, you have to contact Grubhub.
Dana - 00:35:17: Right?
Alfonso - 00:35:19: Oh my God. And so to me, that was a great example of a great UX with four CX. I called Grubhub and they didn't reply, or they didn't respond. This was a while ago, so they got so much better. But that's where you have to work together, especially in these industries where you have multiple vendors working together. I mean, Grubhub owns the experience. You have to be careful with those things.
Dana - 00:35:43: And that's part of this sort of CX and UX. This example that I gave about DoorDash, it was the app to order it and then the whole experience picking it up and everything. And then you have to sort of fill out this whole thing and rate the whole experience of both aspects. Right. So going getting it particularly acute when.
Erin - 00:36:02: You bring that bricks and clicks the physical and the digital world together. Feel that especially. Okay, so as we close things up, maybe we could speculate a little bit into the future. It's that time of year. We're heading into a new year. And where do we see this going? Figma has been this massive just story, this big unlock in terms of UXers being able to do more prototyping, share it more in the collaborate, more democratizing this access to really getting more of the organization involved in the design process. Right. So what happens next?
Alfonso - 00:36:37: So since I'm the Chief Visionary officer. I have to take this one.
Erin - 00:36:39: Yes, please. Tell us.
Alfonso - 00:36:43: Its a vision question, yes.
JH - 00:36:44: Oh. It's a vision question.
Alfonso - 00:36:46: Well, for years now, I've been thinking about the differences between those years that we were talking about earlier with Dana's experience 30 years ago. And for me it's 20 plus years, not 30. But we were in the lab for many years and seeing how things have evolved because of the cloud. Right. So automation to me, we're just right now at I don't know if it's ten to 20% of where we could go, but there's going to be a lot more efficiency research ops. Probably AI coming in and doing quite a bit of work as well, both putting together the wireframes and the design and coming up with some problems as well as coming up with the insights. And so the human brain will focus on the difficult things that need to be decided, focus on decisions versus doing design or doing research, those sort of things. The software will most likely handle itself. We're probably years away, but that's going to happen. And then the other big one is how design and research is going to be so much more, I guess, relevant to business than it is today. It's just too distant. I see it as something that people don't care that much about, meaning sea level executives or management. I can see people I mean, look at the example of Airbnb and Brian Chesky, of course, Steve Jobs was the first, I guess the first big one. And I can just see this relationship between great design being so key to business in performance. That's not going to take too long. It's already there, but it's probably going to be three times in the next couple of years.
Erin - 00:38:30: Well, features are so commoditized. Right.
Alfonso - 00:36:33: Exactly.
Erin - 00:38:34: Differentiate. You have to have design.
JH - 00:38:37: Yes, I was going to say to just throw a quick one at the end here. How do you think this acquisition will be viewed in like a handful of years? So you've think about Instagram. At the time, people thought like, oh, Facebook really overpaid hindsight. What a brilliant move if you had to put like a one word on it. Is this going to look brilliant or are they going to be like, oh, that was expensive and a mistake?
Alfonso - 00:38:55: So a lot of people complained about this acquisition, by the way. Lots of people were like, oh no, Figma is dead. The first thing I will tell you is that I talked to them recently is that they're going to stay independent, they're going to have their own operations, and Dylan Field is going to be the CEO. Hopefully it'll just be a boost for both companies and then as far as the expensive, yeah, I remember when we all went nuts when sats bought Qualtrics for 8 billion, and now we're talking 20 billion. I just think the value of cloud and the value of software Andreessen Horowitz back in the day, sorry, Andreessen Horowitz, Marc Andreessen, part of Andreessen Horowitz said, software is eating the world and that's what's happening. So everyone is going to be doing design before they build, and it's going to become the competitive differentiator, as Erin was saying. And so if that's the case, then 20 billion may sound like a lot, but I think, I don't know, five to ten years, it probably won't.
Erin - 00:39:55: What do you think then? Are we moving back to paper?
Dana - 00:39:58: I'm definitely not going back to paper again. I'll tell you, just through my own lens and my own experience at User Zoom, working with lots and lots of customers on a regular basis, and more and more of them are designers. The tidal wave shift in what tool they're using has been amazing. I mean, I really never seen anything quite like it. And there were, I'm not going to name names two or three or four that we all know, and there was one in particular that was used a lot more only two or three years ago. Right? And it's almost like it's a redundant question to be like and is it a Figma prototype? I almost feel silly asking it, which again, I'm only looking through my own experience, but I'm working with some of the biggest companies out there. And as we know, Google and Facebook and Uber and Netflix have all sort of publicly talked about their usage and how they're using it and how it's helping their teams. I mean, some of the biggest tech companies in North America, in the world are using it. So I don't know, I guess I would say from the dollars and cents, I'm not sure. But boy, it's been a game changer. It has.
Alfonso - 00:41:06: No evidence that it's going to be too high a price, at least for now.
Erin - 00:41:11: We'll check back in time capsule.
JH - 00:41:14: Yeah, we'll record a follow up episode.
Dana - 00:41:18: We might all be laughing at these statements later, but like I said, it's been pretty remarkable shift.
Alfonso - 00:41:26: Just to add to the thought of Adobe's decision to JH point, I think we all know that Adobe was trying to compete against Figma with Adobe XD. And there's a lot of cost and opportunity, cost and effort put into competing, right? And so there's the value of the company and then there's also the value of the strategic value for the other company that they acquire in this case. So one thing is how much the company is worth. Another thing is how much is worth to you in this case, given where you're going and what you want to do. And so sometimes corporations make decisions because in this case they want to move into a space they weren't successful doing themselves, and they were going to compete. That was going to be very expensive to do that.
Erin - 00:42:10: It's the ultimate build versus buy.
Alfonso - 00:42:13: All right. Build, partner, buy. That's right.
Erin - 00:42:16: All right, well, thank you so much for being our guest. It was wonderful to have you and have some very happy holidays, and I'll talk to you all in five or ten years and see what happens with all of this. Hopefully before hopefully before.
Alfonso - 00:42:31: Hopefully we talk again before. But yes. Thank you so much for having us. Great conversation.
Dana - 00:42:36: Yes, thank you.
JH - 00:42:37: Yeah. Thanks for coming on.
Erin - 00:42:40: Thanks for listening to Awkward Silences brought to you by User Interviews.
VP, Growth & Marketing
Left brained, right brained. Customer and user advocate. Writer and editor. Lifelong learner. Strong opinions, weakly held.