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Photo by Rob Bye on Unsplash

First Acknowledge That You Know Nothing (And Other UX Research Lessons)

Joel Rosado of Braze (formerly Appboy) on working well across teams, session preparation, and Japanese chocolates.

“Other side of the table” is a series featuring user researchers, their work, ideas, and challenges along the way. This week we’re featuring Joel Rosado, User Experience Designer and Researcher at Braze, formerly Appboy.

Let’s get started with the basics, can you tell us a bit about yourself? Where you live, hobbies, family, etc.

Totally, I grew up in Georgia, Italy, and rural Maryland and lived in DC during my twenties before deciding to try out New York City. I’ve been a New Yorker for three years and am fascinated by nature, culture, behavior, music, and art. My favorite store in NYC is Royce Chocolate.

What’s your current role and how did you get there?

I’m a UX designer with Braze (formerly Appboy). My path to UX was a bit of a zig zag. I worked in international broadcast news for several years and then went back to school for fine arts—painting and drawing. That lead to freelance creative work and an informal education on psychology, anthropology, computer science, and visual communication. I was able to combine that informal education together enough to somehow convince a consulting firm to take me on as a UX designer full time. I worked in UX research and design at 3 Pillar Global, The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Lifion by ADP, and now Braze.

Switching gears a bit — what’s the best random thing you’ve found on the internet recently (preferably with links)?

Oh man, I love old Italo disco music videos but my favorite random thing so far are the Astrology songs by Harvey Sid Fisher. From a UX perspective I love Mixed Methods.


And what’s your most useless skill?

Getting the comforter in the duvet cover

Nice! Alright, let’s get into it — what is your favorite “war story” from a user research session you were involved in?

I generally haven’t had any nightmares with participants. However, being a UX researcher necessitates a very high degree of patience and being able to work with coworkers who have different incentives and views. I find performing research in an organization that is new to UX research can be difficult because it diverges from their established process. The challenge for the researcher then is to change culture and that takes consistent effort to build relationships, show others interview techniques, and show insights.

There has been a big surge in “design thinking” recently, how would you like to see that trend continue to evolve?

The number one area where I hope to see that trend have a dramatic effect is urban design. Living in NYC, also known as a giant Skinner Box, I see examples of this every day. When I see people fight or shove each other it’s the result of urban design: sidewalks being too small, bike lanes being too small, subways being cramped, loud noises infiltrating every moment. It can result in a person feeling exasperated, overwhelmed, and stressed.

Skinner Box, AKA NYC

What do you think is the biggest mistake people make when approaching user research?

I think it’s incredibly important to build strong relationships with everyone in the company, whether it’s sales, engineering, IT, customer support, front desk staff. You want to build a wide network within the company. Unfortunately, I think the biggest mistake people make is falling into a tribal mentality of Us vs. Them and it creates a distrustful atmosphere where people benefit by shielding information.

🤔 Customer Success Teams: Are they a roadblock or a valuable resource for UX research?

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.

Two major lessons:

1. Acknowledge that you know nothing.

This will allow you to seek out information in a completely new way, ask for others to teach you, and to question your bias. It also gives you the freedom to explore different paths.

2. “It is better to limp slowly along the right path than walk stridently in the wrong direction.” - Marcus Aurelius

Joel UXing. Photo credit: Alexei Zagdansky

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?

I typically will have several conversations with product managers, developers, and customer support to find out as much information as possible about the client beforehand. This makes me feel prepared and at ease before the session starts.

What tools do you use during sessions? For interview guides, notes, recording, prototypes, etc.

Google docs for notes and planning, recording I use Screencastify, Quicktime, or Zoom. Prototyping I like Invision and Sketch. Invision is constantly improving its offering and I’m hoping as they grow that they offer more interactive functionality like Axure.

Are there any tricks you use to make participants feel relaxed or more expressive during sessions?

Oh I try spending the first five minutes talking about random topics, who they are. I also come into sessions having the attitude that I’m just looking to learn and that they are the experts.

How do you and your team document and share the insights you collect from user research?

Well this is a major challenge for all teams. I’ve seen some solutions like Polaris by WeWork/Tomer Sharon and Trello boards but haven’t tried those out yet.

What are some of the specific concerns when researching with a b2b audience?

You are a representative of the company and the type of session you have could affect the business relationship. So my concern is always making sure I’m not wasting the participant’s time.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Avoid focus groups, learn as much as you can about human behavior, the roots of human behavior in other primates, read as many books as possible, and be kind.

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Erin May
SVP, Marketing

Left brained, right brained. Customer and user advocate. Writer and editor. Lifelong learner. Strong opinions, weakly held.

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