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Joel Rosado of Braze (formerly Appboy) on working well across teams, session preparation, and Japanese chocolates.
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.
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.
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
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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Left brained, right brained. Customer and user advocate. Writer and editor. Lifelong learner. Strong opinions, weakly held.
Leadership & Strategy
September 28, 2023
We do our best work as researchers when we are open to learning from and collaborating with others. User Research Leader and Coach, Roberta Dombrowski shares tips for collaborating for research success.