The Opportunity of UX Research Webinar

Summary: In this webinar organized by ESOMAR, MRII at The University of Georgia, and CRIC, Michaela Mora, president of Relevant Insights, discusses what is and what is not UX, how research can support UX and the areas of expertise needed to conduct UX research.

54 minute video. By author Michaela Mora on January 11, 2021
Topics: Business Strategy, Customer Experience, New Product Development, UX Research, Webinar

I was invited to speak about the opportunity that UX research represents at this time as part of the  2020 Fall webinar series organized by ESOMAR, MRII, and CRIC, which are important organizations in the market research industry. The webinar took place on December 8, 2020. Give it a listen (54 minutes) or read the transcript below.

00:00:00 – Angela Canin 

Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening everyone. My name is Angela and I’d like to welcome you to today’s session “The opportunity for UX Research” moderated by Jeffrey Henning, executive director of MRII, and Michaela Mora, president at Relevant Insights.

Now for this session and for anybody interested in learning a little bit more about ESOMAR, ESOMAR is offering you the chance to have a discussion with Finn Raven who is ESOMAR’s director. Finn will be happy to tell you a little bit more about ESOMAR and ESOMAR membership and will be delighted to answer any questions you may have, live, after the session. We look forward to meeting you a little bit later but in the interim, here’s a little short introduction from Finn himself.

00:00:51  – Finn Raven

Hi everyone, Welcome to today’s ESOMAR MRII session, and thank you for joining us. ESOMAR as the world’s global body representing the research insights and analytics profession has always placed huge value on the sharing of knowledge best practices and education. In that regard, we are truly delighted to have been associated with the MRII and the University of Georgia for well over 20 years now.

Their principles courses represent the latest thinking in our profession, and furthermore, those courses are regularly updated to ensure that they stay topical with all the latest technological developments as they occur. We were also honored to have been invited by the MRII to sit on their board to be able to contribute to the discussions around the curriculum and hopefully to provide some additional perspective in guiding the course’s development through the times.

We are also by the way thrilled that our ANA library, which is a digital resource of over 14,000 papers and videos can provide a resource to the students on the course. Lastly, I should say that any member of ESOMAR is also privileged to receive a discount on attending the courses, so if you would like further information on ESOMAR membership, please don’t hesitate to contact our membership team or our American ambassador Reg Baker, both of whose email addresses are listed below for further information. In the meantime let me therefore say, enjoy today’s session and I’ll hand you back to today’s host.

00:02:31 – Jeffrey Henning

As he mentioned, Finn is on our board, the Market Research Institute International. We have the market research core body of knowledge that we’ve developed with the University of Georgia and as part of that have a range of principles express courses as Finn mentioned ESOMAR members get a discount for those courses, each which is 10 to 14 hours, totally online, totally self-paced. You can complete it in a month and master one of the core areas of market research. I also want to give a shout-out to our partners in Canada, CRIC who have helped put this webinar series together, and everything that we do is made possible by our sponsors.

As a non-profit dedicated to providing educational resources to the industry, we really rely upon our sponsors to help fund curriculum development, make sure that we’re constantly keeping the curriculum up to date and the courses up to date. Many of you took a survey that we did this summer and I’d like to thank you for that.

We used that survey to figure out the topics that were most of interest to you, and in the top topics was user experience research and what the opportunities were there for market research.

So, when I saw that, I immediately thought of Michaela Mora because she’s got a unique intersection of credentials in both worlds. So, she’s got feet in both worlds. She’s an IPC, which is the Insights Association’s insights professional certification, so she’s a certified market researcher, she’s got a master’s in marketing research from UTA, and she’s also has a UX certificate, so she really understands both worlds, and I’m thrilled that she could join us. Michaela, if you want to queue things up, we look forward to your presentation.


00:04:28 – Michaela Mora

Hello everybody! Well, thank you for the introduction Jeffrey and for inviting me to speak today. In the current economy, experience economy, in which many C-suites are finally paying attention to the user experience there is a great interest in research.

The good thing about it is there is an effort to democratize research and increase the participation of stakeholders involved in new product development.

The bad thing, however, is that many put in charge have no training in research and there is a lot of unneeded reinvention particularly in what is called UX research.

So, there is a lot of confusion about the term among both market research and UX practitioners.

Today I’ll be talking about what is and what is not UX, how research can support UX, and what areas of expertise are needed to conduct UX research.

You may wonder what qualifies me to talk about this. Jeffrey said a little bit about myself. In addition to formal education in research, marketing, and psychology, I have been in the market research industry for many years doing both qualitative and quantitative research in B2C and B2B categories.

What is now called UX research has existed for a long time without the hip name mainly in the qualitative research toolbox.

I started doing usability testing more than 15 years ago and realized I needed to know more than research to help designers, developers, and product managers to improve products, so I went on to get more training and a UX master certification with the Nielsen Norman Group, NNG, that has done a lot of research in the UX field.

I founded Relevant Insights in 2007, at the doorsteps of the great recession, and besides customer experience and user research we get involved in product and pricing research, brand and advertising research, and market segmentation analysis to support strategic decisions when developing and marketing new products.

What Is UX?


So, what is UX? UX stands for user experience. Because we are living in an experience economy, there is a trend to create acronyms with an X in them.

User experience is really a state of mind combining emotions and attitudes that develop as a result of user interactions with products and services with customer support and even marketing which helps to set expectations about the user experience.

The term user experience started being used in 1993 at Apple when they realized that the experience of using Apple computers was weak according to Don Norman, who was at the time in the user experience department at Apple and is one of the co-founders of the Nielsen Normal Group.

You probably also have heard the term CX, which stands for customer experience, and depending on the organization structure and who does different types of research, the terms “user experience” and “customer experience” may be used interchangeably or kept separate to represent different areas, where UX often is mainly about product experience based on interactions while CX is connected to customer satisfaction with customer service and the brand and products in general without getting too deep into product interactions.

Some companies make the distinction based on the acquisition state. For example, the term “user” may be applied to prospect customers when they visit a website but have no purchase yet and the term “customer” is used for those who have already purchased something so the definitions vary depending on how organizations are structured and how they define customers, but if you think of a family they can be twin siblings or distant second cousins.

In my opinion, I see the research done under each term as efforts to understand users along the journey from prospects to customers. We are looking at user interactions at different touchpoints in that journey.

UX Touchpoints


The user experience field has been growing mainly in the area of product development to learn about how users interact with products and the problems they face in order to make improvements, but the user experience, that state of mind based on interactions, is not limited to product use. In every step of the journey since you announced the product is coming, to the moment of purchase, to the actual product usage, there are interactions that will have a positive or negative impact on the total user experience.

This is why for example even poor product quality can be forgiven if customer support interactions exceed expectations. A good example of that is Tesla. Their cars have had some quality issues and repair delays that Tesla owners don’t expect from such an expensive car but the attention they receive from customer service and higher executives at the company have converted many owners into Tesla evangelists. You can see the review videos on YouTube giving Tesla praise and accepting delays and putting a lot of work into fixing the issues themselves

The study of user experience should include not only the early interactions with prototypes during product development but also the experience with different marketing channels when we are trying to identify new customers and set expectations about new products.

It should include the actual purchase experience at the point of sale since a bad shopping experience may lead to abandonment or damage to brand reputation particularly if the brand sells directly to users, and of course, it should include the post-purchase experience to understand how people use products in real conditions to be able to improve them.

We also need to use research to guide improvements in the experience with customer support and marketing campaigns to keep customers engaged and encourage repeat purchase.

What Is Usability?


Because user experience has been of special interest to developers of digital products like software, apps, websites, the term is often interchangeably used with usability.

Usability is a contributing factor to user experience but does not explain the full user experience. Usability is a quality attribute, which is aimed at creating ease of use. The technical definition of usability includes:

Learnability – How easy is it for you to do basic tasks the first time.

Efficiency – how quickly can you perform tasks once you learn how to do it.

Memorability – how easy can you become proficient again when you stop using the product for a while and start using it again.

Errors – how many errors do you make, how severe are those errors, how easily can you recover from them.

And finally, there is an element of enjoyment associated with ease of use, Was this a pleasant experience? When products are easy to use, they tend to create some level of satisfaction. The thing is that we are more likely to notice products when they are difficult to use because of the frustration they cause.

What is Utility?


Another contributing factor to user experience is Utility. This has to do with product functionality and the ability of the product to provide benefits and satisfy a need. Again, Utility is not the same as user experience.

When we combine usability and utility, we can have different user experiences. Ideally, you want products and services that are easy to use and meet and need, but we all have seen products that are easy to use but are not relevant to us, we don’t need them, and products that we really need but are difficult to use. In both cases, we are likely to have a bad user experience.

The Role of Visual Design


The visual or physical design of products has also an impact on the user experience but again it’s not the same. Visual design is about surface design, colors, layout, shapes, texture, content density, feature density, but a beautiful design can be irrelevant or difficult to use or both, so we cannot rely only on surface design to create good user interactions.

So, to repeat user experience is not usability or surface design.

The State of UX Research Experience


Now that we know what UX is and isn’t, let’s talk about the state of user experience research. A 2019 study from about trends in the customer experience field asked over 1,600 professionals across a variety of industries how the organizations were approaching customer experience and conducting CX research.

The study found that many designers don’t have access to research, and many researchers are struggling to do quality work at the rapid pace of product development. At the same time an overwhelming majority of executives, 86 percent was in favor of scaling up user research.

The challenge usually lies in the level of UX maturity many companies have which is strongly associated with the priorities of the business and having people qualified and knowledgeable about research fundamentals.

UX Research Maturity Levels


So, let’s look at different UX research maturity levels. There are different models out there to define them, but I agree with one shared by Jared Spool from the center UIE in Canada.

Level 1 – Lack of Research

The first level is, essentially, a lack of research. The company is often focused on products, technology, and growing the business. Often in the C-suite, the level of awareness about the value of doing research is low or doesn’t exist. There’s a lot of gut feeling driving product development, marketing, and business decisions.

Level 2 – Task-Based Research

In the second level, there is some awareness about user research mostly to find usability issues or improve visual design. This level is dominated by task-based usability testing. The tasks may come from what the designers or my product managers imagine the users may do, from support tickets or customer service feedback from customers, or from actual user interviews which is the more advanced expression of this level.

Level 3 – Usage Context Research

When they move to the next level, the team starts doing field studies where they observe users in their natural environment. In this case, Contextual Inquiry is the most common research method which combines ethnographic research and user interviews on-site.

Level 4 – Needs-Gap Research

The next level in maturity where research gets, it gets really focused on understanding the needs of the users before during, and after using a product or service. This is where we look for unmet needs or gaps in the experience to be able to really create good user experiences. The research here allows companies to start creating metrics of success for the user experience and the business.

Level 5 – Customer Journey Research

The research of needs often takes the team to the next level of maturity trying to understand the customer journey across all the different touchpoints of the user experience over time. Here we look not only at new customers but also at repeat customers and study how their user experience evolves in a longitudinal way. At this level, the teams get really serious about establishing metrics of success and track them over time.

 Level 6 – Strategic Research

Finally, the companies that become really customer-centric and realize the value of research invest in hiring trained researchers and give them the resources and time needed to conduct strategic research in order to develop long-term product roadmaps and marketing strategies to make them successful.

In terms of methodology, each level up includes methods used in lower levels. They don’t become exclusive. Each higher-level just keeps adding tools and scope as the UX function matures. At the highest level of maturity, there is a place for both strategic research and tactical research for specific goals.

 I should note here that this discussion about UX maturity is happening mainly in the context of digital product development, e-commerce, digital marketing. It seems that digital-first and tech companies are discovering now what consumer packaged goods companies, CPG companies, discovered a long time ago with the help of market research, which is a field that is nearly 100 years old.

I’m glad that digital and tech companies are realizing the value of research and those in other industries that normally don’t do research are starting to pay attention but I’m also seeing a lot of real reinvention because those who are starting to do research without training or guidance from professionals don’t know there is already a big research toolbox available in the marketing research field. This is also one of the reasons UX research maturity is low in many companies.

Companies hiring for these positions are prioritizing design and development skills without realizing that if you want a UX researcher you should have training in research first.

What is ResearchOps?


A good example of wheel reinvention is the new emerging term “ResearchOps.” which is essentially a new name for the old consumer insights or market research group although it doesn’t reside in marketing.

Because the speed of product development is getting accelerated and research may not be part of the process or is done in an ad-hoc way by non-researchers, some voices in the UX community are calling for a research operation that can help to socialize research which means giving better internal access to research getting more participation from stakeholders, and also to standardize research, which means establishing templates, standards for the process to be able to reduce cost and time to do it.

For the market research and consumer insights professionals in the audience, this is probably nothing new. This is what we have been trying to do as corporate researchers in our consumer insights or market research groups for a long time with varying degrees of success depending on the value attributed to research at the executive level.

We all know that research needs a champion at the top to be able to add value and UX research is not different. Both UX and market research insights need ROI metrics to show their value especially to sell it to top management.

If you are in the UX community, you will see more and more this term, “ResearchOps,” but it’s just a new name for a group that already exists in many companies doing consumer research which often includes product research as well. So, there is no need to reinvent this just bring insights professionals into your UX organization if you are serious about research.

If you are in the market research and insights community, this is a big opportunity to put your expertise to work so please don’t get sidetracked by the nomenclature.

UX Research Integration


In the previous webinar from this series organized by ESOMAR and MRII which was about Agile Research, presented by Nikki Lavoie from MindSpark Research International, she talked about the different approaches to product development and how research can be integrated with them.

Waterfall Product Development

First, we have the Waterfall approach in which companies may start with user research to understand their needs or identify segments and then proceed to design development and launch, and after launching the product then they may look at users’ reactions to the final product.

This is how product research has been traditionally done by many CPG companies as part of their marketing and R&D processes.

Iterative Product Development

Then there is the Iterative approach in which user research is integrated to provide insights at different steps of the process to make incremental improvement, and as Nikki pointed out, there is a pause to conduct research between each step so many companies use this approach, but it very much depends on budget and timelines.

Agile Product Development

Finally, there is the Agile approach, in which user research is happening at the same time as the different product development stages continue. The focus tends to be narrower on fewer issues and is mostly based on qualitative research. There’s no pausing. All is happening at the same time and insights are integrated on the fly.

The rapid movement in this approach is requiring non-researchers like product managers and designers and developers to act as researchers without having the training in research.

This really requires good coordination with the product development process and without training in research, the quality of insights is often lacking.

Now you see job positions asking for unicorns. These people need to be experts in design, in development, and research which is totally unrealistic. There are not enough hours in the day to do research with a minimum level of quality if you also have to do design and development.

Another problem is that it’s very hard to be objective about your own designs and products. Being the creator of something makes you partial to it and a victim of confirmation bias.

Designers, product managers, and developers need help from neutral research partners to minimize biases in data collection and interpretation of results. Again, this represents a big opportunity for people with a research background.

Research Maturity & Integration


The good news is that these research approaches can coexist depending on the research maturity level in the organization. For example, the Iterative approach can be used at any level of UX maturity, if that works for the product development process in terms of timing, budget, and availability of researchers.

The waterfall approach which may start with user research, consumer research, which as I said, it’s how many companies, CPG companies, use market research at least for product development, branding, and advertising, can be used to understand needs, customer journeys, and make more strategic research related to brands, market segmentation, and brand positioning and pricing.

The Agile approach, which goes well with qualitative usability testing and user interviews, can help uncover usability issues, understand needs, and do quick dives into specific points of the customer journey, but it’s less useful when it comes to do research of strategic nature.

Again, companies can combine these approaches for different purposes. They don’t have to adopt only one. They just need to hire researchers and research vendors who can support them.

Market Research vs. UX Research


Since I work in both market research and UX research, I see how practitioners on both sides are missing each other and are unaware of the overlapping research subjects.

If we look at the product development process, for example going from product idea, identification of benefits, marketing, and product usage, the commonalities between both become more obvious just by looking at some of the research techniques used.

UX research methods are really adaptations of techniques we have been using in market research for a long time. When companies have both a consumer insights team and a UX team, the type of research they do tend to differ in terms of strategic value.

Since UX researchers are often embedded in product teams and consumer insights often support marketing and other strategic functions, their efforts may not be coordinated and each group ends up doing their own thing without talking to each other.

So, I think that if either side can take the initiative to start the conversation and coordination of research efforts, they can learn from each other and elevate the research function even if they specialize in researching certain areas of the user experience.

The goal should be to bring research expertise into the UX field and stop wasting time trying to reinvent methodologies that already exist.

Research Opportunities


So, going back to the UX touchpoints where the user experience is created, there’s a lot of research opportunities of strategic and tactical value where both market research and UX research could complement each other.

During Product Development

For example, during the product development process, we can use qualitative and quantitative techniques to understand user needs. This is sometimes called Jobs-To-Be-Done in the UX community which is a way of framing needs as jobs users need to get done, which are explored through in-depth interviews.

In addition to uncovering needs during product development, we can conduct research to find appealing the relevant designs, to uncover usability issues, to understand perceived benefits and willingness to pay for those, to identify actionable and profitable market segments, and to understand competing alternatives, so we can defend our products from the competition.

During Pre-Sale

While the product development process is happening, the company is already in a pre-sale stage when it comes to marketing in preparation for launching the product. Here we should conduct research to understand the path to purchase, how buyers come to us, what barriers they face, what motivates them.

We can do research to make marketing collaterals and advertising as effective as possible, also to optimize the product message in different marketing channels using relevant product information about features and benefits. And we should also do research to identify the most effective price promotions or deals we can use to introduce the product.

At Point of Sale

The point of sale, the point where people go shop and buy, is a big driver of user experience, so it is important to conduct research to support a good user experience with our website, retail store if we have any, customer and sales support, prices and promotions, and make sure that the user experience at the point of sale is optimized for purchase occasions and type of buyers.

At the point of sale, optimization of product information is also very important, its availability, its ease of use, content density, and relevance need to be continuously optimized and often localized if you are selling in different markets, especially international markets. My friend Adriana Grande who is a UX localization specialist and is in the audience today can attest to that.

After Purchase

Finally, after users buy the product, it is time to research user behavior in real life so we can make improvements in future versions.

We know that people tend to ignore instructions and use products in unexpected ways that may create a bad user experience, so we have to be prepared to make improvements.

We need to study the product experience, that state of mind the product is likely to generate and may lead to brand loyalty or brand defection.

Customer service and customer support are big drivers of the user experience, and we need metrics in place to capture it in order to improve it. Once you are out there as part of the competitive landscape, you need to monitor your brand health and what competitors are doing to support acquisition and retention strategies, and again product information is often in need of fine-tuning and can be used for target marketing.

As you can see, there’s a lot of research opportunities at each touchpoint of the process of developing and marketing products and services to create a good user experience.

If market researchers and the UX team can get out of their silos, talk to each other, collaborate, they can really provide relevant insights – no pun intended – to support both strategic and tactical decisions.

Needed Areas of Expertise


As I mentioned before, companies are trying to strike a bargain and get a two for one or a three for one deal when it comes to UX talent. I think over time, they will realize that trying to get someone to do everything tends to yield mediocre results, at best.

However, I would argue that each role involved in the UX process should at least be familiar with some key domain areas so they can find a common language and are able to collaborate in an effective way.

Here are some topic areas that I have found to be relevant to conduct good user research for example researchers would benefit from learning about principles of visual design and interaction design even if they don’t need to become designers or developers.

At the same time, designers, developers, product managers would benefit from learning some of the research fundamentals so they can contribute to the research design, participate as observers, and interpreters of results in a more effective way without having to become full-time researchers.

In my humble opinion, if you have a team of people with expertise in one major area like research, design, development, project management, and who are also familiar with a couple of other areas from the same set, you are more likely to have a productive team that can work well together, produce quality work, and be less prone to burn out.

Having a team of one, who tries to do everything is not sustainable in the long run. So, aside from your current area of expertise I encourage you to pick a couple of other areas from this list and learn more about it, and that might be needed in your organization, and that will allow you to collaborate better, but don’t try to become a do-it-all.

And on that note, I want to leave you with some, with a list of books that I have found useful in my work as a market researcher and UX researcher. They have helped me to expand my knowledge beyond research topics and enable me to support UX teams. And that’s all that I have for you today.

If we have some time, I’ll try to answer some of your questions, so back to you, Jeffrey.

Q & A

0:34:42 – Jeffrey Hennig

Thanks so much, Michaela. And her contact information is here on this slide, so I have always found her to be very generous with her time and insights, and so I encourage you to reach out to her on Twitter or by email. Before we get to the questions, so there’s a Q&A pane, I do encourage you to ask questions, and I appreciate those of you who put in some compliments for Michaela as well.

Kunyi says, “Your explanation of ResearchOps” and that the research community seems like it is discovering things that MR has been doing for decades is much appreciated. Thank you. I have been wondering about this,” and other comments from Katie: “Love love love the presentation. Very useful.”

So, excellent work Michaela, and I want to give some of these questions and encourage other folks to add questions as we come in.

You mentioned that UX research should use metrics to sell the value of research to top management, can you give some examples of the types of metrics that researchers can use for that well?

UX Metrics

00:35:14 – Michaela Mora

UX metrics should be unique for each organization. There is this paradox about wanting to differentiate your products and servers, being unique but trying to use universal metrics. What I suggest is to think of three categories of metrics, courtesy of again Jared Spool up in the UIE Canada Center.

Metrics of Success

First, we have what is called metrics of success which measure the ultimate goal of improving someone’s life with our product or service. This is linked to the main benefits your product or service delivers. It could be saving time, saving money, increasing convenience and efficiency for the user.

You need to determine what the ultimate need your product is meeting and use that as a metric of success. If you are not meeting a need, the business won’t stay for long in business.

Metrics of Problems

The second metric category is metrics related to problems users run into that prevent them from meeting their needs, affect the user experiences, and have a direct impact on the business. This is your opportunity to attach a monetary value to show how much the problem is costing the company and why we need research to solve it.

For example, testing whether product and price information on your website communicates the value users get may tell you the obstacles they find in understanding it and impact the decision to buy your products.

Again, this metric should be specific for your business and require internal agreement and refinement based on continuous research.

Metrics of Progress

Finally, the third category is related to metrics of progress, how are we progressing in eliminating those obstacles? and what is the impact on the business?

You need to conduct research not only to figure out how to eliminate the obstacles but also how you track the results, you need to track the results from implementing the… from the insights that you implemented, right? from the research.

If you establish a set of metrics that tracks monetary value based on the improvements resulting from research, you are likely to get buy-in from top management.

I give you an example, during my time at Blockbuster, we kept improving the search function on the website, which was directly correlated with the volume of calls to customer service. The more calls, the higher the cost. So, we were able to triangulate results from user research and customer satisfaction tracking surveys and discover that inaccurate research results were pushing people to call more, so we monitored the changes in the search algorithm as it was improved, and research was showing how the user experience improved and how the cost went down for customer service.

So, I recommend discussing internally what metrics would help to improve the user experience for your specific product and have a business impact, and those metrics will be useful in selling research to the top management.

Access to Research

0:38:34 – Jeffrey Hennig

Thank you, and I’m going to pop back to a slide. This slide. I’m going to do that for a few of these questions, so these stats definitely leaped out at a few people. John asks “Can you discuss how it is possible that 66% of designers are not using any research? How are they groping forward in the dark?

0:38:51 – Michaela Mora

Well, as I said there’s a lot of gut feeling. The pace at which things are happening is so fast that even if there is the best intention, and there’s a lot of talk about Agile, Agile has become confused with faster and cheaper, but the part of user feedback, which is the essence of Agile, where you get user feedback, make improvements and keep going, and keep going just with the user feedback coming at the same time, that sometimes is just put aside.

 It’s just about guessing, putting it out there, guessing put it out there, and it becomes Agile because it’s cheaper, it’s faster. That’s the interpretation of Agile, but the piece that really came from an Agile Manifesto in 2001 was about user feedback at the center, and so there’s a lot of guessing, that’s what’s happening.

Research Socialization

00:39:55 – Jeffrey Hennig

And the next question is about… you’ve got a slide about socialization. So, you talk about research socialization, can you just give an example of that?

00:40:07 – Michaela Mora

The research socialization, many times is about giving internal access to research, and being able to present, share.

So, if you go to any UX training, many times part of it there’s a lot of workshops, workshopping things and sharing in person. Right now, with the pandemic, it might be hard, but it’s trying to put together a group and sharing experiences at the same time, so people participate. That’s why they try to democratize, bringing people to participate.

That’s what we do in market research when we have a project. We need to have the client input and be part of that process, that back and forth. But before in product development, particularly in the digital world, it has been mostly the developers, designers doing their own thing. And then you go out and you launch it, so now they’re trying to put that group in the middle, and say you’re not the user, right? You need to really be part of the process, and the process of trying to share the results is the piece they are trying to figure out.

There are a lot of tools that we have in the market research field that they really are not aware of for research sharing, and that’s the part that now [why] they’re coming with the reinvention of the research function as a ResearchOps concept.

Research Training

0:41:33 – Jeffrey Henning

Great, very helpful presentation. Eva says, “You mentioned you have training in UX, is there training or certificate programs that you recommend?”

0:41:43 – Michaela Mora

There are several, depending on your time and budget. If you are in the UX community and you are a non-researcher, designer, developer, product manager or you are in the market research industry, but you have mostly done quantitative research, I would really recommend you do training in qualitative research.

The MRII here led by Jeffrey, they have a qualitative research training class. Myself, I had that from my master’s program but also the NNG, Nielsen Norman Group, they have classes on user interviews and usability, and some UX techniques.

If you really want to go deep into research, I recommend to do a master program, like the one I did at the University of Texas in Arlington, or with the University of Georgia who was actually the first program, but I also recommend that you get familiar with statistic concepts of data science and analytics because it’s not just about qual.

You also need quant to be able to understand the full experience and validate results, and there are many universities that have programs as continued education or full programs. The MRII also has classes on data introduction and data analytics that can be helpful.

On DIY Research Vs. Research Vendors

0:43:19 – Jeffrey Henning

Julia asks, she says “Brilliant presentation. Thank you, Michaela. Do you see a connection between how UX and MR behave, UX is mainly client-driven while MR is more agency driven?”

0:43:35 – Michaela Mora

It has to do with, again, the fast pace of product development. This is how the urgency has come through with the lean startup and the Agile development. They realized they needed some user feedback, and they cannot wait for….

First, many times they don’t have the budget or other times, the process is going too fast, so they need people who can quickly create prototypes, go out iterate, maybe talk to a couple of users, come back, and insert those insights.

The thing is that when I’ve been to many UX presentations in the UX community, locally, here, and I ask those designers and developers what type of research you do, they just say, “We talk to users,” and that’s the definition of research.

When you start digging and asking in more detail how’s that you talk, there’s a lot of really not knowing what they’re doing, and you can see the questions in the Facebook groups, people asking how do I ask questions, what do I do, so they are thrown into this.

They have to do it because the companies are asking them to do it, but they don’t know-how, and so it many times happens because the company, at the top level, and that’s common with market research, companies don’t understand the value of research, they don’t hire researchers, they don’t hire research vendors. They just go with it.

The maturity of the research function in the companies starting to do research now is low, and part of it is because they really don’t have trained people that come from the insights world.

UX Research During COVID-19

0:45:20 – Jeffrey Henning

Another question, “How do you see changes in conducting UX research due to the COVID-9, and which of these changes will have an impact in the long run conducting UX research?

0:45:33 – Michaela Mora

UX research, because it has been mainly done in the digital world. In the current situation, we’re doing most of the research online.

It doesn’t have any effect in terms of methodology. We do a lot of usability testing, for example, the people who do mostly usability testing, you can do it over the phone, remote, moderated and unmoderated, so there’s a lot of platforms out there that are really targeted to do this type of research, which is mostly qualitative, and there is an explosion of tools in the qualitative research field to do remote research

So, the current situation is actually better for that. I have done a lot of moderation in person at the lab, but I have also done a lot of over the phone, online.

There might be some limitations, if you want to do, for example, eye tracking.  That technology is still in the early stages to do remotely, but this is something that can be done relatively easily if you know what you’re doing.

Industries Interested in UX Research

0:47:00 – Jeffrey Hennig

Okay, Jinan asks “What industries, what new industries are leaning towards user experience research what industries are currently using it?”

 00:47:15 – Michaela Mora

Like I said there is this dichotomy, sometimes, between UX and CX, and you see a lot of companies that heavily rely on customer service interested in monitoring that function. They are closer to work with the UX team, that is more about the product, and because they realize that the interaction with the customers online, many times, when you have a chat function, where you have a customer rep, the system they need to use to integrate the feedback of the customers is really part of the total user experience, not just for users, for customers but for internal employees.

So, there’s a big movement about improving that experience too because if you have a good employee experience that translates into a good customer experience, user experience. So, there is a big movement into service design, which is what is behind the curtain, what the customers don’t see, the systems, the interaction of the employee with the systems to be able to produce and deliver a good user experience.

There is no secret to why, for example, Qualtrics has positioned themselves as XM, as an experience management platform. They talk about product, and they talk about brand, and they have these four areas just to capture all those touchpoints in the user experience because they’re seeing companies, they need to really pay attention to the customer experience.

[The] experience is what is going to be differentiating many products. Products that cost the same, they have similar features, people go sometimes just because they have a different experience in the relationship with the company, so there are many companies coming to this, but this discussion has been a lot in the digital world, mainly.

Breaking Silos

00:49:31 – Jeffrey Hennig

You talked earlier about the silos of UX versus MR, who do you think, this is a question from Alexandra, who do you think promotes those silos, the client, developers, the UX professionals, the community?

00:49:49 – Michaela Mora

I think because they don’t know what they [he others) do, they are a little afraid they’re going to lose their jobs so there’s a lot of trying to take care of their territory. They think the other area doesn’t really understand their own area, and it depends on the organizations.

I think to be able for those two teams to work together, it has to come from the top. The top has to really push for it. They have to create the structure, and they have to make the connections between the strategic research that has to do with marketing and long-term investment in the company, the product roadmap with the more tactical research at the product level.

Not a long time ago I saw a presentation from someone here locally, and it was like discovering, you know, cold water, there is this marketing function out there that does this market research, and there’s just really no connection to the product team. I know.

We have been seeing that for a long time particularly in the digital world because before when marketing research started, and product research started, part of the research was connecting production and development and marketing, everything was part of the same thing, so you do product research as part of the whole thing.

Now because at the digital level. things go so fast and you can get people doing things without depending on other things, they keep moving in one direction, and the rest of the company is in another point. So, it depends on the organization, but those groups are in a little territorial fight sometimes in some companies, because they’re afraid they’re going to lose their job, and they feel infringed upon.

They don’t realize that if they really collaborate, they can learn from each other, and they can really elevate their own group. They just need to talk to each other and work together.

How to Organize the UX Research Function

00:51:50 – Jeffrey Henning

In a related question Braulio asks, “Do you think the two functions should be allocated in one big research unit or do you think that they do better separated?”

00:51:50 – Michaela Mora

That’s a 64-million-dollar question because it has to do with how the product development and marketing are organized, and how they can serve different functions.

Some companies go from a centralized position, and they have a function of gatekeeping, to keep quality of research … You really but you have to have enough people in that function, otherwise it’s just one person for the whole company.

Nobody has time, that person gets overwhelmed, and in the end, nobody can wait for that, and they still keep doing their own thing…I have seen people at the centralized [level] serving different groups, and I have seen companies where they have each function independently doing things, but they may or may not have a centralized function.

So, it depends on how the product development process and marketing is and the customer support and service function are organized, so that’s something that needs to be discussed at the individual company level.

The End

0:53:10 – Jeffrey Henning

Great. Well, I can’t thank you enough, Michaela, for all the work that you put into this presentation. You know, we’ve done I think eight or nine of these this year, you’ve gotten tremendous compliments.

Someone just said, you know, just a really thoughtful overview, lots of compliments for this presentation, and thank you so much.


For more on the UX topic, check the MR Realities podcast Myths and Misunderstandings about UX.