Simply put, one of the most important jobs of an experience researcher is to ask questions.
It’s questions that help product leaders broaden their frame of reference, providing context to an original hypothesis, or an inkling about users. It’s questions that help researchers understand the true nature of their problem—and whether or not their design presents a solution.
And it’s the answers to those questions that allow businesses to build the kind of engaging experiences that people have come to expect in 2020.
At Asana, I lead the experience research team in asking questions to better understand the dynamics of modern work, empowering teams across the business with the data and tools they need to improve the product experience.
Here are some of the ways we aim to inquire, equip, and inspire.
Begin with research grounded in empathy and accountability
An artful approach to research that welcomes diverse perspectives—with equal parts empathy and accountability—is key to serving the needs of users, and the business.
Asana’s team of experience researchers operates around a shared set of values that help us do just that. We approach research initiatives with:
- Business-minded, strategic thinking
- Empathy and curiosity
- Rigor and experimentation
And, we are:
- Generous collaborators
- Storytellers and clear communicators
This framework allows the research function to serve stakeholders with clarity, while delivering business value. Though each reinforces the other, of particular importance here is collaboration, which we view as synonymous with accountability.
As experience researchers, a key function of our role is to lead debriefs across departments, using our unique skills to facilitate conversations and help turn data into action. But in this stage of the research process, we often see people fall into the trap of unconscious bias: letting original hypotheses stand in the way of new ideas, or relying too heavily on past experience.
Here, accountability is about making sense of “what we saw” and “what we heard”. As experience researchers, we’re uniquely positioned to hold people accountable to just that.
To help us leverage and evolve our collective knowledge—and clearly define the problem at hand—we use an Asana project that we call “T3”:
- Thread: “I’ve heard it, but I need to validate it”
- Theme: “This is starting to become a pattern”
- Truth: “We’ve built up enough evidence across pillars, and through multiple sources, to believe this to be true” (i.e. this becomes valid to share at the company level)
Set your sights on—then test and measure
Here at Asana, we’re dedicated to creating consistently delightful experiences within the product—a unique challenge in SaaS.
With “engagement” identified as one of our core customer benefits, we look for ways to help people feel engaged with their work. That, of course, starts with understanding the purpose behind the work (how it “ladders and matters”), and manifests in the way we denote moments of celebration (flying unicorns for completion), moments of recognition (thumbs up for a job well done), and moment of, well, just because (Tab+B for cats).
We measure engagement with the product in a couple of different ways:
- With a quantitative market researcher who looks at NPS, customer satisfaction, and feature satisfaction—amongst other indicators—as measures of customer loyalty.
- With a robust Voice of the Customer program that employs things like feature satisfaction surveys for understanding engagement over time, and is in the process of rolling out the KANO model for prioritizing the features most likely to bring value.
With your sights set on engagement, it’s only through rigorous testing and experimentation that you’ll be able to understand whether your design addresses the problem you set out to solve.
We use the widely adopted “double diamond” framework which encourages broad exploration of an issue, coupled with focused action. As the company has grown, the experience research function has made more of a home in the “discover” and “define” steps of the process, with a focus on arming our colleagues in product and design to be self-sufficient, while acting as advisors along the way.
One of the ways we do this is by equipping them with a DIY kit they can use to validate their hypotheses via qualitative and quantitative data. Qualitative data that we gathered during the debriefs is proven out by quantitative data from the product (i.e. are people actually using this feature in a way they indicated they would earlier?).
The further down the framework, the more evaluative—and ultimately quantitative—the data becomes.
Exceed expectations in every interaction to build loyalty
Understanding the full spectrum of users, and use cases, for your product necessitates really digging into the data—for us, that means not only considering what work is, but what it could be.
As experience researchers, we’re continuously looking at the sites and apps people are engaging with—from travel to media, and consumer to SaaS—and balancing the need to marry ingrained behavioral norms with fresh perspectives.
Although the ways we collaborate in the workplace today may have changed, one thing remains true: work is human. It’s about people.
And people are used to interacting with consumer apps every day. They expect engaging experiences from all of the products they use. In fact, customer intelligence agency Walker has predicted that “experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by 2020”.
Though there are many products that are successful at meeting expectations, true loyalty is built when the user experience exceeds expectations in every interaction—from proactive help and tooltips in context, to intuitive feature demos that speed up time-to-value, and in-app signals that anticipate the user’s next move. At the end of the day,
when you think about features through the lens of customer benefit, you can’t help but end up with something that delights.
Whether you play in the world of B2B or B2C, asking questions to uncover new truths about users is essential for driving product innovation and loyalty.
The thing I love most about the world of work—or at least, my corner of it? The questions just keep getting harder, and the answers more impactful.