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What quality makes a great UX researcher?

April 26, 2018

What quality makes a great UX researcher?

“Empathy,” emphatically stated Beth Hathaway, UX researcher at Labs. “Researchers should be comfortable speaking with users from all backgrounds and walks of life.”

Beth’s identification with user experience is key to her approach. Empathy, according to Beth, places users at ease and allows them to be the expert in their own experience. This also allows “flexibility” in the research, letting new themes and ideas to arise. “If a user expresses an issue you never considered, you should have the flexibility to go off-piste and explore that topic.”

Beth approaches UX research from multiple approaches — semi-structured interviews, focus groups, field observation, card sorting, surveys and usability testing. In terms of tools, Beth states, “I am pretty old school. I prefer to transcribe audio recordings myself to word documents. I do analysis with a handful of highlighters. I feel this is the best way to fully immerse myself in the data and pick up on the subtle contradictions in the recordings.”

Incorporated into her “old-school“ approach, Beth uses Lookback, a screen sharing application, that allows Beth to remotely complete any usability and exploratory testing.

Beth notes that fintech differs from many other products in the breadth of both users and the technology being used. “For example,” explained Beth, “if I were to run a project on Topshop jeans, a one-size fits all (no pun intended) survey or interview would suffice. No one user will be more of an expert in how comfortable the jeans are. But testing in fintech is different. You find yourself speaking to a tech-savvy, 25-year-old who is a whizz on the app, but has little understanding of interest rates. Then you speak to a 70-year-old IFA who has never been able to get our app working, but knows interest inside out.”

“The key is being able to test on the platform that suits each individual, use the appropriate amount of jargon, and (attempt) to speak each user's language.”

Beth was drawn to UX research because of her love for qualitative analysis and “sitting around with strangers, learning their stories and experiences.” This interest led Beth to achieve a Social Research MA — and, eventually, to Labs. Beth has recently been joined by Dylan Long to help meet the growing demand for UX research within Octopus.

A final point Beth emphasises about UX research is the need for integrity among researchers. “Researchers need to be almost best friends with a user, backing them up in all future discussions and feedback sessions,” stated Beth. “It’s easy to spend weeks conducting research and then, two months down the line, the team forgets or stops listening to their input. It’s the researcher’s job to be the voice of the user when they are no longer present.”