Improving how people get around in the world


TL;DR I run fortnightly studies to understand how people get around in the world. Since July 2018, I have led studies for 32 topics using generative and evaluative methods.

Role

UXR (contract)

Timeline

July 2018 - present

Team

Designers, engineers, researchers, product managers

Methods

surveys, interviews, usability testing, cafe studies, design sprints, workshops, literature reviews, field research

Impact

Google Maps aims to solve a plethora of problems related to how people get around in the world. I do quick and frequent research to disambiguate some of these problems, and help teams understand their users.

The best part of doing quick & frequent research is being able to empower users and engage other multidisciplinary teams to solve problems together. I have:

  • Listened to 140 participants (not including thousands of survey respondents!)
  • Collaborated with 5+ XFN teams of engineers, designers, and PM’s to solve transportation problems that people face

Mini case studies

I am on the Rapid Research team supporting several cross-functional teams whenever they need to answer a research question quickly. Most of my studies occur within 2 week sprints but that depends on the method and type of research question I am asking.

01/ Quick, iterative studies for a new feature

My main role (as of ~July 2019) is supporting a team that is working on a new feature. I’ve led 3 iterative studies to understand its usefulness and usability, all which I turned around in 2 weeks each. I am in the process of planning a field study for more realistic in-situ feedback.

Output: TBD

02/ Mass literature review

I’ve contributed to a literature review of 600+ resources to identify hunches for future initiatives. I extracted hundreds of takeaways and synthesised them into high-level insights with my research team.

Output: These insights "refreshed" our perspective of different areas that we had grown many orthodoxies on. They also highlighted research gaps and areas that we could learn more about. The output of this research were 6 provocations that contributed to director-level strategy and planning.

03/ Half-yearly happiness tracking surveys

Since joining Maps, I've analysed 3 datasets from satisfaction surveys about a feature. This involved coding open-ended responses to find key themes and working with a quant researcher to report on findings.

Output: Over the 3 times I have done this analysis, I have found changing trends per time and country. This helped teams understand areas of concern in their feature.

04/ Facilitating a design sprint to define a problem

I facilitated a 4-day design sprint in a problem space that one team had not yet been working on. I helped them synthesise existing knowledge into clear How-Might-We's.

After re-framing and re-prioritising problems, I guided the team through ideation exercises. We then chose the best ideas, improved them, and hacked a research plan together to test with people the next day.

Output: While the concept testing was also insightful, the bigger takeaway was the team alignment. The sprint led to a clearer definition of what problem needed solving.

05/ Foundational research to explore a new archetype

I’ve run remote interviews to learn more about a new archetype that we had minimal research on before. To synthesise the qualitative data and help XFN team members empathise, I facilitated a workshop where everyone had to listen to the interviews and share findings.

Output: This research clarified this archetype’s motivations and patterns of behaviour. Further foundational research has been done based on my findings, which has also led into the ideation of a new product. Bonus: 8 engineers were present in the workshop, and got to listen to a first-hand account from users! This contributed to a director-led empathy program in our team.

Takeaways

⏰ Communicate in a timely way

Reduce the possibility of confusion by involving stakeholders at the right time. This will also improve how the research is received, and its impact on the team and product. Only involving stakeholders during kickoff and handover is not enough.

  • Send out scripts and reports for early feedback
  • Create a group chat on the day of the study to update stakeholder
  • Schedule a debrief immediately after the study day so everyone has a fresh memory

🤝 Make it a team effort

Involve a whole team in research will create long term in gains in building empathy in the team. It can also reduce your workload, so it's killing two birds with one stone. It's more fun to work in a team and have multiple perspectives anyway

  • Encourage UXD, PM, and ENG to observe sessions and note-take. It will save you time on transcribing and it will give them a first-hand perspective of a user interacting with what they are working on.
  • Note-taking can also exist in the format of a synthesis workshop. Invite stakeholders to a workshop where everyone codes the data for 1 session, then analyse the data together.

✏️ Be succinct

For quick research, stakeholders generally want bite-sized, actionable insights that are easy to digest. Well communicated insights will save time by reducing any confusion about research.

Visualisation of a slide with a short sentence, priority and user quote. An example of how I might communicate a finding. I like to think about: what happened and why anyone should care.

Side fun

I got the chance to represent Google at uxRESEARCH Sydney on a panel about life as a UX researcher in October 2018 with two of my colleagues Jess and Ilias.