What does it mean to be user-centric? What do we do to understand our users? Come talk to our UX Researcher and learn about this exciting field.
Nice to meet you Phuong, could you tell us about UX Research?
Phuong: Hello! UX Research stands for “User eXperience Research” and it’s a relatively “young” field. We’re still a small team, so it’s only natural that not many people have heard about us.
Generally, we do UX Research to understand our users, and leverage those insights to develop or improve our products & services.
I also think that UX Research has another benefit, which is to immerse ourselves in the context of the users. Not just the UX researcher, but designers and product managers join the full research cycle, from formulating hypotheses, creating a plan to test users, observing the interview, debriefing and brainstorming on the results. This immersion helps us empathize with them. “In the same context, with the same personalities, what would the users do?”
If we empathize with our users, we will design and make our products in a way that’s relatable to them. If we truly understand our users, we don’t only know what the users want, but we can also predict what they will need - even before they themselves are aware of it.
Wow, that’s such an exciting goal! How do you manage to pull that off?
Phuong: More often than not, while we are striving to understand our users, we discover that we don’t understand our colleagues well enough or reach an agreement among ourselves. For example, one team may think that the current feature doesn't work well enough, so they ask to make another one. Tech on the other hand may be skeptical and question that request, because they think it’s a subjective judgment.
And it's perfectly normal for everyone to be critical, to make sure our product stays true to our strategy. So in such cases, UX Research can provide all parties with the data to resolve the dispute, and reach a common direction for our product development.
I can totally imagine different teams having different views and concerns. So what exactly do you do then?
Phuong: While planning and improving our products, there are a lot of ideas and we assume the users will behave in a certain way. During UX Research, we meet real users to check out those assumptions. For qualitative research, we interview them directly. For quantitative research, we design an online questionnaire and encourage our users to do it via the BAEMIN mobile app.
After that comes the fun part: we’ll look at the collected data and make some sense out of it.
I understand about the online questionnaire, but what do you mean by “interview” the users? And how do you manage that part, now that we're working hybrid?
Phuong: We tend to be flexible with the interview mode. Sometimes, we invite users into the lab and let them interact with our product or interview them on-site, depending on which user we're interviewing. We can easily observe their facial expressions, hand gestures, and more or less have better control over the test environment.
Since the pandemic, we have learned to conduct interviews online too. That means less control and more tasks, such as training the users to use video conferencing software. To compensate, we have to get better at multitasking: asking questions, observing their facial expressions on the camera, instructing users, taking notes, and many other administrative tasks of hosting a video call - all at the same time.
Furthermore, security also requires attention, since the users are not in our proximity. Prototypes must be secured, demo roles must be manually assigned and then removed after the session completes, for example.
So many things to keep track of! But I bet those hard works pay off. Can you share some insights, if they’re not confidential?
Phuong: It’s quite hard to say in detail, but through UX Research we’ve been surprised to discover that the users don’t behave the way we assumed them to, at all. Buttons that we thought to be intuitive may not be understood as clickable by our users, for instance.
I guess as a team, we have been working together closely, so there’s a risk of developing a collective style. Even when we ask our colleagues for feedback, after all, aren't we working in the same environment, with more or less the same background and education, even having similar perspectives? It’s all too easy for us to have the same blindspots. UX Research helps us to think more objectively and inclusively, and sheds some light to illuminate those blindspots. We’ll see how our product is actually used “out there” by real users. Is it used the way we intend it to?
When you invite real users to try a new feature, how do you select them?
Phuong: BAEMIN has a clear user profile with particular attributes. You may think that we select the very same target group for UX Research, but that’s not the case. In fact, we’d like to talk to a varied audience.
The reason is that our products are used by not just the typical user, but by others too. A diverse user group will bring us diverse perspectives to do a mindful and inclusive design. The ultimate goal here is for everyone to enjoy our services equally.
Inclusive design - we love this mindset. But I guess that your job has certain difficulties too.
Phuong: That’s right. There are several old perceptions: that research is a long, effort-consuming job, or that deadline takes a higher priority over output, or that UX Research is useful only when 2 parties argue over an assumption.
On the contrary, UX Research should be considered the North star giving us a direction to follow, instead of a nice-to-have task to be skipped when convenient. We hope that UX Research can help us to be even more user-centric in our work. In the development cycle, we should do research the sooner the better. If we test it while it’s still in ideation phase, it’ll be easier to adjust and we’ll save on resources later on.
Sometimes if you want to play safe, you skip UX Research and do competitor research instead. That may save you time, but you’ll forever be a game follower. To be a game changer, we must understand our users and lead the changes.
Thanks for your heartfelt sharing. I think we gained some insights in the UX Research field and our own working culture as well!
Written by: Phương Hàn - UX Researcher
Edited by: Anh Vũ - Developer Relations