The interview lasts around 45 minutes, followed by a 15-minute Q&A. If you don’t have time to watch the full video, you can use the transcript and timestamps below to identify the parts you’re most interested in.
00:00 Emmanuelle Savarit’s background
01:31 User research then and now
06:18 Doing fieldwork
13:03 Designers versus researchers
16:27 Research has the potential to save companies money
20:49 Gaining insights fast
25:30 Different methods in different phases
31:06 Emmanuelle Savarit’s workshop at the UX Live Conference in London
35:31 Continuing education
Keep up with Emmanuelle on Twitter
Transcript with timestamps
00:00 Emmanuelle Savarit’s background
Sandro: Now to you Emmanuelle, can you talk a bit about who you are, and what you are doing, what you have been doing and what you’re doing now?
Emmanuelle Savarit: So I’m a researcher by background, I’ve got a degree and a Ph.D. in psychology and I’m very interested in human interaction, and how people use objects in their interaction, which led me to work in a digital world. I start with engineering university, and then after I start working in a real, cooperate and private sector. And how to use all my skills as a researcher to this new field, because at first, it was only usability or bit of ergonomics, but it’s much more than that now. You’ve got all … we have to take everything into consideration, behavior, motivation, as well as the effectiveness of the product. So yeah, that’s me. I’ve been doing that for many years, and I like to share my knowledge and my experience in user research.
Sandro: And where are you now? What are you doing now?
Emmanuelle Savarit: At the moment I work for Education First, I’m their leader, product researcher. And so I work on several projects as well as putting in place some processes and improve the capability and work across the business and work with engineers, designers, the product owner. So a very hands-on project at the moment.
01:31 User research then and now
Sandro: So I’d actually … since you’re been doing this for so long, I would actually like to start at the start in terms of, what is user research to you? How do you define it when you come into a company that might not have heard of it, or who is only sparingly doing it? What do you say what user research is and what is good for?
Emmanuelle Savarit: So user research is using several research methods in order to understand how people will interact with a product or a prospective product, maybe a product you don’t have yet. Or you want to understand your users in order to improve your current product. So we are here to bring pieces of evidence that will help the stakeholders to make the right decision.
Emmanuelle Savarit: So we are really here to support the product development process.
Sandro: So you kind of give also the confidence to make a decision in a way, right? Because there’s like user research behind it.
Emmanuelle Savarit: Yes.
Sandro: [inaudible 00:02:40].
Emmanuelle Savarit: We bring evidence, so everything we bring is evidence coming from quantitative and qualitative research methods, and the stakeholders can make the right decision. If we realize and they want to create a new product, but the data show that actually it’s not the right thing to do, they can make the right decision because a lot of people think they can … they have ideas, everyone got different ideas for a product.
Emmanuelle Savarit: Especially a start-up, just imagine a startup-
Sandro: Oh, for sure.
Emmanuelle Savarit: They say[inaudible 00:03:08] “Oh, I’m going to start a new project,-
Emmanuelle Savarit: … amazing product,” and in the end, they realize that it’s only them think it’s a great product. If the user isn’t going to be there to use it, it’s pointless, it’s a waste of money. And I research also financially to make the right financial decision for the company, small or big one.
Sandro: And then how … because also you’re doing this for quite a while what was like the evolution because we were talking a bit about beforehand when you were walking with big cameras to the city, so how did it start out and how is it today and how is it maybe in the future?
Emmanuelle Savarit: Okay, before I used to go to the fieldwork with my tripod, my camera, spending lots of time, transport, and it was very heavy stuff. Even the computer was heavy, so it was like a huge bag to get somewhere. And also we had to transfer the data it was very difficult to get the qualitative data, quant, it’s been better but quant we used to have surveys, so we used to have paper when we had to translate them.
Emmanuelle Savarit: So it was not too bad, but for recording interaction and people using a product, my God, it was so complicated. Now it’s easy. You got your laptop, you can test something in the other part of the world, you got remote testing, everything is recorded. You can analyze your data, you got new software, like UserZoom, we do a lot of stuff as well. You’ve got so many tools at your disposal now then we didn’t have at first.
Emmanuelle Savarit: So the profession really changed, and it’s a new profession, but it really changed in a way that we got better tools now to do our work. So it’s faster, much faster.
Sandro: And where do you think like looking out at this profession, where do you think like five, 10 years from now, where we will be?
Emmanuelle Savarit: I think we can have a lot of automation, another thing we are doing. And we may also have some AI a lot, for questions, interviews, if it’s systematic. Sometimes is becoming very systematic what we are doing, even if we do the fieldwork is still very important, but then after you start testing and retesting some product, we may just have some automation behind it, more and more.
Sandro: I could actually especially matching AI applications in evaluating the results, especially of qualitative stuff and quantitative as well actually both, and see the correlations.
Emmanuelle Savarit: It is quite difficult because … but if we follow a systematic approach with a thematic analysis, you can have, for example, the researcher which is going to turn the data. Say, okay, I’m looking for the color, the difficulties, and then some of this stuff could be pre tag in the software, and the software can get the information so then you get more data, but you will not have the full context.
Emmanuelle Savarit: So that we still need a researcher to understand the context, to understand the people the behavior, that we still need, at some point to have some people on the field to do the work.
06:18 Doing fieldwork
Sandro: So speaking, actually of going out into the world and doing the work, so you were mentioning that the before in our conversation that you are still going out and actually doing the fieldwork yourself oftentimes. Can you talk a bit about that, and also maybe give some advice to us researchers that might be in a leadership position, and might not be able to get this much worked on anymore, and why you are still doing it.
Emmanuelle Savarit: I think it’s very important to keep your hands on because you need to understand your user, the context. If you do a home visit, especially if you do international research, you really have to see what’s going on. You don’t have to do all the research, but it’s good to understand because when you make a decision, you’ve got some background, it’s something very difficult if you lose it.
Emmanuelle Savarit: And also if you’re a researcher, you do it because you’ve got a passion for research, and you’re super curious. So if you stop doing the research is like a part of you is gone. So it’s nice to keep doing it, or support the younger generation, multiple people had them at the beginning and supervise what they are doing goes for the first few visits. That’s very important, but for me, I do think that it’s very important to keep doing the work and to be hands-on, not all the time, but to still do it.
Emmanuelle Savarit: Otherwise, you’re going to lose contact with a research method, what’s happening, with the participants. If you don’t understand your users, and sometimes you try to explain to other people, what is the motivation, the context, how things are with different cultures, you have to see it to feel it. You really need to have the emotion into it.
Sandro: And then so if you are coming into a new company, and you are seeing, like they have a lot of UX designers, and maybe they have one UX researcher, what do you do? Because I see this quite often, you know, you have a pretty big UX team, but then very few user researchers. Can you tell me about your view on that? And are also UX designers doing research or what are you seeing in the field and what do you recommend, in terms of companies that might not be that far yet in a maturity level of their user research?
Emmanuelle Savarit: So they’ve got so many researchers every department got between 30 to 40 user researcher and in cooperation, they got far fewer designers. They may have service designers but fewer designers. And they really incorporate their user research into the product development. And you can see everything they are doing, you know is working and to test it sooner is better. So when you start building a product, actually it’s working. You just try an error before you start building it. And if you start building it, and then realize, “Oh, I didn’t do any research. So I’m going to use an agency or I’m going to hire a contractor to do some research,” it’s too late. It will cost too much money to make the changes.
Emmanuelle Savarit: So every time I arrive in a new organization, it’s my little battle. It’s just explain actually not only to say we need more researcher, that’s not really the first thing I’m saying. The second thing is always … The second thing is: try to explain why we do more research. And what we do because a lot of people do not understand a job, we are expert in research, we don’t design, we are not working on the content. We don’t write the content, we don’t design, we don’t build anything, we are just here to bring pieces of evidence and to support the product development, we’re a support person.
Emmanuelle Savarit: And we need people in different project because it takes time to do research, even if we become much faster because we have to work agile and very quickly and we can do a round of this testing in a couple of weeks. We still need more research because it’s time-consuming to prep to recruit to prepare the discussion guide. I’m talking about user testing. To do the session, then analyze the session. But if people don’t spend the time to analyze, big mistake.
Emmanuelle Savarit: You have to allocate time to analyze your data and then extract the finding, and then speak with your team to say what those finding mean to the product and how we’re going to move forward. So I think there is a misunderstanding of a role because it’s a new profession, there is no training. There is no degree or master, there is a master in UX, but not in user research.
Emmanuelle Savarit: So people who come from design don’t have the skillset, they don’t know how to analyze quantitative data, they don’t know how to analyze qualitative data. There is a process, there is a learning curve how to analyze data, so you need a certain background to do it. You’re not going to … I always use the analogy with … when you build a plane, you got people who are going to be super technical so that’s the engineer, you’ve got the designer, who are going to do the chairs, the whole … the TV and the thing, that’s the designer, and you’ve got the reception to see how it’s going to fit with the environment. So, the copilot will be … you have the cockpit, where you will have the pilot and the co-pilot. So, we need to observe them in interaction to see how they use all their buttons and if they are the right position for them, or you see, are their chairs comfortable enough? So, that will be the observation. So, you have a bit of an ergonomics, you have a bit of social interaction, use of objecting interaction.
Emmanuelle Savarit: So, you have a different skill set. So for a plane would you put the designer to evaluate the place of the button for a pilot?
Sandro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Emmanuelle Savarit: No. Or you do the same thing in an operating theater. Would you put a designer to evaluate the capability or how this product is fitting the working environment of those people? No, you put a proper researcher to test it.
13:03 Designers versus researchers
Sandro: So what do you then say, when you get into a company and they have no researchers, and the designers or the product managers are actually doing the research, are they … I guess it’s still better to do some research, even if they don’t have the full capabilities, or do you still say like, “Guys, you need to have a user researcher in-house.”
Emmanuelle Savarit: Okay, so it’s better to do a little bit than not at all. So that for sure, but sometimes, some designer very good and learn very quickly and went to a lot of workshops to have some skill set because they understand the need of doing user research. But for them, it’s adding some more work. So it’s always difficult for them also to test their own design. So where is the objectivity?
Sandro: Right. Good point[inaudible 00:14:02].
Emmanuelle Savarit: Okay, I’m creating something. I’m [crosstalk 00:14:05] Actually, that’s a great piece of work.
Sandro: Oh, it is.
Emmanuelle Savarit: So, yeah, so but you do what you can with what you’ve got. And I think it’s going to take time it’s taking time, it’s getting much better and organization on the staff to understand the need. And I think when they realize when they make a failure on a project, they realize that they didn’t do the research. And I’ve seen so many companies going through … they have to fail first, to realize they needed-
Sandro: I just wanted to say, and then so you come into a company and then what if you get pushback? Like what are the arguments that you’re using pro user research, because I know a lot of UX leaders, design leaders, where the design leaders or product owners have that issue, and that’s why it happens that research gets done afterward or-
Emmanuelle Savarit: Yes. They just do it to tick the box. I guess so where it should be done earlier, and it should be integrated into the product development. So you go to discovery first. So you do some research, then you do the alpha proof of concept with designer and test. And so you test prototype, so you test, test improve until it’s ready, you move to the beta, you still do the research, but that we start testing on the real build product.
Emmanuelle Savarit: And you can have new features going through the alpha and coming back, and then it’s going live. And then you start setting up your analytics. So when it’s live, you can gather the data. So then you can be notified if your product is not working, and then if you realize something is not working, you go back to a mini discovery, then to an alpha, then to a beta. And it’s always like this.
Sandro: Still though, I might be like a manager and I and I tell you like, “Yeah, but we don’t have we don’t have time for this.” How do I calculate the return on investment on something like that? That’s always an issue. So what do you say, I guess if someone has gone through it and done only acceptance testing and kind of seeing that it’s not working and has to pedal back they might see it, but what about the others that still have to push back and like, yeah, research is an afterthought?
16:27 Research has the potential to save companies money
Emmanuelle Savarit: Yeah, well, if they don’t do it straight away … so the probability to do everything right the first time is quite little. Everyone is … even if you go to great idea, it’s not going to be perfect perfection is very rare. May exist,[crosstalk 00:16:44]-
Sandro: Very rare.
Emmanuelle Savarit: … but very rare. Okay. So you may start building a product and say, okay, it’s live, but no one is using it. Or you create a new functionality on your product and you realize with your analytics, no one is going there. Why?
Emmanuelle Savarit: I had an example of a company who actually, were doing some stuff through a subscription, and they created the new product within the subscription. And they didn’t realize that if you want to buy your subscription for a friend, they had to reput all the account details. So of course, they’re not going to do it because no one wants to put the account again, if they already have a subscription, they just want to add on to their subscription.
Emmanuelle Savarit: But we find out through the user testing. And before that, they didn’t know. Well, that was a little thing, but when you build a massive product, digital product costs a lot of money. If you put an agile team, two agile team to build your product, the cost is huge. If you fail, it’s going to cost you much more money. So when you do four weeks of user research is far less money than having to make changes like 12 weeks, or 24 weeks to rebuild something.
Emmanuelle Savarit: So the return on investment is we save you time, we limit the risk, and your product is going to be working the first time or close. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it will be … as an MVP, you can be confident it’s going to be fine. And you keep improving it. But if you just don’t do it, it’s … I know a lot of companies who didn’t do it, their product, the number of websites doesn’t work, they have to redo it. That’s little, if you see governmental platform which happened in the past, where they start commissioning a big engineering company without putting any research. They had to redo the whole project. And it’s not like hundreds of thousand pounds is a billion … the cost. Yeah. So could we-
Sandro: That’s expensive.
Emmanuelle Savarit: Could they afford not to do research? I’m not sure. We need to talk numbers with them.
Sandro: Yeah. And I also think what sometimes helps is, if like a competitor of yours is kind of seeping past you, just because they are actually doing research and you see their product has a higher adoption rate. I think that also helps sometimes to kind of give some contrast, like, what are they doing right?
Emmanuelle Savarit: A competitor review is one of the things we do as well. If you don’t have money to run or to have a user researcher just do a competitor review, look at what they are doing right. At least if they’re doing something right. Just copy it. You just need to be pragmatic, depending on your budget, you need to look at what you can do. You can do the whole process, which is perfect. But sometimes it’s not possible to do the whole process. So you do what you can with the budget you’ve got.
Sandro: Especially if you’re just starting out, but then what do you say if a product manager, a product owner comes to you and says like, “Yeah, they’re doing user research, but the insights always come at the wrong time.” I mean, the user research is not fast enough. What do you say?
Emmanuelle Savarit: There’s two issues, the first issue, they start incorporating user research but too late. That’s one issue. The other thing is sometimes the researcher they are to slow. So they have to learn to be fast, and it’s very difficult to be fast, especially when you work on several projects. And try to provide insight quickly, little, but quickly, so when you test, don’t test the whole platform, just concentrate on three, four or five different feature or aspect of the product, don’t go through the whole thing. You don’t have time.
Sandro: And how do you prioritize that? So let’s say there’s a sprint coming up. Me as a user researcher, what do I do in terms of how to prioritize the right insights, so that I am ready when they need to be delivered?
20:49 Gaining insights fast
Emmanuelle Savarit: So the very important thing is to integrate their user research within the agile time. So when they do their planning meeting, the research should be anticipated. We need to work a sprint in advance to anything and actually the designer should work or so most of sprint in advance to create the design for us. Or a week, but if you do a two week sprint, so we do the design first, they should deliver so may be a week should be fine. But the researchers need to plan, recruit the participants and do the research, analyze the data, extract the finding, pass on the information to the team.
Emmanuelle Savarit: So the team should stop the sprint to make changes after they got a recommendation. So they don’t have to wait the full report, but after the analysis we should have enough information to say, okay you can start doing this, this and this. A blocker that doesn’t work we need to find all the solution. So we need to work at least the sprint in advance, some time two sprint, and it depends of the size of the project but we break it down.
Emmanuelle Savarit: If we doing the planning meeting we say we need research for these we need research for that. We can combine different feature together, and then we go every two weeks we do testing. So every two weeks, they should have some findings. So they can help, actually, the product to move forward, we need to be in the action in the same circle as a team. Because if we deliver when they already learned something, it’s too late.
Sandro: And then what do you recommend to a company who’s kind of starting out with this? Do you recommend kind of the agency model that some companies have, where you have a central function of user research versus like these tribes or kind of cross functional teams, where user researcher is for every … one user researcher in every team or something like that?
Emmanuelle Savarit: I think it’s nice to have a researcher per agile team. That’s where is really working very well. So it can be very agile and we will sit together, so it’s very easy to say [inaudible 00:22:58] doesn’t work, say to the designer could you try to do something as for me. Actually, you go through the user journey, say there’s something wrong with it, could we just we think about it. And then we can ask the engineer, so what do you think to make these changes, how long it’s going to take. So before we make a recommendation, we need to be with the team. So if something is going to take six weeks to build, we remove it from a possibility, we don’t have time.
Emmanuelle Savarit: We need to find a solution, which is visible, could be done very quickly, or they need to rethink completely the strategy of the product. If we see it’s a massive blocker, so we need to look at that. But having agency was very good at first to go to see an agency because they were doing it, they had the lab and they had all the setting. But now we do things remotely, we can take your laptop to any coffee shop to test some product.
Emmanuelle Savarit: The agency is a bit experimental so you can compare like any type of research. You’ve got the experimental design, [inaudible 00:24:02] lab, very organized and you got more like the fieldwork in real environment, which I much prefer. Because if you bring people into your lab, they won’t have all the distraction than they will have on their daily life.
Emmanuelle Savarit: So for example, I did some work with the tailors on several [inaudible 00:24:22] in London, where they … is for them to hire the apprentice. To be a tailor it’s five year apprenticeship in the UK.
Sandro: Oh, wow.
Emmanuelle Savarit: Just to cut and another five years to sew. So it’s a massive … that’s how you get the British suit. It’s how they’re trained. So I went … they don’t have time to come to a lab. You know, they’re so busy. So I used to go with my laptop in their shop. And there it was great. I went downstairs, they were all like doing their work, cutting, looking fabric everywhere. It was beautiful. But they don’t have a computer there. No, they had one computer available, one just for the accounts.
Emmanuelle Savarit: So you had to understand the setting. So they had some iPad, they had some iPhone, they had some Android, but we need to do something mobile-first. You can’t have something on desktop. They don’t have one. So for testing, we had to come with an iPad, or with a tablet. So you have to go to the fieldwork, if you do that in the lab, you miss half competencies of context.
25:30 Different methods in different phases
Sandro: And I think that’s also one thing that we see often is also the kind of choices that people make in terms of methods. And maybe that also comes back to, are you a trained user researcher who actually knows the different methods and has used them? But I just hear you talking a lot about like fieldwork, being actually out there in the context like, how often do you do that? And in what situations especially, and what are some of the underused methods for you out there?
Emmanuelle Savarit: So it really depends of which phase you are in. I’m talking about user testing a lot because it’s something we do a lot in alpha and beta, where we test new design and we need to put it in front of users. But if you do a discovery, you do also lot of fieldwork because you want to understand the people but you may do some desk work as well. And you may do a survey to get some more information. And you will look at the analytics.
Emmanuelle Savarit: The analytics are very important because if you already have a product, which is live, you get your analytics either to understand what’s going on, and then you can … if something is not working, like for example, years ago, I worked for Betfair, the gambling company. And the first thing I asked … they wanted to redesign my account and the first thing I said, “Where are the analytics? Give me the analytics.” I went to the data, they had a big data department, I said, “Give me all the analytics, all the different types. I want to have everything.”
Emmanuelle Savarit: And I realized that naturally they were no traffic in deposit and withdraw the money for gambling company. So how do they put the money and how they withdraw the money? So I went to the financial department, I said, “What is the other way to actually deposit and withdraw the money?” I said, “Oh, they can call the call center.” So then I went to [Slough 00:27:25] took two hours of train to get there. And I had a focus group with the operators, the front line the people who answers the phone. And they told me, oh we got an issue with the cards because they come after three cards, they can’t remove the credit cards so everything is blocked, and we have to unblock everything through the phone. So we had to find out a solution for them, they could remove their cards and put a new one. We had all these issues of money laundering.
Emmanuelle Savarit: So then after you go to the legal department, to find out what’s going on, how we can do it and then you spend time with the engineers to find out okay, what are the solutions and then you continue, and then after you do testing with a new solution.
Sandro: So you do like-
Emmanuelle Savarit: Is how you do it and then you can … mix methods you have to be super creative and you can … and quant and qual should work together. You can’t just do one or the other you need to do both.
Sandro: How does your quant inform your qualitative research? Can you talk a bit about that and how its interwoven?
Emmanuelle Savarit: So the quant is going to give me … if you’ve got a live product the quant is going to inform me of the current activities. So how efficient is your site, how many visit they have, the bounce rate, everything which I need about the current site. Is just going to tell me how many and how often. Maybe where per location but that’s it. People with VPN now we don’t know where they are.
Emmanuelle Savarit: Anyway, so that’s … but we need to understand the why, and how they do something. So we need to spend time with the user. So, I will move to qualitative to see how and why, to understand the reality of the world. And then after if I start identifying some systematic behavior or pattern or habits or action, I will try to validate it with higher numbers. So I will do a survey with a larger sample to validate my qualitative data.
Emmanuelle Savarit: Even if the qualitative data can be highly reliable, depending of the samples and the size but if you reach 16 participant, you can be quite confident you’ve got something going across. The stakeholders, they like numbers, so, I give them numbers. I do a survey because I’m very confident of the wizard, I just do a survey which is just validating my findings from qualitative.
Emmanuelle Savarit: And then you’ve got the quant data and you present it to your stakeholders but the whole process from quant to qual, to quant, is very important.
Sandro: So if I understand you correctly, you basically start with quant to define or to see actually what’s going on. And then with qualitative, you find out like, how or why is he going on and how, and then you kind of try … and then you go back to quant to ensure that what you just saw is applicable to the mass.
Emmanuelle Savarit: Yeah, that’s a simplified version. Sometimes you have to move things around. If you start with a white page, with nothing, you’re going to look at … you do a lot of qual to understand the reality, you do this work, and you can look at numbers you can do competitor review, we’ve got quite a lot of methods.
Emmanuelle Savarit: Or if we want to understand the architecture, we can do a consulting just to make sure that it’s more quant, so to see how people are moving things around. So it’s really depending of your research question and the aim of the project, and what the business wants to do. What do they want to achieve? And we’re just here to try to guide them and give them some information.
31:06 Emmanuelle Savarit’s workshop at the UX Live Conference in London
Sandro: And then, so, to come back a bit to also what you’re going to talk about in the workshop, just to briefly touch that. So you kind of talk about how to grow your team, your internal team, right?
Emmanuelle Savarit: Hmm.
Sandro: So what do I need to … let’s say, I’m a head of UX, and I have three designers and two user researchers. And now you come in and then what kind of questions do you ask, and how do you start the process?
Emmanuelle Savarit: Okay, so first of all, to see how many … what is the business goal, what do they want to do? Where do they want to go in six months, in one year, in five years. For me, I need to have the vision and the projection.
Emmanuelle Savarit: I need to understand their client base, I look also at their revenue, what they want to do. And depending of how many projects they want to launch, it’s very important to put one researcher per project.
Emmanuelle Savarit: We’ve got a big issue at the moment is there is no resources on the market. It’s impossible. That’s a big issue. There is no user research on the market, very little. It’s very difficult to find or to find people who can do the work. And also most of the people are contractors, because there is no real need in the organization, they just start to wake up and say we need user researcher.
Emmanuelle Savarit: So they start hiring user researcher, but all the researcher most of them are contractors because you make more money as a contractor. So it’s very difficult to recruit people. So if you want the middleweight researcher is super difficult. And super senior, until they are going to rise [inaudible 00:33:08] salary as a permanent person like a decent, management or salary is going to be very difficult to employ people.
Sandro: So it’s also a longer process?
Emmanuelle Savarit: Yeah. So we need to anticipate. So what I keep saying it’s what I’m going to do also in my workshop is, what do you do with what you have? So if you go tissue in your organization, most of the time they can’t increase the headcount. That’s an issue. So how do you get researcher if you can’t increase your headcount? So what I do is I look at talents, people in the company who have the right foundation, people who’ve done psychology, anthropology, sociology, some specific skill they learn in uni, so I can shape them, to become user researcher because they’ve got some foundation.
Emmanuelle Savarit: So I’ve been doing that for the government because they had a lot of contractors, which cost a fortune to the government. We are tax payer, so we want to reduce the tax. So the thing is, it’s good to have contractors, you need expert, but you can’t rely on 75% or 80% of contractors and only 20% of in-house staff. So you need to have always a question of equilibrium. So identify talent, people with the right skill set, or researcher working in behavior.
Emmanuelle Savarit: So I just spent time to identify with those people. So I do a lot of road show where I go to different offices, especially if it’s a global or if it’s the same country but different offices to try to explain what is user research and you always have the people with some research background coming to those talks.
Emmanuelle Savarit: So then you identify them and say, “Okay, are you interested to do some user research? We can try to move you to the user research.” Or you may have people very sharp, will learn very quickly, so you want to onboard them, so identify the talent you already have. That’s something I always try to do.
Emmanuelle Savarit: So you don’t have the increase of headcount and my battle from day one is to increase the headcount always. Just to have more researcher is going to save them time in the long run. And it’s a new profession. But to find them … but we can have graduates, but we need someone senior enough to train them. Because there is no training at the moment, you can do a master in user experience or in UX, but you don’t have a master in user research. You don’t, or even a degree or even a-
35:31 Continuing education
Sandro: So I mean, what are you … if I come to you and I ask you, Hey, I am. I am working as a user researcher, I originally come from design and now work as user researcher, and I want to continue my education like where do you send me or other people? What do you recommend them to do today?
Emmanuelle Savarit: So you can go to some conference, when you’ve got some good workshops, and that’s where you can learn. So I remember I did quite a few like a UX Cambridge event. I tried to do workshop rather than talk because I think it’s more important to build the new generation and to help people to become user researcher so I’d rather do the workshop.
Emmanuelle Savarit: And also people are like me so to do the workshop, you can get some more insight. You can also read. There’s a lot research methods, many research methods, so there’s some books. You can also go to the gov.uk website, they donate good info. It’s quite basic, but you’ve got enough information to start doing research. So I would recommend you can go to the gov.uk user research guidelines. And also there’s some books like human-computer interaction research method, so they’re going to be a bit more quantitative. And you can look at anything about like, doing fieldwork, diary studies, there’s a lot of research in terms of education, how you do diary study, how you do … And user testing you can, there is a lot of video on YouTube, you try to get the information.
Emmanuelle Savarit: There are not many books … there are a few books but not many. There’ll be a new one soon, mine but there’s-
Sandro: Oh, yeah, we get to that in a second.
Emmanuelle Savarit: But these few books actually which I get some inspiration about [inaudible 00:37:25]. There’s is one called, Thinking Like a Researcher. It gives you what a good information about ethnography, anthropology, so, it’s quite interesting to do the field work. And there is also user research by Stephanie Marsh, she’s worked for the government. I think she’s the head of user research for GDS. And she did the … it’s quite basic, but it’s quite nice, it’s a good start to start working on that.
Sandro: And actually so making the segue to your book because I what I found interesting is, when we first started talking a week ago, I think, you mentioned something about also … there is maturity models for UX itself, but there is none for kind of UX research, per se. Can you quickly talk about that? And also, how can I quickly kind of identify on where I am? And this is there some companies that are at the far end of the highest maturity levels? Can you go a bit into about that, and maybe your book and what’s it’s like?
Emmanuelle Savarit: There is a different level of maturity for user research. If you don’t integrate at all, it’s like anything, you’ve got a business model for business maturity, you’ve got UX model for UX maturity. You got the same so I wrote that on my book, about the user research maturity.
Emmanuelle Savarit: So when a company’s start thinking user research, and there’s different levels they wanted from time to time, yet they don’t do any research and the whole maturity. And you’ve got the other extreme, which I will fake like the government, British Government, they are almost at the top level in terms of the maturity because they integrate systematically in their product development. And they also do assessment of every product and every assessment to validate and they put in place every different standard. So that could be design standard, security standard, and user research standards, which are on the same level almost.
Emmanuelle Savarit: They may fail an assessment if they don’t do the research at all, or if they don’t do it properly.
Sandro: When you thought about writing a book like what was important to you to actually get across? Because you were saying there are not that many books, so what’s what’s your take?
Emmanuelle Savarit: I wanted two aspects of it, is one is where is user research coming from, and what is user research to really define it. So that was one thing I wanted to do, then to talk about, how to integrate it into your organization. So from your maturity, do I get the contractor? Do I get an agency? Do I get someone permanent, so I wanted some time to explain when you can do what, because it’s not always the same thing, it’s not the same recipe for everybody.
Emmanuelle Savarit: And then I wanted also to talk about the process, which method and when the process, and also the main methods. So I just look at different methods, and I explained from the beginning to the end, how to use it, and why you use it. So people could have this book, and they either don’t have the resource to do user research, they should have enough at the end of this book. They should have enough to sell user research into the organization. So I need budget to do user research.
Emmanuelle Savarit: So I’ve give argument tips, I have done it, learn and try. I try things, some stuff didn’t work, some stuff work, it’s what I put my experience, and also my research skills coming from a pure research background, which method and when, because if we want to be taken seriously as a profession, we need to use the right method.
Emmanuelle Savarit: So a lot of people, they said they do their research, but it’s not the right-
Emmanuelle Savarit: … method. And then after people say, “Oh, user research, huh, it sucks.” I want people at least they can use the right method. And so that’s what I wanted.
Sandro: Yeah. And so your book is not yet out, right? So-
Emmanuelle Savarit: Should be out by Christmas, normally.
Sandro: By Christmas. Okay, that’s a good Christmas present. A good Christmas present.
Emmanuelle Savarit: I have to. I have to, I have. No, no, we are in the design of some stuff. So. Yeah, it’s practical user research.
Sandro: Okay. Okay, good. Good. Yeah. We might share it if you’re subscribing to the testing newsletter, we get you on there sometimes.
Emmanuelle Savarit: Yeah. Thanks.
Sandro: Okay, cool. And so before we go to the questions, how do you today kind of see the field of user research and some of the main issues? You mentioned one, which is like education, right?
Emmanuelle Savarit: Hmm.
Sandro: And then you have the methods that are not applied correctly. Is there other things that you see, to change and maybe all the people that are listening in today to make them aware of how they can move this field forward?
Emmanuelle Savarit: I think the education is something very important and I’ve been trying to move things forward and all to get an apprenticeship going or to work with some university, but it’s still very slow, but eventually this will happen.
Emmanuelle Savarit: So that’s issue. Also, the main issue is company don’t think it’s important to do user research. So that’s the big battle. And I think it’s important in the community, we just stick together and try to fight that. Because if people don’t understand the importance of doing user research, we are going to move forward. So we have to be loud. We have to go to conferences, we have to write blogs, we need to … it takes time, we need to really share and to put all our resources together. So people from all over the world we just work on user research and making user research as an important point in a product development, that the only way we can move forward.
Sandro: Yeah, I love that. And it also gives the power to the researchers themselves, you can actually do something to move the ball forward.
Sandro: Okay, so from here we go into the … we’re actually pretty good this time, actually we’re way overboard. But we have quite a few questions. So let’s get to them. And Saga is asking what is an effective way to present your findings to the stakeholders? How do you think about that?
Emmanuelle Savarit: Okay, so one thing which is very important about presenting the findings, it’s understanding who are going to be the stakeholders, you need to adapt your findings and the presentation of the finding, so it makes sense to them. If we come with just, if people are interested about numbers, you need to put the numbers. If it’s someone willing to design, you need to try to make it more attractive to the eye, because otherwise the attention is going to change. We will need to capture the full attention when you present.
Emmanuelle Savarit: And we need to make sure we understand that question, what do they try to solve? If we understand what they try to solve, our answer will be to answer the questions or evidence. So to be visual, very little text, I saw so many presentations, where it’s like, you got like-
Sandro: Sure. But that’s all you will learn in university, right?
Emmanuelle Savarit: … 50 line in their PowerPoint or Keynotes, you can’t even read it, you’d want to do user research and you write that big, make it readable, make it easy, put some pictures, use the imagery and the semantic actually to convey your findings. So I always try to do both, and bullet points, no big sentence, bullet points, quick numbers. Just try to make them understand quickly what … and explain what you’ve done, where we come … what we’ve done-
Sandro: Yeah, the process.
Emmanuelle Savarit: … how many parts. The process, it’s always the aim and the goal of the project, the method we are using, the participant we are using, how many participants, the research method, the analysis, the findings. What those findings mean, the interpretation of findings systematically, you have a systematic as a researcher.
Sandro: So you kind of go through them, through the whole process, right? You got also in the end, the findings actually make sense.
Emmanuelle Savarit: Yes.
Sandro: The interpretations of the findings. And so since this anyways, the most important question, what kind of groups do you have? So you mentioned the beginning, first you need to think about who you’re talking to. So how would you pocket these groups and how you talk differently to the groups?
Emmanuelle Savarit: But you don’t say the same thing. If you should speak with an engineer, you’re not going to use the same words when you speak with a designer. And if you speak with a financial director, because you wants some budget and they are interested to get to understand what’s was finding and why you need to get more money for the project, the research is going to give you some background and evidences. You don’t use the same thing.
Emmanuelle Savarit: So for example, for the designer, you are going to say, “Oh, that was great. But I think, the contrast wasn’t great for this person. So maybe you can look at something a bit different.” For the engineer, the color doesn’t really matter. They want functionality. So in term of functionality, they want to do this. And for the financial director you say, “If we don’t do this is going to cost that much to the company.” So it’s how you interpret the same way reason with different terminology. Is how you get your information-
Sandro: Also find out what the interest is, as you said, right?
Emmanuelle Savarit: Yeah.
Sandro: What is the other person interested in?
Emmanuelle Savarit: Yeah. Because our own understanding for us we get very excited when we see something interesting about the data, but it’s not what lots of people are like, you know?
Sandro: Right. And then you’re like, “Why are you not, why are you not as excited as I am?”
Sandro: Okay, second question. What is your opinion on career usability testing?
Emmanuelle Savarit: I think it’s great. I use it a lot for quick fix. When we test any wire frame prototype, I wouldn’t do it. I will use it to take my laptop anywhere. I like the natural environment quick. So, it’s nice. I won’t do all of it sometime I we need to do the whole user journey and a bit more testing, but I still like the natural, quick environment.
Sandro: But how much are you relying on the results of that career test versus just giving you kind of an intuition for it? Or like what I mean, what are you doing with the results of the [crosstalk 00:48:31]?
Emmanuelle Savarit: I do the same process, as for user testing in a lab. I will record the data, I will go back to the data, I will analyze my data. It just is setting, it’s quick. So it’s not going to be 45 minutes, an hour, it can be 20 minutes. You just test one functionality very quickly, or you do a quick A/B testing. If you’re not ready to compare to design, you would do quick A/B testing.
Sandro: Can you make a quick example from your daily life, work life, professional life, when you actually used it? Like you were in a situation where you need quick results. And then what exactly do you do?
Emmanuelle Savarit: Especially I use it a lot when we work on internal software or internal products. So if it’s something for the user, which are member of the staff, so I will go to their desk and I will just sit with them.
Emmanuelle Savarit: I just said something I use. I work on an internet for company in France. And we were redesigning the whole internet and I was going to the desk to show some stuff.
Sandro: Look at this, exactly.
Emmanuelle Savarit: We didn’t do at the end when we had the whole build. We did the full user testing with eye tracking, which was amazing because we can see how people navigated and we did it in the office, in a room. But all the time we were just showing people, do this. It’s nice, you combine, you know?
Sandro: Yep, mix methods. Okay, good. So then Leon is asking, I guess he’s quoting you here, it’s better to do a little bit of research than nothing. And then he asks, or is it if done improperly, then one might develop a wrong product. How to discover if the client is doing the research in a right way, when they tell you, we’ve done some research.
Emmanuelle Savarit: Okay. So when I say a little bit rather than not at all, it’s with a proper researcher, of course. So if you don’t know how to do it, I’ve seen people doing research and going in a completely different direction. So one of the major skill of a user researcher is objectivity. So we’re always a backup, we’re always there to say that doesn’t work. Your design is … we don’t say it like this, but it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work. You need to do something else. Or the product, it’s a bad idea. It doesn’t work with a user-
Sandro: Just in general?
Emmanuelle Savarit: In general, that’s our job. That’s our job, we have the backup all the time. So if you do a little bit tech professional for a couple of days, it’s worth the two days, get someone, get an expert for a couple of days. And they will come up with something or because they’ve got previous knowledge, so they’re going to give some of their experience and transferable knowledge. They may give you some tips they can prepare from your survey for you at the same time, a couple of [inaudible 00:51:30] they got time to prepare survey, they may look at your analytics, they may look at your competitors, and they say, “Okay, look at this,” they will tell you where to look at it.
Emmanuelle Savarit: So it’s better to do two days research to get someone for a couple of days, and they can extract some findings and some stuff than doing nothing. But don’t just say okay, we’ve got an intern here doesn’t know how to work, but we’ve got someone free going to do the work. Also, you we had here a project where we had someone doing some work experience a very smart young guy. And I just show him how to do things. I helped him to create a survey. And he did actually an interview over the phone and he was brilliant.
Emmanuelle Savarit: And also with a bit of support, you can do something. You need to have the support from someone with a bit more experience, and someone junior can do it, it’s a learning curve.
Sandro: Make sense. Yeah. Makes sense. We have a little case here, from Louie. We are in a startup, and we have three cross functional teams. If we start by hiring a user researcher, what would be his or her best possible contribution. Help each teams with incremental innovations. For example, a team has an existing feature enhancement idea and the researcher helps validate the value, or help the company clarify the bigger picture on a strategic level and target more disruptive innovations. For example, new products or new opportunities.
Emmanuelle Savarit: Both, I think we can work on what you are currently working on. And then the researcher can also be available to help for the innovation and future of the business. Because the thing is the research has been to spend time with the user. By spending time with a user we understand the need and the gap in the market. So by spending time on testing your current product, we may notify your gap on the market that can be feeding your innovation and your future … the future of your business.
Emmanuelle Savarit: So we do both as a user researcher so if you go to a user researcher in your team, it should be both, and should be there when you do like some planning for future product. Because they may have some ideas from previous work as well.
Sandro: And to go a bit deeper on the same question. So it’s kind of day one of these user researcher and I never had a user researcher like what is this person going to do? How do I integrate them?
Emmanuelle Savarit: Okay, so how many … three teams, huh?
Sandro: Three cross-functional teams?
Emmanuelle Savarit: Three cross functional [inaudible 00:54:09]?
Emmanuelle Savarit: So she got one researcher it will be probably across these three teams to start with. So the first thing to start is to put some process to explain, which type of method are available to make sure the team understands the benefit and what the user research role is and what they are going to do. If it’s quant, the researcher need to understand every project, understand where they are today, what is already live, what they plan to do, and to do a plan for each project where to integrate user research. Then they can prioritize depending of their deadline, what they want to do. So they are going to work straight away.
Sandro: Good. Good.
Emmanuelle Savarit: And to hire a researcher needs to be someone who actually can have a full vision of what needs to be done.
Sandro: Well, that’s [crosstalk 00:54:58] you mentioned a few times like what are the skills like if I hire a user researcher … might be interesting as well before we go to the last question. If I hire a user researcher, what do I look for? Like what’s a good user researcher? What kind of signals to usually see or find with the people that are called user researchers?
Emmanuelle Savarit: You’ve got two different types of people you got the people who’ve been learning and been working and been doing the job for a long time and they’ve been doing training all the time and the workshops, and things like this and work on a lot of projects. You’ve got all sorts of people with strong psychology, sociology, anthropology, human and computer interaction [inaudible 00:55:44] and I think for me, that’s what I’m looking for.
Emmanuelle Savarit: I will look at cognitive psychology processes. Psychology is a good important qual research method, human-computer interaction functionality analytics, they will be good at that and creating some survey. Anthropologists will be very good at doing fieldwork understanding capturing the data, doing diary study, doing context reading queries.
Emmanuelle Savarit: So it really depends if you got someone with like multiple research methods skills. But when you’re looking for someone as a first hire, we look for someone who can do user testing and discovery because this is going to be the priority. The analytics everyone can do a little bit of it, it’s a query, you read a book, you understand analytics, you know?
Emmanuelle Savarit: Doing a survey, you can find someone with a social behavior background, or you can even find some survey people help you to create a survey. Yeah. But what takes time and knowledge is to capture the data, choose the right method to create the research question to create the discussion guide. And I think someone with a research background sociology or psychology or human-computer interaction will be good.
Sandro: So you could even … Do you sometimes take people directly from university without them-?
Emmanuelle Savarit: Yeah. Yeah, because you can just shape them.
Sandro: So even if they haven’t had direct UX knowledge, they bring the toolkit to actually do proper research?
Emmanuelle Savarit: Yeah, I think we learn on the field and actually they will have this … They need a toolkit of research methods, so this what they need? They should not design. Some people want the researcher to do wireframe, do[inaudible 00:57:34].
Sandro: The UX team of London, yeah. Exactly. Okay, good. So last question. We have here, let me see. What about as a designer, I want to become a user researcher. So like, I’m a designer now, and then I want to become a user researcher want to go into that kind of-
Emmanuelle Savarit: [inaudible 00:57:59].
Sandro: … field and might not have the skills-
Emmanuelle Savarit: Skillset, why?
Sandro: … that you just outlined.
Emmanuelle Savarit: The question is why? Why do the … why?
Sandro: The question is why? Well, maybe Marianne is still here and can answer and in the meantime, we’re asking another question from Olga. How do you explain to your customers (companies) that 10 to 20 participants are sufficient for a reliable representative qualitative research? What do you tell them, if they ask, “Are you sure this little group of people is all we need to get the right insights”?
Emmanuelle Savarit: Yeah, because in terms of qualitative data, you need fewer participants to have a degree of confidence. So with 16, you will have the same degree of confidence than having 100 participants.
Emmanuelle Savarit: So you get that also in my book, all the details, all the argument. So-
Sandro: All right. Good. I haven’t heard yet from her. So I guess we are wrapping up. I also saw like you have to slowly[crosstalk 00:59:00]
Emmanuelle Savarit: Slowly, yeah, but before that time [crosstalk 00:59:04] waiting for me to move out.
Sandro: So then where can people reach you?
Emmanuelle Savarit: They can reach me on Twitter or so on LinkedIn. If people want to contact me on LinkedIn, I’m always connected so they can contact me there.
Sandro: Okay, perfect. Good. So if you have to run, you run, I do some admin stuff here to close things off and announce also the next episode. Thank you very much.
Emmanuelle Savarit: Thank you. Thanks.
Sandro: Thank you for your time.
Emmanuelle Savarit: Thanks. Bye.
Sandro: Talk soon. Bye-bye. Thank you.
Emmanuelle Savarit: Bye.