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🗞 Embrace the subjectivity

Jan Ahrend
Jan Ahrend
6 min read
🗞 Embrace the subjectivity

USERWEEKLY is your weekly email to understand what is happening in user research. It's the best way to keep up on trends, methodologies and insights across the industry. It is written by me, Jan Ahrend. Each week I go through content from mainstream media to small blogs to capture the pulse of our community and answer a simple question: What mattered in User Research this week?

😌 Humans of User Research w/ Tarah Srethwatanakul

Tarah Srethwatanakul, UX Researcher at WhatsApp
Tarah Srethwatanakul, UX Researcher at WhatsApp

Tarah, tell us a little about yourself!
Hello! I’m Tarah Srethwatanakul, a UX Researcher at WhatsApp, where I’m focused on conversational commerce. I actually discovered this field by browsing a MBA course catalog to choose my electives. I realised that a 3-week course on user experience would not be enough for me, and promptly dropped out of business school to pursue a career in UX. Since then, I’ve had the joy of working in a variety of intersecting fields including UX design, service design and product research (which I’ve spent the most time doing.)

I live across a field in north London where I spend lots of time reading outside (most recently read AI 2041, a collection of global stories about possible futures augmented by artificial intelligence) - and on more active days, going on country walks and snowboarding.

What’s the best career decision you’ve made?
Early in my career, I packed up my life in three bags and moved to London alone. After many job applications and interviews, I was eating breakfast at a greasy spoon when I got an email informing me that my top choice employer - a small design research agency - had passed on me after the panel interview. I was demoralised, without a job or stable accommodation right before Christmas.

Realising that I had little to lose, I asked for clarification on why I had been rejected and (very luckily) received some concrete points. I then asked if I could prove that I actually had the perceived missing skills by delivering recommendations on a real business problem. They agreed, and after a couple days of focused work and sending a deck showcasing my analytical skills, the hiring team reversed their decision. I landed my top choice job despite an initial rejection! Although this tactic might not work with every company, the experience taught me that outcomes can be negotiated with persistence and creativity - and to try my luck more often!

What was the funniest experience you had in a user study?
I was researching how a large retail bank could better serve customers with dementia, a meaningful but sensitive and emotionally difficult topic. During an interview in a family’s back garden, I (abruptly) realised that they owned chickens - and that several were pecking at my legs! The surprise brought some levity to what had been a week of difficult conversations. The carer was very sweet and gifted us ‘homemade’ eggs as we left her house.

How can people learn more about your work?
I haven’t published anything recently, but you can learn about research at WhatsApp through the Meta Research blog. Also feel free to say hi on LinkedIn. For people looking to break into UXR, I’ve crowdsourced a list of resources including communities, career transition stories and salary benchmarks here. It’s a living doc, please add to it!

Thank you, Tarah!

Spotlight > Articles > Video > Audio

🧐 Thought pieces.

Invitation to take part in the annual State of User Research survey
Take part in the 4th State of User Research Report by User Interviews and share your UX Research experiences. Take part in the survey

Why empathy is needed at all stages of the UX research process
The case for why empathy moves beyond just empathy for users, and should extend to all aspects of the research and design process. Preeti Srinivasan 01/22

People who do research (PWDRs): a discovery study
Digging into the career paths, values, challenges, and practical approaches of people who do research. Lizzy Burnam 01/24

🛠 Methods.

Factoring in subjectivity and bias in user research interviews
User Research Interviews: The unbearable impossibility of being objective and how to mitigate subjectivity. Lesley Crane 01/20

Embracing subjectivity: using autoethnography in UX research
How combining immersive observation with self-reflexivity makes for an impactful research method. Janelle Ward 01/22

How to test for navigation flaws if you have limited UX resources
How to adapt user testing to serve as a limited card sort. Christopher K Wong 01/20

🛬 Approaches.

Understanding users’ unmet needs through mixed-methods research
How collaborative research champions real user needs. Yingzhao Zhou 01/19

3 things you can do when you lack UX research data and support
So, what do we do if we are a lone voice? What can we do when we can’t get funding or permission to conduct UX research?. Alexander McIlwraith 01/24

The return on experience (ROX) of UX Research
Calculate Return on Experience: 1) Projected revenue increases. 2) Projected cost reduction. 3) Cost of Inaction. 4) Estimate the size of required expenditures. Ina Shtylla 01/20

⚙️ Research Ops.

How to prepare for a UXR interview as a hiring manager
A sample job description, interview structure, example whiteboard exercise, and scorecard template to help you hire the perfect candidate. Nikki Anderson 01/24

Delivering UX research value when resources are constrained
Start with design advocacy. Research without actual users. Analyze sentiment. Competitive analysis. Guerrilla testing. A/B testing. Kristina Parrill 01/20

The challenge of evaluating research ethics
Though created to protect participants, company Institutional Review Boards can do more harm than good. But by making them less formal, both participants and researchers can benefit. Alba Villamil 01/24

📚 Growth.

Resolutions for UX researchers
Revisit your career goals. Reach out to a former colleague or make new connections. Learn new skills or upgrade your existing skills. Read more. Plan your research streams in advance. Explore ways to address process gaps. David Muñoz 01/20

UX research resources
List of research resources created by 50+ researchers. Learners 01/20

🚀 Getting into UX Research.

Create a realistic UXR case study by avoiding this approach
Sometimes less is more. Lawton Pybus 01/22

Let’s talk about the end-to-end UX Research process
From project planning to playback to business. Aishvarya 01/20

How to prepare for a UXR job interview as a candidate
Tips to lean on when you’re undertaking the exciting, and sometimes daunting, steps towards a new role!. Nikki Anderson 01/21

Spotlight > Articles > Video > Audio

🎥 Videos of the Week.

UX Research career journey from Jamaica to Silicon Valley
Deana is originally from Jamaica and is currently a Staff UX Research & Strategy Lead at Google. Her journey from Jamaica to Silicon Valley is truly inspiring. YouTube 01/17

Spotlight > Articles > Video > Audio

🔉 Audio of the Week.

Understanding users with UX Director Andy Curry
Andy reminds us of the power of storytelling as one of UX’s most underrated skills and how the basics of observing users to help inform design decisions in essence dates back thousands of years. Hosted by Mike Green. Spotify 01/19

Doing user research at a UXR company
Being a research team of one, stepping into a leadership role, and the benefits of a formal research practice. Spotify 01/18

Happy researching,
🗞 Jan