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UXR Spotlight: Lesley Crane

Lesley Crane
Lesley Crane

This spotlight was part of USERWEEKLY - a weekly email to understand what is happening in user research. It's the best way to keep up on trends, methodologies, insights across the industry, and meet new researchers. Each week, the newsletter captures the pulse of our community and answers a simple question: What mattered in User Research this week?

Hi Lesley Crane, tell us a little about yourself.
Hey, I'm Lesley Crane. I think of myself as a social scientist and sometime ‘bricoleur’ – someone who integrates and applies a range of research methods, tools and theory to describing a problem experienced through the eyes of users as contextually-situated actors. I think it’s important to differentiate between a description based on my own interpretation and understanding, and that of the users who experience it. It’s about authenticity. It’s tempting to think that the observation of what a user says or does gives an accurate account of reality. That’s just the veneer – what I try to do is understand what meaning the users are creating, what version of events they understand and experience. That’s where my academic background Discourse Psychology comes in. UXR really is a privileged profession – what other job lets you glimpse inside the lives of people from all walks of life?

From your experience, what is one of the biggest challenges user research(ers) face today?
I don’t know about other UXRs, but I would say that the biggest challenge I face as a UXR – particularly a freelance UXR – is a combination of two things. First, having to report findings and insights in the briefest possible way. What’s the point of all that investment in time and effort if all you get time to report is the dust on the icing? Second, UXR really does need to be and work at the heart of management/stakeholder/client action and not just in daily stand-ups but as a key player in the action. I believe UXR should set directions for the whole project, and only that way do you get a project that really does put the user at the centre of its design. And that relies on having the space, time and tools to practice UXR in a rigorous and authentic way.

What do you remember most about your first UXR job?
Being told by my new client that ‘I have no brief for you, I just wanted a user researcher on my team!’ From this unpromising start, we developed a really good strong working relationship based on mutual trust and respect. And I had the opportunity to do UXR in a way that allowed me to follow and build on the layers of findings and insights as they evolved. That journey took us in directions not imagined at the outset but which proved to be precisely the right ones to resolve the real problems that research uncovered.

How can people learn more about you and your work?
I publish new blogs when I can. Anyone interested can find these on my website ( I can always be found and contacted on Linked In. I want to build my network of professional friends in UXR so it would be a pleasure to hear from other passionate researchers!

Thank you, Lesley!