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🗞 How we misuse the term "user insight"

Jan Ahrend
Jan Ahrend
6 min read

Hi there! 👋 Thanks for stopping by. 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 in UX Research. It is written by me, Jan Ahrend. Each week I capture the pulse of our community and answer a simple question: What mattered in User Research this week?

🗞 This week, I spoke with Mengjun Guo, a Senior UX Researcher at Sony Playstation, who highlights the importance of culturally nuanced user research. Mengjun stresses the significance of field studies in unique settings like Japan to ensure products resonate globally across varied cultural landscapes.

💡 And are you attending any upcoming events for user researchers, be they webinars, conferences, workshops, remote or local? I'd love to hear which ones! Please reply to this email with details, or directly add them to the User Research calendar. Thank you!

🏡 Personal update: Last weekend, we enjoyed a nice short getaway to Lake Garda with friends. Simba (our Golden) loved the hotel stay, especially the rare treat of sleeping in bed with us!

Happy Researching, Jan 🙌
Simba (left) making faces. Maya (right) not sure what to think of it 🐶

😌 Humans of User Research with Mengjun Guo

Mengjun Guo
Mengjun Guo

Tell us a little about yourself, Mengjun.
Based in the Bay Area, currently I am a Senior UX Researcher at Sony Playstation. I was born and raised in China. I got my research start in academia when I moved to the U.S. to pursue graduate studies in Communication at the University of Washington. My research focus was the social impact of digital technologies. Over the past 6 years, I have been working as a UX Researcher, across different industries at Sony Playstation, Uber, Meta, and Walmart Labs. where I lead user research for the Monetization teams, working on Playstation Plus subscription services and Playstation Store.

What originally got you interested in UX Research?
I have always been fascinated with the relationship between human and technology. Reading Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death” more than 14 years ago triggered me to choose Communication in graduate school to study the social impact of digital technologies. I was especially passionate about researching online communities and digital culture. During graduate school, I researched on how social media influences the formation of online communities, and the role of memes in fostering online communities and influencing social movements. This got me interested in UX Research when I started to collaborate with faculties in the Human-Computer Design Engineering Department at the University of Washington, and I fell in love with UX Research. Thinking back, the passion for understanding the deep meaning of human behaviors and human’s relations with technologies hasn’t changed much for me, and that’s what got me into UX Research.

If you could teleport to any user's location for field research, where would you go first?
I’d perhaps choose Japan first given how distinctive and different the Japanese culture is from western culture. I think good UX Research for global products should develop a deep understanding of cultural differences and how culture also shapes human behaviors and attitudes. Having lived in both Asia and the U.S., I’ve noticed the comparative perspective helps me develop a sensitivity to understand how and why people think or do in certain ways in different cultural settings. Interesting examples of this could include, what appeals to Japanese eyes in a mobile app design may appear to indicate a poor user experience to foreigners. There are certain aesthetic preferences that are hard to duplicate. It’s important to understand those cultural differences, and field research is a great way to discover the social and cultural roots that cultivate these preferences.

How can people find you?
Please feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn. I’m always happy to discuss research craft and how to make research impactful in companies. With the rise of Generative AI, it offers both challenges but also opportunities to magnify our specialized skills as UX researchers. I’ll do try my best to get back to everyone that contacts me, and I’m happy to answer questions if I can be helpful.

Thank you, Mengjun!

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📚 Articles of the Week.

We misuse the term "user insight" a lot—here's how to actually use it
Generate user insights effectively to guide actionable decisions. Prioritize central insights for immediate action, categorize additional findings, and ensure recommendations align with audience needs, employing Brent Dykes' six criteria for actionable insights. Christopher K Wong 04/10

Don’t make “data-driven product decisions”—build a data-driven semantic environment
Learning organizations can use data to determine whether they were wrong, while others use it only to prove their rightness. The true value of UX lies in transforming the latter into the former. Pavel Samsonov 04/12

Insights and actions: what can we do to change UXR for the better?
UX research often attracts idealists and dreamers. Jenn Kuhns breaks down how we can turn our greater hopes for the field into a concrete reality. Jenn Kuhns 04/12

It’s not about the insight
Effective UX research hinges on adept stakeholder management, necessitating a deep understanding of their needs, concise yet compelling communication of insights, and continuous alignment with their goals for impactful implementation. Matthew J Samson 04/17

Creating research and design operations in a large organisation: what we learnt at the University of Southampton
University of Southampton's success in winning the insights empathy award underscores the strategic impact of prioritizing user research, highlighting its transformative role in product and service design. Ayala Gordon 04/17

The science of soundtracking your life, work, and UX research
Transform your user research sessions with music to create a relaxed atmosphere, fostering engagement and comfort for both researchers and participants alike. Diana Prokusheva 04/15

UX research recruiting tips from 19 UX experts [+ checklist]
Discover a list of expert UX recruiting tips to make recruiting easier, more effective and avoid falling into a trap of some of the most common recruiting mistakes. 04/12

Creative ways to playback research
How to use graphic recordings instead of reports to share research findings with participants. Aysha Brown 04/16

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🎥 Video of the Week.

AI in user research: a deep dive with Kate Moran.
Kate Moran, VP of Research at Nielsen Norman Group, discusses AI's potential in UX, emphasizing caution on quality, ethics, and human oversight. She recommends exploring AI tools but with awareness of limitations.YouTube 04/11

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🔉 Audio of the Week.

Researcher Burnout: What is it? How do you spot the warning signs? And what can you do about it?
Tina Lickova shares actionable insights on recognizing and addressing professional burnout in UX research, offering strategies for prevention and mitigation in a recent episode of the UX Research Geeks podcast. Spotify Apple 04/12

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🗓 UserCalendar: Events Next Week.

Why Now is The Time to Consciously Craft your Leadership Career (Free)
April 25 @ 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm EDT
Join Roberta Dombrowski, a research leader and career coach, for a specialized event aimed at assessing, exploring, and identifying patterns in leadership careers for those currently in or transitioning from roles like Research Manager, Director, or V.P., providing insights to craft a fulfilling career aligned with personal values. Learn more