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🗞 UX Research on a 0–1 product at Microsoft

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?

😌 Humans of User Research with Naoil Sbai

Naoil Sbai
Naoil Sbai

Tell us a little about yourself, Naoil.
I am Naoil Sbai - I come from Grenoble in France, nestled right in the heart of the Alps. It’s a dream spot for outdoor lovers and cheese fans! 

A while ago, I took a trip around Europe and fell for London. The city vibes, the thriving culture, and oh, the yummy Sunday roast! Now, with my French roots and Moroccan background, I consider London my third home. 

I’ve worked in UX for over a decade. I got my start in academia, and now, I lead research teams across different industries. I enjoy helping teams do their best and making sure research is part of the big picture in any company. Also, I am a certified coach.   

Life outside of work is equally important. You can often find me in East London at Hotpod doing yoga, spinning to some great music, or whipping up new recipes to enjoy with friends and family. As a nature-lover, I also take every opportunity to be outside, appreciating the great outdoors.

What sparked your passion for user experience research?
My journey into the world of UX began with a curiosity rooted in psychology. Initially, my aspiration was to work as a clinical psychologist, particularly inspired by a desire to work with children with autism. But as I delved deeper into the diverse branches of psychology, I realised I could solve practical problems extended far beyond this. Whether it was issues in education, the health sector, or the environment, the problem-solving component of psychology captivated me. 

During my master’s degree in psychology, I stumbled upon the world of human-centred design, and it was love at first sight! One of my key projects involved collaborating with the transport agency of Grenoble in an initiative targeted at reducing car usage. The goal was to alleviate air pollution by developing a user-friendly system to help residents plan their journeys more efficiently using alternative methods.  

As I delved deeper into this field, I found myself drawn towards technology. There’s something about solving problems on a grander scale. In fact, my PhD journey was sponsored by an Innovation and Design agency where I worked, amongst other things, on developing smart home applications for energy-self-sufficient buildings.  

Fast forward to today, and I find myself right where I want to be - building and empowering teams to create impact within organisations.

Describe your dream vacation spot for a creative research retreat.
Yoga and surf retreats in Morroco. There, I can trade in my laptop, and Google Meet calls for surfboards and sun salutations. This change of pace helps clear my head and boosts creativity. 

For UX work, balance is essential. We constantly flit from one context to another, diving deep into different worlds. We engage in conversations, we listen, we connect pieces and fill gaps. It’s a dynamic interchange, a dance between figuring out the complex and simplifying it. Sometimes, it feels like we never stop. 

That’s why finding harmony between my personal life and my work is important. I make a conscious effort to keep my mind receptive, to stay grounded among the daily bustle, and to listen actively to the world around me. For me, it’s not just about the work; it’s also about fostering an environment in which people can work together and understand each other’s points of view.

What would you like to talk about with other researchers and how can they find you?
For those wanting to connect, you can find me on LinkedIn. I am always up for discussing all things research, coaching and leadership. Let’s get connected!

Thank you, Naoil!

Spotlight > Articles > Video > Audio

📚 Articles of the Week.

Lessons from a UX researcher on a 0–1 product in a new team.
Embark on a UX researcher's journey into uncharted territory with Microsoft D365 Supply Chain Management's Demand Planning, as they share three invaluable insights, highlighting the importance of rapid learning, adaptability, and the nuanced challenges of transitioning from the physical B2C to the digital B2B realm in the dynamic world of AI-driven product development. Michael O'Sullivan 11/14

Why the best outcome might be "But we already knew that!"
Rediscover the human side of UX research by tapping into predictable user behaviors, drawing inspiration from the joy of validating assumptions—an essential approach to enhancing digital products. Janelle Ward 11/19

Approach research like a financial portfolio and watch your investments grow
Master the UX research balancing act—juggling short-term problem-solving with long-term strategy—by adopting a financial portfolio manager's approach for effective prioritization and resource allocation, ensuring impactful outcomes. Saeideh Bakhshi 11/19

Making the business case for rolling UX research
Elevate your UX research with Rolling Research programs—efficient, regularly scheduled sessions providing a steady flow of insights and agile design support, exemplified by AnswerLab's success in crafting a complex rapid program with over 20 studies in under a year. 11/19

GenAI adds tension to UXR—but can also bring opportunity
Amidst the AI storm in UX research, glean insights from 11 experts on navigating the tensions of pace, focus, and priorities—transform challenges into opportunities by shaping technology development, solidifying UX value, and balancing growth with ethics in this pivotal moment. Karen Eisenhauer 11/19

Remote UX research in unpredictable times: takeaways from early pandemic practices
Gain insights from Turkish UX researchers adapting to the pandemic's challenges, discovering valuable lessons on customizing methods for uncertainty, and receive practical recommendations for maintaining inclusiveness and rigor in both moderated and unmoderated remote research. Semih Danış, Gülşen Töre Yargın & Sedef Süner-Pla-Cerdà, 11/19

Enhancing research synthesis with AI: an experiential report
Navigate the collaborative realm of UX research with AI as a dynamic pilot and co-pilot duo, finding a balance that allows AI to expand exploration while maintaining control, ensuring a nuanced and speedy dive into subjects without ceding full autonomy to the copilot. Rob Boyett 11/17

Using ChatGPT to accelerate persona development in business applications.
Accelerate your persona development process in Microsoft Business Applications by integrating ChatGPT with rapid surveys, allowing for the creation of medium-fidelity personas in less time than traditional methods, offering a viable alternative for the initial stages of persona development, particularly beneficial when time and budget constraints are a factor. Michael O'Sullivan 11/01

Spotlight > Articles > Video > Audio

🎥 Video of the Week.

What UX research “maturity” looks like and how we get there
Explore UX research maturity with Megan Blocker's focus on data fluency, Fatimah Richmond's emphasis on leadership and 'Strategic Research Programs,' and Molly Stevens' query on relevance in the age of Generative AI—prompting reflections on the dynamic interplay between UX skills, tech, and people skills for team success. YouTube 11/09

Spotlight > Articles > Video > Audio

🔉 Audio of the Week.

Rethinking personas in UX with Jennifer Blatz
Explore the world of user personas with UX leader Jennifer Blatz, co-founder of UX Research and Strategy, as she introduces the Scenario Alignment Canvas—an innovative framework to enhance product teams' understanding of users and foster strategic approaches. Spotify 11/21

Happy Researching,