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🗞 Building a User Research Practice from Scratch

Jan Ahrend
Jan Ahrend
5 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 Fatimah Richmond

Fatimah Richmond
Fatimah Richmond

Tell us a little about yourself, Fatimah.
My name is Fatimah, pronounced fuh-tee-muh. Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, my fascination with the intersection of humans and computers began early on. During my high school and college years, as I learned more about Computer Science, my interest deepened in the broader implications of technology and design on society. It was a good friend who introduced me to the field of Human-Computer Interaction, sparking a passion that felt like a match made in heaven! My academic journey took me through studies in Computer Science, Applied Anthropology, Urban Ethnography, and Human Factors at Tuskegee University, San Jose State University, and UC Berkeley. Eighteen years ago, I moved to California, initially working as a Systems Analyst in Engineering Operations before transitioning into a 15-year career as a UX Researcher. I currently work at Google, in UX research and research programs. I reside in San Jose, CA with my husband and son, we enjoy family road trips exploring the natural beauty of California. I also enjoy creative writing and just published my first poetry book “Wildflowers: a lifetime of longing” inspired by the beautiful central coast.

In your opinion, what's a pressing challenge in today's user research landscape?
The UX research field is at a crossroads, the challenge now is not to gather data to inform just design but to leverage that data in making strategic decisions across an entire organization, beyond design and product. This is especially challenging in the new world of emerging technology. We’ve made great strides in UXR: an increased demand for UX research and efficient research execution. However, looking forward to the next 5-10 years, it's imperative for UX research leaders and operations to critically reassess their assumptions about UXR and workplace practices. This reassessment should start from the top, instead of on the ground examining only the practitioner. By “studying up” and re-evaluating our practices at the leadership level,  it ensures we’re applying the same critical, innovative thinking of our products, onto our UXR practice. This also fosters new, innovative ideas that enable the entire research lifecycle: from adequate infrastructure to the cross functional support needed to activate research. It’s more than informing design execution, there’s room to communicate this more effectively at the decision making table. Emerging technologies make for an exciting time in our field as researchers, hopefully it’ll also force the critical growth and evolution of our discipline.

If you were a superhero, what UX Research power would you have and how would you use it?
I mentioned that outside of work I enjoy creative writing so this is a good one because I love stretching the imagination. Instead of a traditional superheroine image with warrior gear, I would be a futuristic fairy with a magical power called “Insights Illumination” - it’s more magic than power. I would use Insights Illumination to distill the essence of data into radiant understanding. My crown, a diadem of woven circuits and blooming flowers, symbolizes the unity of nature and technology. *cue epic movie trailer voice* In a world where data flows like rivers through mystical forests, and organizations teeter on the brink of the unknown, magical fairies use their insight illumination to weave together billions of user stories with the wisdom of ages and the strength of conviction. They embark on a quest to ignite insights into a vividly lit path of visionary actions and enlightened decisions. #InsightsIgnite

It’s 2023, you can’t end a story about futuristic, magical research fairies without an AI generated image:

How can people find you?
Work brain:
Write brain:

Thank you, Fatimah!

Spotlight > Articles > Video > Audio

📚 Articles of the Week.

Building a user research practice from scratch at Rubrik
Building a user research practice from scratch in Enterprise UX requires tackling challenges like recruiting target personas, overcoming limited sample sizes, and streamlining manual processes; this journey shares crucial insights for those venturing into this realm. Priyanka Raju 12/01

Defining and scaling user research: unveiling the power of operations thinking and the 8 Ps framework
Discover Operations Thinking, a game-changing approach outlined in a handbook for scaling research operations, offering actionable insights to boost your team's capabilities in user-centric product development. Peter Fossick 08/31

A simple re-framing of the Kano Model to prioritise AI-powered features
Adapt the Kano Model for AI features, recognizing that users may undervalue cutting-edge technology; understanding these features as 'attractive/delighters' prompts a reevaluation of investment strategies for product teams. Michael O'Sullivan 11/27

How to run surveys at every stage of the design cycle
Most UX surveys are administered during the final Listen phase of the design cycle. However, there are many different types of surveys, which can be used effectively throughout the design cycle. Maddie Brown 11/24

Beyond user interviews | Listen to their stories
As a designer and researcher, I have connected with hundreds of users across industries, and this article is the amalgamation of all those experiences. Pranjali Pachpute 11/26

Desk research: the essential guide for designers & UX researchers
Despite its potential to provide valuable insights and help designers gain stakeholder confidence, desk research is often overlooked and undervalued. It can be a critical starting point for any design process. Sameer Behere 11/26

🎥 Video of the Week.

Tracking UX progress with metrics (feat. Dr. John Pagonis, UXMC)
Dr. John Pagonis, UX Master Certified, distills key insights on measuring UX improvements and interpreting quantitative data, providing actionable guidance for navigating the challenges of assessing user experience. YouTube 12/02

Spotlight > Articles > Video > Audio

🔉 Audio of the Week.

Should you leave Academia? advice for researchers from a Former Professor
A former history professor turned UX researcher explains his decision to leave academia for the private sector. Spotify Apple 11/30

Happy Researching,