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Startup UX Research

[fa icon="calendar'] Feb 28, 2017 11:14:26 AM / by Rachel Decker posted in user research

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A little over a year ago, I started as the first and only UX researcher at a cybersecurity startup called Barkly. I came on board part-time in January 2016 when the company was around 25 people and the product wasn’t even yet in beta, let alone launched. It’s unusual for a startup to care at all about having a full-time researcher and I was intrigued that they wanted to hire my position on the team.

Without a ton of users to research would I really have anything to do?

Not everyone had worked with a researcher before, and I was brought to Barkly by a designer I used to work with at HubSpot. He and I knew how things were done at HubSpot, but an early stage startup doesn’t have the same needs or challenges as a global public company. I found things that worked at HubSpot didn’t work at Barkly, and vice versa. I also realized I had the opportunity to build the research role the way I wanted, not swimming upstream against ingrained practices that are hard to undo.

And even though we had no product, my fears were unfounded because there was plenty for me to do. Fast forward a year later, we have grown as a company, released a product, and learned a ton along the way. A lot happened in the last 13 months. I had a hand in getting us there and wanted to share what I did in my first year as the only researcher at a startup.

1. Get to know the team

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Start a Beta Program (With Nothing to Test)

[fa icon="calendar'] Mar 22, 2016 8:30:00 AM / by Molly Wolfberg posted in Usability Testing, Customer Happiness, Beta Testing

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When I started at my new job a year and a half ago, one of the first things I did was start a beta program. This seems relatively normal for a user researcher, except for one little thing: we didn’t have the ability to turn on beta features in our product.

You heard me. I started a beta program, with nothing to beta test. For almost a year.

At first, this seemed a bit backwards. Why have a big group of engaged, super users when you can’t even give them new things to test? There are a few reasons I did this, and it ended up being hugely successful.


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How to run a Design Studio

[fa icon="calendar'] Nov 30, 2015 12:30:00 PM / by Rachel Decker posted in UX Design

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When trying to design a new solution to a problem, stakeholders don’t always agree. In fact, do they ever all agree? It can be hard to get a bunch of smart people in a room and have them all converge on one solution without any argument.

Instead, harness this energy with a collaborative sketching technique called a design studio. A design studio brings teammates together to create designs through sketching, feedback, and iteration. It requires a few hours, a group of co-workers, a meaty problem, and some sketching. (I'll explain the exact process below.)

Design studios help you create designs, explore problems, and unify stakeholders in a matter of hours. It’s a win-win-win.

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A Step-by-Step Guide to Usability Testing

[fa icon="calendar'] Nov 4, 2015 12:30:00 PM / by Rachel Decker posted in Usability Testing

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This article was originally posted on the AppCues Academy.

It’s hard to get something right the first time you try it. The New England Patriots had four grueling decades before they won three Super Bowls in four years. Morgan Freeman didn’t land his first major Hollywood role until he was 52.

And this is especially true with software. It’s rare that a new feature is perfect after its first build. And when things go wrong, they can go very wrong. Launching a bad product experience can mean hordes of upset customers, lost revenue and, of course, a waste of your team’s most precious resource: time.

So to mitigate these risks, we turn to user testing. User testing provides us the customer insights needed to ensure our next release isn’t a total flop. And whenever you are designing a new user onboarding flow, you’ll want to incorporate extensive user testing into the scope of the project. Testing your onboarding experience with real users before you release it will save you tons of time, and help eliminate confusion that makes users bounce.

Don’t have a UX researcher on your team? Not to worry. You don’t have to be a designer, developer or UX researcher to get great customer insights from user testing. But you do need to know how to ask the right people the right questions to come to important design conclusions. Here’s everything you need to know about how to run an effective user test (and how one particular user test helped HubSpot achieve a 400% lift in one of our KPIs).

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Getting Quick User Feedback: The Easiest Usability Test You'll Ever Do

[fa icon="calendar'] Apr 7, 2015 9:41:00 AM / by Molly Wolfberg posted in Usability Testing, ux, user research

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We’ve all been there. You need to get user feedback on five different things this week before a big launch. You barely have enough time to schedule the usability tests, let alone moderate them. Using a 3rd party isn’t an option.

Sometimes you don’t need 30 minutes to walk through a mockup with a user; sometimes you can’t find a time you both are free; and sometimes you just need a get hacky. Enter: the easiest usability test ever. 

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7 Ways to Get Better Data During Remote Usability Testing

[fa icon="calendar'] Mar 11, 2015 1:52:18 PM / by Rachel Decker posted in Usability Testing

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The last time a friend told you a story, you probably were able to relate to their experience and feelings. Maybe that’s how you two became friends in the first place -- because you got each other. Understanding and relating your emotions to others is called empathy, and it’s an essential part of any relationship.

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A more diverse UX Sisters

[fa icon="calendar'] Dec 3, 2014 5:00:00 AM / by Molly Wolfberg

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All good (heck - great, amazing, irreplaceable) things must come to an end. This even applies to the UXSisters’ reign at HubSpot. Well, not entirely.


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[User Testing Tips] Using Real Data in Mockups

[fa icon="calendar'] Oct 16, 2014 10:50:00 AM / by Molly Wolfberg posted in Usability Testing, ux, UX Design

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Us user researchers love to say, “test often, test always.” It’s rarely “too early” to test a design, whether it be scribbled on a napkin or a clickable mockup. If you’re ever looking to test an early stage mockup, we’ve seen huge success with including your users’ real data in the mockup. This gives you the opportunity to not only test something without having it built out and still make it easy on the user to complete the usability study. 

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How to Remotely Test Your Mobile App

[fa icon="calendar'] Aug 11, 2014 10:06:00 AM / by Molly Wolfberg posted in Usability Testing, ux, Software Development

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This was originally posted on the HubSpot Development blog.

The HubSpot usability team loves to get feedback on apps we’re developing to make our customer's marketing lives easier. But testing in the mobile environment presents a unique set of challenges. We recently devised a system that allows us to get much more insight from our testing sprints with real mobile users, using real apps in their natural environment -- in situ -- and discovered a whole new set of questions we were able to ask as a result.


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Usability vs Beta Testing (The What & When)

[fa icon="calendar'] Aug 7, 2014 1:51:00 PM / by Rachel Decker posted in Usability Testing, Beta Testing

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If you work in software and product development (or are stumbling around a UX blog…) you’ve probably heard about usability testing and beta testing. They sound kind of useful and buzzwordy, but what do they actually mean? Are they even different from each other in any meaningful way? I’m asked this question quite often, so I wanted to define what each one is -- what each one is not -- in the life of a UX researcher at a SaaS software company.


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