42. Celeste Ridlen of Robinhood

For this episode of Dollars to Donuts I had a wonderful conversation with Celeste Ridlen, the Head of Research at Robinhood This is a fundamental leadership-y thing where no two people are going to do that same leadership role the same way. You’re never going to do them the same way as somebody else. And […]

41. Carol Rossi returns

In this episode of Dollars to Donuts Carol Rossi returns to update us on the last 9 years. She’s now a consultant who focuses on user research leadership. I’m happy making the contributions that I’m making, even though it’s hard to directly measure impact. I’m hearing from people that they’re finding value from the work […]

40. Gregg Bernstein returns

In this episode of Dollars to Donuts I welcome Gregg Bernstein back for a follow-up episode. He’s now Director of User Research at Hearst Magazines. The thing that I always come back to is that there is no one way to do research. And I also think there’s no one way to do research leadership. […]

39. Mani Pande of Cisco Meraki

This episode of Dollars to Donuts features my interview with Mani Pande, Director and Head of Research at Cisco Meraki. We used to do these immersion events where we would bring everybody who worked on, who was our stakeholder, to come and listen and talk to our customers. And we would do these focus groups, […]

38. Vanessa Whatley of Twilio

This episode of Dollars to Donuts features my interview with Vanessa Whatley, UX Director – Research & Documentation at Twilio. For many years, I had anxiety and regret around not starting my career in the field that I’m in sooner because I felt very very lost stumbling through all of the different fields and roles, […]

37. Nizar Saqqar of Snowflake

This episode of Dollars to Donuts features my interview with Nizar Saqqar, the Head of User Research at Snowflake. For a domain that takes a lot of pride and empathy and how we can represent the end user, there’s a component that sometimes gets overshadowed, which is the empathy with cross-functional partners. With every domain, […]

36. Noam Segal returns

This episode of Dollars to Donuts features a return visit from Noam Segal, now a Senior Research Manager at Upwork. AI will help us see opportunities for research that we haven’t seen. It will help us settle a bunch of debates that maybe we’ve struggled to settle before. It will help us to connect with […]

New episodes! New book!

Today we’ve got a quick program note about new episodes of Dollars to Donuts, an announcement about my new book, and an interview with Steve Portigal. Show Links Interviewing Users (2nd Edition) Steve on The Rosenfeld Review Podcast “How-to with John Wilson” on HBO

35. Danielle Smith of Express Scripts

This episode of Dollars to Donuts features my interview with Danielle Smith, the Senior Director of Experience Research & Accessibility at Express Scripts. Something that I’ve really changed the way I thought about since I’ve been at Express Scripts — we are in the healthcare ecosystem. So the experiences we deliver, if they are not […]

34. Amber Lindholm of Duo Security

This episode of Dollars to Donuts features my interview with Amber Lindholm, the Head of User Research at Duo Security. That’s the sign of a really good researcher – it can never be just about research for research’s sake, like this is a cool project, this is a neat thing, I really wanna go in-depth […]

33. Julia Nelson of MOO

This episode of Dollars to Donuts features my interview with Julia Nelson, the Director Of Research at MOO. All researchers say to some degree that they don’t necessarily have a traditional background when they come into the research field. But I think there’s a lot of strength in welcoming people with different perspectives onto your […]

32. Chris Kovel of First Abu Dhabi Bank

This episode of Dollars to Donuts features my interview with Chris Kovel, the Head Of Research at First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB). I look at needs as proximate needs and ultimate needs. An ultimate need is why the product exists in the first place. And then the proximate need is the experience of using that […]

31. Noam Segal of Wealthfront

This episode of Dollars to Donuts features my interview with Noam Segal, the Director of Research at Wealthfront. Everyone from PMs to designers, researchers, obviously, engineers, data scientists, marketing, we’re all trying to to understand our clients, we’re all taking part in that process in some way, shape or form. And so I view my […]

30. Laith Ulaby of Udemy

In this episode of Dollars to Donuts I speak with Laith Ullaby, the Head of Research at Udemy. I’m really into the idea of questioning what we do. That can be the methods and that conversation about getting out of our comfort zone. It can be thinking about our relationships with stakeholders and trying to […]

29. Kathryn Campbell of Ticketmaster

In this episode of Dollars to Donuts I speak with Kathryn Campbell, the Director of Research & Insights at Ticketmaster. Whenever there is availability of somebody that might normally work on the marketplace side, they might tag team on an account manager project and that helps to inform them about that product. It gives them […]

28. Laura Faulkner of Rackspace

In this episode of Dollars to Donuts I speak with Laura Faulkner, the Head of Research at Rackspace. I’ve never just sat and done just what I was asked to do. I’m always looking for something new, something else. It’s probably just part of how I’m built but it’s also a conscious choice of, of […]

27. Colin MacArthur of the Canadian Digital Service

In this episode of Dollars to Donuts I chat with Colin MacArthur, the Head of Design Research at the Canadian Digital Service. We talk about bureaucracy hacking, spreading the gospel of research throughout government, and embedding researchers in complex domains. Often the idiosyncrasies in people’s research and the sort of surprises that don’t fit within […]

26. Jesse Zolna of ADP

In this episode of Dollars to Donuts I talk to Jesse Zolna, who leads the User Experience Research Team at ADP’s Innovation Lab. We talk about driving change as an experiment, exposing the organization to how customers solve problems, and engineering psychology. One of the challenges we face is getting “credit” for the work that […]

25. Juliette Melton of The New York Times

In this episode of Dollars to Donuts I speak with Juliette Melton, Director of User Insight and Strategy at The New York Times. We talk about updating the old “design research” label, user research in a journalism culture, and the role of coaching. I think that researchers can bring a kind of brightness into a […]

24. Ashley Graham of IBM

This episode of Dollars to Donuts features my conversation with Ashley Graham, a design research leader at IBM. We discuss synthesis as a collaborative, co-located activity, being mission-driven, and building a process that addresses complexity. When I look at the wonderful research community, I don’t see a ton of people that look like me and […]

23. Michele Marut of CBRE Build

In this episode of Dollars to Donuts I speak with Michele Marut who leads user experience research at CBRE Build. We discuss the curation of research repositories, using research to go beyond fixing things, and building processes and tools that can be used by researchers and people who do research. The philosophy is that the […]

22. Vicki Tollemache of Grubhub

In this episode of Dollars to Donuts I speak with Vicki Tollemache, the Director of UX Research at Grubhub. We discuss how to manage incoming research requests, running a weekly research session for testing designs, and why candidates should come into job interviews with a point of view about the company’s product. To me, researchers […]

21. Ruth Ellison of Digital Transformation Agency

In this episode of Dollars to Donuts I speak with Ruth Ellison, Head of User Research at DTA, the Digital Transformation Agency in Australia. We discuss the challenges of user research – and digital product development – in government, embedding researchers into product teams but maintaining a guild model to connect them, and how research […]

20. Leisa Reichelt of Atlassian (Part 2)

This episode of Dollars to Donuts is part 2 of my conversation with Leisa Reichelt of Atlassian. If you haven’t listened to part 1 yet, you can find it here. We talk about corporate versus government work, scaling research, and changing organizational DNA. I love research, I love the way that we learn things and […]

19. Leisa Reichelt of Atlassian (Part 1)

This episode of Dollars to Donuts features part 1 of my two-part conversation with Leisa Reichelt of Atlassian. We talk about educating the organization to do user research better, the limitations of horizontal products, and the tension between “good” and “bad” research. If you’re working on a product that has got some more foundational issues […]

18. Kathleen Asjes of Schibsted Media

This episode of Dollars to Donuts features Kathleen Asjes of Schibsted Media. In our conversation, we talk about what happens when research need exceeds resources, the importance of keeping the knowledge inside the organization, and the benefit of diversity in a research team. It’s not so much about which university do I go to and […]

17. Tomer Sharon of Goldman Sachs

In this episode of Dollars to Donuts, I talk with Tomer Sharon, the Head of User Research and Metrics at Goldman Sachs. We talk about how to assess potential hires for user research positions, infrastructure for capturing and searching a body of data, and developing a practice inside a willing, yet large, organization. Some parts […]

16. Marianne Berkovich of Glooko

In this episode of Dollars to Donuts, I speak with Marianne Berkovich, Head of User Research & Consumer Insights at Glooko. We talk about doing research through leadership changes, setting up opportunities for self-critique, and how to build empathy, especially in health technology, by experiencing some aspect of the condition and treatment yourself. It really […]

15. Leanne Waldal of New Relic

Welcome back to Dollars to Donuts. This episode features Leanne Waldal, Senior Director of Product Research at New Relic. We talk about establishing research in an organization for the first time, building up a diverse set of research collaborators, and the pleasure of taking on certain types of challenges. I’ve seen hopeful examples in startups […]

14. Monal Chokshi of Lyft

In the final episode of the season I speak with Monal Chokshi, Head of User Experience Research at Lyft. We discuss traditional paths to a user research career, creating routines for meeting different types of users, and the emergence of leadership roles in user research.

13. Kate Lawrence of EBSCO

In this episode I speak with Kate Lawrence, Vice President of User Research at EBSCO Information Services. Our conversation covers where to place user research in the organization, emotions in fieldwork, and empowering others to advocate for information literacy.

12. Pree Kolari of eBay

This episode features Pree Kolari, the Senior Director of Design Strategy and Research at eBay. We talk about the career arc of a researcher, having impact on the product, and breaking down organizational walls.

11. Gabe Trionfi of Pinterest

This episode features Gabe Trionfi, the Manager of Research at Pinterest. We discuss the evolution of user research, collaboration between disciplines and the journey versus the destination.

10. Elizabeth Kell of Comcast

In this episode I chat with Elizabeth Kell, the Senior Director of User Research at Comcast. We talk about the growth of Comcast’s user research practice, essential soft skills for research candidates, and putting a human face on the people that use your products.

9. Kavita Appachu of Kelley Blue Book

Today I chat with Kavita Appachu, the Senior Manager of User Experience Research at Kelley Blue Book. She describes the different roles she’s had in different organizations, moving from design to research, and explains the change effort underway at Kelley Blue Book.

8. Aviva Rosenstein of DocuSign

In today’s episode I speak with Aviva Rosenstein, the Senior Manager of User Experience Research at DocuSign. We explore how to make all types of research actionable, the benefit of doing your own recruiting, and the evolution from building a usability lab to having an in-house research capability.

7. Judd Antin of Airbnb

We kick off the second season with Judd Antin, the Director of Experience Research at Airbnb. Judd and I speak about their model for embedding talented generalists with product teams, skill-sharing among researchers, and just what exactly makes research “sexy.”

6. Carol Rossi of Edmunds.com

Today’s guest is Carol Rossi. She’s the Senior Director of UX Research at Edmunds.com. In our conversation, we discuss her small-but-mighty team, Edmund.com’s collaborative workplace culture, and the personal driver of “doing good.”

5. Kerry McAleer-Forte of Sears Holdings

Today’s guest is Kerry McAleer-Forte, the Director of User Experience Research for Sears Holdings. We discuss how researchers need to think like storytellers, getting at the underlying need behind a research request, and the risk of using research to make recommendations.

4. Nancy Frishberg of Financial Engines

My guest today is Nancy Frishberg, the manager of user research at Financial Engines. We discuss recruiting participants in an enterprise setting (where users are customers of your customers), finding the generative in the evaluative and how to think about collaborative workspace as entirely separate from reporting structure.

3. Frances Karandy of Citrix

Today’s guest is Frances Karandy, a senior manager within the Customer Experience Group at Citrix. We discuss doing product-focused research in a company with a large number of products, what to look for when hiring researchers, and how to select projects that not only support the business but also help team members to develop.

2. Alex Wright of Etsy

Today’s guest is Alex Wright, who is the director of research at Etsy. We discuss the partnership between qualitative and quantitative research at Etsy and how his background in journalism helps him with the storytelling aspects of managing the research function.

1. Gregg Bernstein of MailChimp

Welcome to the debut episode of Dollars to Donuts. Today’s guest is Gregg Bernstein, who manages customer research at MailChimp. We discuss how MailChimp uses research to uncover new product opportunities, how the right research artifacts can best provide value to different internal audiences and how humility is an essential soft skill for successful researchers.

Check out Steve on the NN/g UX podcast

Thanks to Therese Fessenden having me on the NN/g UX Podcast (in support of launching the second edition of Interviewing Users).

Our 45-minute conversation is on YouTube (and embedded below), and Spotify (and embedded below).

38. User Interviews (feat. Steve Portigal, Research Consultant and Author)





Topics/outline

  • What is a User Interview
  • Steve’s Journey
  • Why to Choose User Interviews
  • When to Choose Other Methods
  • What has Changed in User Interviews
  • Remote User Interviews
  • What has NOT Changed in User Interviews
  • Improving User Interview Skills

One of the things I do like about interviews is that it’s a method that changes the researcher — it changes their understanding of people, of the problem, of the opportunity and it does that in this experiential kind of immersive way. If I’m going to talk to a number of people over the course of a week, I’m going to be scratching my chin on the dog walk or thinking in the shower. It gives you a lot of experiential stuff to chew on. The conclusions that you take are not obvious, they’re not in the interview. For me it’s a very rewarding experience to be pushed into this sustained creative state as you’re thinking about the people that you met and how they talked and how they how they view their work and how they view their lives because it even if it doesn’t directly go there; It goes there indirectly. You start to understand something about other kinds of people so it’s really rich and rewarding which is nice on its own I guess but it’s a really powerful way to stimulate thinking about what it is that we’re trying to answer. I get a lot out of it with the data and I get a lot out of it with the experience.

Listen to Steve on the UI Breakfast podcast

I had a great conversation with Jane Portman about interviewing users (to coincide with the launch of the second edition of Interviewing Users).

Do listen to our fifty-minute conversation on the episode page, embedded below, and at Google, and Apple.


I think some of our fear is that that are questions are kind of probing and confrontational, inappropriate, but you can even just acknowledge that thing that someone said right now, you can say “divorce.” The person will say “Yes, yes, yes.” If you build this connection with them and so you have to make an ethical decision because we have a lot of power to ask about a lot of stuff. I like to go into that a little bit because I think when they bring it up…I don’t want to hear about their divorce if I’m not working on a relationship thing I want to respect their privacy. But they’re bringing it up as something that is relevant.

I talked with someone about digital photography and they brought up their relationship ending and it was actually was relevant because it was about trying to document their new baby and share those images with relatives who weren’t around when the family structure was shifting. I didn’t ask about the relationship and they gave more information than I needed to hear, but they needed to share something and I was able to hear it, but not push into something that was not appropriate. I wanted them to feel heard and accepted but I also didn’t want to push into it. But it was relevant context to we’re trying to understand, what they were trying to share about doing the work or the process of the tools.

If someone brings it up they’re testing to see “Do you want to hear about it? Is it ok to share?”

Listen to Steve on Understanding Users: The UX Podcast

In promoting the second edition of Interviewing Users, I spoke with Mike Green on Understanding Users: The UX Podcast.

Go check out one-hour conversation (and a transcript) on the episode page, embedded below, and at Spotify, and Apple.


Highlights

  • 05:20 – How user research has evolved in the last 10 years and the genesis of the second edition of the book
  • 11:00 – Remote research and the impact of COVID
  • 17:22 – Developments in user research tooling
  • 23:40 – Emergence of ResearchOps as a career path
  • 31:40 – Navigating challenges in running user research
  • 39:37 – Steve’s own key takeaway from the book
  • 45:11 – Feedback loops and ways of building rapport with users
  • 50:35 – The joy and privilege of researching and learning
  • 57:25 – The impact of AI on research as a discipline

I’m excited for Advancing Research 2024



More info and registration here.

I’ve found this to be a unique event, both in the depth of talks and the breadth of experiences, perspectives and angles on the crucial topics within user research. I’m honored to be part of this event – in person in New York (and with a remote option), later this month – and I hope to see you there!

Learn interviewing techniques from Steve in New York in March

As part of the Advancing Research conference, I’ll be teaching a full-day workshop (registration info here) on March 27th.

Interviewing is undeniably one of the most valuable and commonly used user research tools. Yet it’s often not used well, because:

  • It’s based on skills we think we have (talking and even listening)
  • It’s not taught or reflected on, and
  • People tend to “wing it” rather than develop their skills.

Results may be inaccurate or reveal nothing new, suggesting the wrong design or business responses, or they may miss the crucial nuance that points to innovative breakthrough opportunities.

In this highly interactive workshop, Steve Portigal will teach you crucial techniques for successful user research, and give you an opportunity to practice and reflect in a supportive environment.

Target Audience
This workshop will be valuable to anyone who is using user research to inform the decisions their organizations make. This includes both people with “researcher” in their job description, as well as designers, engineers, and product managers (also known as “People Who Do Research.”) If you’re new to interviewing people, you’ll learn the fundamentals; if you’ve been doing research for a while you’ll benefit from the opportunity to reflect on and improve your own practice.

It’s been a few years since I’ve done an in-person workshop open the public on the east coast. Please pass this along to your friends and colleagues who might benefit!

Join me on March 13th for a UXPA webinar “We Already Knew That”

Join for me on March 13th for a UXPA International webinar.

We Already Knew That: When Research Findings Fail to Land

Sometimes when we share research findings, we hear back, “We already knew that.” In this talk, I’ll examine why that happens, and what we can do about it. Sometimes, it’s a cognitive bias, called hindsight bias and also known as the “knew it all along” phenomenon. But there are other causes and we can adjust our approach to research to try and limit this all-too-common challenge.

Register here; all webinars listed here.

Listen to Steve on the Product Manager podcast

As part of the ‘book tour’ for second edition of Interviewing Users, I was interviewed by Hannah Clark for the Product Manager podcast, for an episode titled “How To Master User Interviews To Build More Lovable Products.

You can find our 40-minute conversation (and a transcript) on the episode page and also embedded below.


I like Hannah’s preface:

Before we dive in, I just want to say that what you’re about to hear was the most meta conversation we’ve ever had on this show. I’m not talking about Meta the company. I’m talking like this was the Inception edition of the Product Manager Podcast. In this episode, I got to interview a user interview expert about how to interview better while simultaneously getting better at interviewing in real time.

Yes, I am still excited about it. And not because of how helpful it was for me, but because the next half hour or so is going to make a noticeable difference in how you conduct user interviews.

Highlights

Structuring Questions for Insightful Answers

  • The importance of structuring questions before silence is discussed, with an emphasis on the impact of question formulation on user feedback.
  • Steve suggests having various ways to ask a question in the interviewer’s toolkit, such as comparisons, specific examples, and projections into the future.
  • Examples of question structures are provided, including comparing across time, asking about colleagues or bosses, exploring exceptions, and delving into childhood influences.
  • The goal is to triangulate around the interviewee’s mental models, helping them articulate the underlying reasons behind their behaviors.
  • Interviewers should adapt their questioning techniques to uncover deeper insights, recognizing that individuals might not be consciously aware of the roots of their choices.

Addressing Bias in User Interviews

  • Steve encourages self-forgiveness, recognizing that cognitive biases are inherent in human thinking.
  • Confirmation bias, where interviewers hear what they expect, is highlighted as a challenge. Steve suggests pre-research discussions about assumptions to make biases explicit.
  • Steve shares a personal story of overcoming his own ageism bias during an interview with a small business founder. He realizes his preconceived judgments were incorrect, leading to self-reflection and redirecting questions.
  • Steve emphasizes the importance of recognizing and addressing biases during interviews, with the goal of understanding participants more deeply.
About Steve