A Q&A session with Natalia Mroczek, UX Researcher at Laboratorium User Experience
We are very fortunate to be joined today by Natalia Mroczek, UX Researcher at Laboratorium User Experience.
She is also working at Łukasiewicz – Poznań Institute of Technology. It is a new, multidisciplinary scientific and research unit, operating on an international scale.
Read about her story of getting into a UX adventure as a UX intern. Learn how Natalia combines different kinds of methods to get the best results and the best understanding of the user.
Hello and welcome Natalia!
In which team do you work?
I work in the UX team along with other UX specialists: designers and writers. My team is a part of a department that carries out various IT projects related to the digital economy so I also work with people outside of my team, like product owners, analysts, and sometimes developers.
What is your role in the team?
I’m a UX researcher who also takes care of research operations. I design, organize and conduct user research according to the project schedule or my team’s current needs. I’m also responsible for recruiting participants, either with the help of an external agency or by direct contact with them. So far I’ve been mostly doing usability tests and user interviews but I’ve also been learning web analytics for a while and I’m planning to use more of it in the future.
What is your working environment like?
My team usually works from home and so do I, so we communicate online. We have 2 regular online meetings every day when we discuss our current tasks, progress, and possible problems. We have flexible work hours so we can start working at any hour between 6 and 9 a.m… Most meetings are always scheduled between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. so that’s when we all have to be available online. We still have an office though. So now and then we make plans for the whole team to come to the office on the same day. So we can see each other and work together on tasks that are better done offline.
How did your adventure with UX begin?
It began back when I was still a student at university. That’s when I first heard of UX since we had some classes and workshops where we learned what UX is and what the process of designing an application looks like. Then I got a UX internship at a company that needed me to help with their user research. That’s when I got some real experience with research. I got to participate in usability tests and workshops as an observer and help my colleague with reporting the research results.
What has been your greatest success?
So far I’d say it was conducting usability tests with interview-based tasks. It was a challenge because I didn’t have planned task instructions. So the success of the research depended on me asking the right questions during the interview. And then thinking of an accurate task on the spot. I wanted to try this method because I thought it’d be more engaging for the users to perform tasks that they’d be interested in. It was a bit of an experiment.. So I wasn’t sure how it would go but I think it turned out well and gave some interesting results. It also gave me more confidence to try out new research methods.
What project do you remember from which you had big learning?
The first project I did at my current company was a website with information and online services related to running your own business. The user groups in this project were very specific and I couldn’t recruit just anyone to participate in usability tests. So I learned how important it is to make very clear requirements for research participants, especially when they’re recruited by an external company. Another thing I learned from this is how the different user groups can have very different points of view. Sometimes it can cause their needs to even be mutually exclusive and it’s a real challenge to design a website that’ll be useful for all of them.
How do you create a great user experience?
By listening to the users and observing their behavior. As a researcher, I believe that user research is essential to creating good UX. First of all, we need to understand the user needs to even begin designing a useful system. Then we need to verify our ideas to make sure we understood those needs well and we’re going in the right direction. If we don’t include users in the process, there’s a risk we’re going to end up with a system nobody wants to use.
What methods do you use to get the user’s perspective and why?
I think it’s best to combine different kinds of methods to get the best results and the best understanding of the user. In-depth interviews and moderated usability tests are helpful. Because they allow you to interact with the users and ask them about what interests you about the way they think or behave. Based on the interviews we also create user personas to help us empathize with the users. On the other hand, unmoderated tests and user session recordings are a great way to analyze the users’ natural behavior, and how they act when they’re alone. Especially the user session recordings can show you what users do when they want to achieve their real goals, which also helps me understand their way of thinking.
How do you most enjoy solving project problems?
I believe communication is the key to solving most problems. I try to communicate any issues I anticipate early on, so we have enough time to think of a solution. Of course, I also do my best to explain my point of view clearly and to understand the other person’s point of view. We have different roles in projects and sometimes that means the goals we want to achieve are also different. I believe these different goals are often the reason for project problems. That’s why it’s important to me to make sure we all understand each other’s needs.
What is your single best piece of advice for a new UX researcher?
I think if you want to be a good UX researcher you should try to understand people first. Don’t focus only on learning UX rules, spend some time reading about psychology and anthropology. Understanding the differences between people and the reasons behind them will help you develop more empathy. And keep an open mind when you’re conducting your research.