Discovering customer stories through user research

Search for and tell stories about people, not just data.

Two months ago, I was invited by one of Jetpack’s engineering teams to join their week-long team meetup in Madrid, Spain. Most of our days involved the usual talks and workshops around the work we do day-to-day, but we dedicated one of our meetup days to something new for us: meeting with members of the local WordPress Meetup group for one-on-one interviews and a usability testing session.

The Meetup group members we met with included developer-Builder types, non-developer website managers, aspiring small business owners, and online store builders. They ranged in age, gender, profession, and backgrounds, but they all overlapped in their use of WordPress as a tool for accomplishing their individual goals.

We paired Jetpack engineers—who rarely get a chance to interact directly with customers outside their annual support rotation—with each of the Meetup group members so they could hear their stories: who they are, what they do, why they do it, and what tools they use to accomplish their goals. We also prepared a usability testing activity where we gave the Meetup group members a task to perform while their engineer buddy observed.

Engineers are primed to solve problems as quickly as possible. During our session, they were not allowed to intervene—they had to silently observe every action our Meetup group members performed during usability testing. This way, even though they were itching to help out at every roadblock, they shared every moment of joy and every moment of pain our Meetup group members experienced during the testing session.

At the end of our interview and testing session, our engineers emerged with a newfound appreciation of our customers’ experiences—both positive and negative. The lessons learned here were less about feature usage and more about the people who actually use our products—what their goals were, and what they needed in order to achieve them.

Every user experience has an underlying story waiting to be discovered. Hearing firsthand from the actual people who use your products can help paint a clearer picture of their needs—and whether your product is fulfilling them.

image credit: Nick Morrison on Unsplash


By Joan Rho