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Democratizing CX research: How our product team relies on human insights at every stage

Marieke McCloskey  |  April 26, 2018

At UserTesting, we supplement our data analytics with qualitative human insights to make decisions at every stage of our development process. We’ve been successful because we have organizational buy-in, our designers and product managers are motivated and empowered to do their own research, and we have an incredible research team comprised of UX Researchers and Data Scientists.

Benefit at each stage

Before we delve into how we do this, here’s why we think it’s important to #EmbraceHumanInsights by incorporating customer research at every stage and what types of activities we conduct.


To determine what to build next we supplement business strategy, usage analysis, and our instinct, with deep dive customer interviews. We choose the customers (or prospects) based on the feedback they’ve provided or because they are part of a market we’re interested in learning more about. These interviews (and sometimes short surveys) provide us with a prioritized list of the most important unmet needs, and even help inform us on the size of the market.

Design and build

When we have a clear understanding of the problem we’re trying to solve, we typically start by showing the target customer (of a new product) some concepts. These could be static images, landing pages, written descriptions, or marketing collateral. This helps us narrow down the feature set and value proposition. As we increase our understanding and fidelity of the solution, we continue to test prototypes for usability, understandability, and value. When we're close to launching a new product, we test the live code with customers and run Betas.

Launch and evaluation

Once a product has launched, we track usage and customer feedback. We always follow up with customers who provide feedback; but early on, we might spend more time in 1:1 follow-up interviews with customers to learn more. We might also do some usability testing of the live product with people who have and haven’t had a chance to use it. All of this leads to incremental improvements or feeds into the discovery phase of a new product we might build. For those interested in learning more, we’ve written a lot about the specific research activities to conduct at every stage.

Organizational buy-in

We have both support from our Product & Engineering leadership, as well as the Executive Team. (It helps that our CEO is the co-founder of UserTesting and started the company to make sure more people listened to their customers). Just like any company, there are lots of opinions. What we try to do is provide customer insights to support our decisions. And best of all, if we can show that we tested our assumptions and believe that something we thought would work won’t, people will listen.

Teams are set up for success

Our Product Managers and Designers are supported by our Product Insights team. We’d love to be able to staff this team with enough researchers that they could perform all the activities described above, but we can’t. And there’s actually a benefit to not having that many researchers: it keeps our Product Managers and Designers close to our customers. What we have done is try to make continuously talking to our customers or prospective customers easier, through:

  • Decision-making frameworks,
  • Tips and training on research methods,
  • Access to existing data,
  • Help recruiting participants, and
  • UserTesting (yes, we use our own product!).

We build better products

This process is only about a year old at UserTesting and we’re constantly improving it. But even in the past year we’ve launched more product improvements than any previous year and have changed the way we decide what to build next. Of course we’re focused on business outcomes, but in order to determine how to move the needle on a KPI we listen to customers to figure out what they are doing today that we could improve, we deeply understand what’s not working about our current solution, and we test our new products and features as they are getting designed and built. All of this has given us much more confidence to move forward with our ideas and saves us time and money by not having to redo work that missed the mark.

Want to learn more?

If you’d like to learn more about how UserTesting can help you understand your customers through on-demand human insights, contact us here.  

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About the author:

Marieke is the founder and leader of UserTesing’s Product Insights Team, overseeing the company’s Data Science and UX Research efforts. She's spent over 10 years helping companies grow through human-centered design. Formerly a consultant at Nielsen Norman Group, she’s trained thousands of professionals on the value of gaining a deep customer understanding.