Human Tech with Dr. Susan Weinschenk: How human insights drive customer-first design

By Jennifer DeRome | March 2, 2018
Human Tech with Dr. Susan Weinschenk: How human insights drive customer-first design

Recently, UserTesting’s very own Stephen Fleming-Prot, Principal UX Researcher, was a guest on Human Tech, a podcast that explores the intersection of humans, brain science, and technology, hosted by Dr. Susan Weinschenk and Guthrie Weinschenk.

In this episode, Stephen shares his experiences as a designer and researcher and had some great discussions with Susan and Guthrie. Below are some of our favorite insights from their chat, or you can listen to the full podcast here.

Boxes and arrows

When asked how he approaches design, Stephen says he starts out with a foundation in empathy. He notes that understanding what you’re hearing from customers is an important first step before you can really understand what it is you want to design. He explains it in terms of creating a diagram:

The first thing that I always do and encourage anybody that I talk to about design, is to create boxes and arrows. If we don’t understand the user’s flow, we’re never going to come up with a good design.

He goes on to highlight the importance of understanding the larger scope behind every design, and not getting so far into the weeds that teams miss the big picture, which segued nicely into some great insight from Susan.

Great designers zoom in and out

Susan shared some great insight on a characteristic that distinguishes great designers from mediocre. She notes that great creatives have an ability to constantly flip their perspective from a high-level view down to a more microscopic, detailed view.

Great designers are able to zoom in and zoom out as they’re creating. People who are really great product designers, interaction designers, they’re doing that. They’re zooming in and zooming out all the time.

Come up with multiple designs

One challenge nearly every design team faces is getting too attached to an idea or design. He notes that if you’re too attached to a design, it can be tempting to dismiss feedback after testing with customers which can lead to costly oversights in a design. To help avoid this, he suggests creating multiple designs to test.

We’re humans and we need to admit the fact that we’re going to get attached to our work. So start with a couple pieces of work and that way you won’t be so attached to any one of them.

Lots of issues = great customer experience research

Susan shared a great anecdote about overhearing a research team discussing the progress of a usability study that was underway. The researcher happily noted that “Things are going great, we haven’t found any issues with the interface!”

Susan reminds us that it isn’t the lack of snags that make customer research ‘great’ but actually the finding of them that makes research so valuable.

A great user test is when there are issues, and there are problems, and you know what they are and then you even have some ideas based on the data you’re collecting about how to fix it. That’s a great user test.

Test your test

The discussion then transitioned to Stephen’s work as a UX Researcher, designing a great study, and the benefits of live interviews versus remote customer studies.

One topic that came up was the importance of a good study design, whether it’s for a live customer interview or a remote study the participant completes on their own. He noted that a study’s results depend on good design, and the best way to assure you’ve got it right is to test your test before launching it to multiple participants.

We run hundreds of remote usability studies. We always launch it to one person first. You’re going to get feedback fast and we always find we’ve made mistakes in the way we write the tasks. We can phrase questions a little better, or it makes us think of other questions that we can ask.

Want to learn more?

You can follow Dr. Susan Weinschenk and Guthrie Weinschenk and their awesome Human Tech podcast here. If you’d like to learn more about how UserTesting can help you understand your customers through real-time human insights, contact us at

Insights that drive innovation

Get our best human insight resources delivered right to your inbox every month. As a bonus, we'll send you our latest industry report: When business is human, insights drive innovation.

About the author(s)
Jennifer DeRome

Jennifer is a Senior Content Strategist for UserTesting. When she's not dreaming up new ways to connect with audiences, you can find her traveling around the world or enjoying a glass of wine with friends.