Episode 112 | April 08, 2024

Navigating the future of UX research: insights from Dave Hora

In this Insights Unlocked episode, UserTesting’s CEO Andy MacMillan talks with Dave Hora about the future of UX research.

Navigating the future of UX research: Insights from Dave Hora

Dave Hora is a UX researcher on a quest to learn how we make good things. 

That can be establishing research programs at organizations, such as PlanGrid or Instacart. Or it can be traveling to Japan for an internship on how to make saké, learning the traditional methods that have been perfected over centuries.

“I think a key to understanding anything that you enjoy, that you want to work in, is seeing and being a part of how it's made,” Dave said. 

Dave brings that sense of adventure and curiosity to UX research, where he’s the founder of Dave's Research Co. He began professional research work in 2011, eventually starting the practice as the first research hire at six companies. Recently, he’s been writing a series of articles on the evolution of UX research and its future.

Graphic for the UserTesting guide to Proving the ROI of UX research

In this Insights Unlocked episode, Andy MacMillan, CEO of UserTesting, talks with Dave about the articles and the rapidly transforming UX research landscape, shedding light on how technological advances are reshaping our approach to understanding user experiences.

“What we're doing in user research compared to what we were doing 10 or 15 years ago is a much more understood set of activities,” Dave said. “And that means that the way that we undertake them, the amount of effort that it takes to undertake them is decreasing and the amount of knowledge that we as an industry have about how the craft of user research itself works is increasing. 

“User research is only one small piece of the puzzle,” he said. “And the user of user research are the product teams who are actually taking these insights and are weaving them into our ongoing processes. So as we look to the future of user research, I think we actually need to shift our view a level higher and look to the future methods of product development that will unfold along with a now more commoditized version of research.”

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Dave suggests the future of UX research is to be closer aligned to the product development process.

“I hear a lot about research methodology, but maybe not enough about product building methodology,” Andy said. “Do you think that's one of the skill sets we need to pick up more on is how to talk in terms of product methodology?”

“Yes and… I say that because my practice as an independent consultant pushes me there when I'm looking to move up the stack and find the right value. I have been working in research and using our methods and techniques for quite some time. I know how they fit. Just doing the work doesn't necessarily guarantee a better product outcome” Dave said. 

“So I generalize my experience as a consultant when I say yes and. But when I think about where leverage is in the organizations, I think we are not very smart or practiced or, let's say, skilled in the craft of running product initiatives well and are still falling back to one-size-fits-all methodology discussions rather than specific sequences and techniques that we should be using for the work at hand.”

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Show notes

[00:00:00] - Introduction

  • Welcome by Nathan Isaacs, Senior Manager for Content Production at UserTesting.
  • Introduction of host Andy MacMillan, CEO of UserTesting, and guest Dave Hora.

[00:01:14] - Dave Hora’s background

  • Insight into Dave Hora's journey in UX research, from his early days to founding Dave's Research Company.
  • Dave's passion for research, product practice coevolution, winemaking, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

[00:02:08] - The craft of making and learning

  • Discussion on the parallels between making sake and the deep dive required in UX research and product design.
  • The importance of understanding the process behind things we enjoy, in order to improve and innovate.

[00:03:12] - Evolving landscape of user research

  • The shift towards commoditization of research and how technology enables rapid, cost-effective feedback.
  • Exploring the article "User Research and Its Inevitable Evolution" and its implications for the future of UX research.

[00:06:07] - Technology’s role in research evolution

  • How advancements in technology have transformed the accessibility and efficiency of user research.
  • The potential of AI in aiding research analysis and the shift towards more agile research methodologies.

[00:08:13] - Strategic integration of research into product development

  • The importance of aligning research activities with internal organizational rhythms to ensure impactful decision-making.
  • Dave Hora’s perspective on the researcher's role in understanding and integrating into product team processes.

[00:11:14] - Advice for researchers: understanding larger work sequences

  • Dave Hora emphasizes the value of researchers understanding their role within the broader context of product development.
  • The significance of collaboration and strategic insertion of research findings into the product development cycle.

[00:15:16] - Building respect within the organization

  • The necessity of mutual respect and understanding between researchers and other functions within a product team.
  • How participation in internal processes can bridge gaps and foster a collaborative environment.

[00:16:20] - Dave’s Research.com and writing journey

  • The inception of Dave's Research.com and the impact of writing and sharing knowledge on the UX research community.
  • Encouragement for researchers to explore and contribute to the discourse on research methodologies and product development.

[00:19:05] - Final thoughts and advice

  • Dave Hora shares final advice for UX researchers on navigating the evolving landscape of UX research and design.
  • Importance of adapting to change, understanding business constraints, and strategically influencing product development processes.

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