An Event Apart: Connected UX

by Luke Wroblewski August 26, 2013

At An Event Apart in Chicago IL 2013, Aarron Walter shared how he created a system of knowledge sharing at MaiChimp that allowed the company to learn from their large sets of data. Here's my notes from his talk Connected UX:

  • Research is often a luxury for small teams. You need to get things done, fast and research takes time. When your team grows though, you can devote more time to research and optimization of your product.
  • This can result in lots of data and its common to lose what you learned. Knowledge can fade into obscurity on someone’s drive or memory. You can find yourself re-asking the same questions and repeating yourself or getting lost in all the data coming in.
  • Collecting data is the easy part -we have it down to a science. Turning it into sustainable knowledge and then wisdom is hard.
  • What we need is connections between the things we learn.
  • Too much information can stifle your ability to process things. It’s better to tune it out than to take the time to process things that won’t help you.
  • To help manage lots of email information, you can set up Gmail to send notes to Evernote. This is a starting point as it can store all the information you’re getting.
  • Searching this repository of email feedback allowed the MailChimp team to quickly find out what people thought and connect with them about a new feature. Feedback tied to an email address (direct contact) is early valuable.
  • Multiple people can contribute to the database and add research studies, usability findings, survey results, blog comments, competitor news, delivery stats, industry news, release notes, support data, and more to the same set of knowledge.
  • An Evernote set can be maintained by the entire company. Different teams can contribute information, tag it, and allow anyone else to search and find answers.
  • When you make questions easy to answer, you can ask more questions. Putting information at your fingertips helps you design better.
  • How can you tag your tag? Use the names of personas, features, concepts, and more.
  • An example: explore how people are using Android devices. A search on the MailChimp database finds interviews with Android users, articles from tech press about statistics and usage, feedback from users in email and tweets, account closing surveys, and more.
  • Provide access to anyone in the company to the database so they can ask their own questions. Joint ownership allows teams to collaborate and share the data.
  • Sharing research goes beyond large written documents. Not everyone in the company has time time to read 24 page documents. A video overview can not only be easily sharable but more memorable as well.
  • We remember stories best. Use narrative to share learnings and insights. Your data is only as valuable as the stories you tell with it.
  • Set up a regular email newsletter that pulls insights form this database and send them to the entire company. This not only shares important insights with everyone but it highlights the value of the research set to everyone.
  • Research databases need to be easy in, easy out. People need to contribute in a way that is fast and simple. Providing access on multiple devices makes content accessible everywhere.
  • Data for everyone and everyone’s data. Allow contribution and participation from everyone.
  • Support both passive and active learning. Make sure you can search for specific answers but also discover new information during that process.
  • Connected data makes design problem solving not just decoration.