I’ve always had an innate curiosity about why people think or behave the way they do. Maybe it’s because as a kid, I moved more than 26 times and interacted with people from all walks of life while helping in the family business. Today, that curiosity has found a natural home in my work in user experience (UX). UX Research indulges my pursuit of human motivations, attitudes and behaviors—all in the service of designing human-centric solutions. 

I joined ZapLabs back when it was ZipRealty (the first tech-enabled brokerage to place listings online!), and one of my first projects was to explore the agent website experience from the consumer lens. Using a mix of stakeholder interviews, usage metrics and competitive research, followed by a round of first impression and usability tests with consumers, we sought to address agent concerns about potentially driving consumers away from their websites.

Since my early days as the sole UX researcher three years ago, the UXR team at ZapLabs has grown to seven people, with one intern coming on board this summer. From the beginning, I was able to champion the value of UX research in building empathy for the customer—and work with a team that recognized that value. As we grew organically, so did our need for research. Today, it plays an integral role in reducing uncertainty, and helps us avoid building things that don’t bring value to users. Throughout, I’m happy to say that we’ve brought on UX researchers that share critical traits: empathy with users, team members and stakeholders; understanding of technology’s limitations, product design and strategy; and excellence in translating people’s needs into insights that inform human-centered solutions.

Today, the team does research throughout all stages of product development. Researchers work very closely with cross-functional teams that focus on key product verticals, providing user context through foundational research that informs roadmap planning and prioritization. At a higher level, we analyze user feedback and conduct studies to develop a deeper understanding of users and their needs in particular areas; run competitive research and benchmarking studies; as well as support tactical research and continuous product learning.

This year the team is all about elevating the level at which we operate as a UX research team and we aim to do so by democratizing research. Our goal is to implement and scale continuous product learning, which will result in more informed decisions across teams and projects. Starting with Design and Product Management, we’re taking lessons from LinkedIn to implement a similar solution to what they offer with their UX Research Bento, and working with our internal stakeholders to implement a regular field research practice. We’re developing training and guides for Design, Product Management, and other teams so they’re able to gain quick insights on specific, targeted projects.

Throughout my entire journey, I remain enamored of the human-centered approach of problem solving. Today more than ever, the importance of UX strategy in building great products and services is front and center. You simply can’t serve a customer well without truly understanding and responding to their needs in a responsible, ethical way. I also feel that it’s such a special moment when you really get to the heart of the problem you’re trying to solve. I hope that my love affair with the “why” never fades!

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