Interview with Jared Spool
Customer-Centricity | Industry Savvy

Interview with Jared Spool

on / by Tomer Sharon

I had the privilege of visiting Jared Spool at his North Andover, Massachusetts office and interview him about getting buy-in for UX research. The challenge of getting buy-in for research takes form in two ways: one, when stakeholders refuse to sponsor research to begin with, and two, if they do sponsor it, they refuse to act on research results since they contradict their intuitions, opinions, or expectations.

The main points Jared raised during this interview were:

  • If stakeholders are involved in research, you get their attention.
  • Tell your stakeholders that if they don’t show up and observe sessions, they can’t have a say on the outcome.
  • Use different techniques to force stakeholders to participate.
  • One of our field’s mistakes is that we acted as a service bureau. We did everything ourselves.
  • Stakeholders should be involved in selecting participants, getting information from the recruitment process, the rehearsal, actual visits/testing, discussions about what you’re seeing, and for the analysis process.
  • Ask stakeholders to be exposed to real people using real designs for at least 2 hours once every 6 weeks.
  • To identify research opportunities, follow the money. Whenever you have a user experience problem, it results in frustration on somebody’s part. This frustrations show themselves on the bottom line. There’s probably already someone assigned to fixing that. Offer your help to those people.
  • If stakeholders come to you asking for studies, you are already behind the game.
  • Because someone else has had an entire conversation about the problem and you weren’t there. That’s a problem.
  • If you are not informing the decision making process, you are suffering.
  • The KJ technique helps get team consensus about results of user research or ideas for designs, etc.
  • There are dozens of techniques that can help engage stakeholders with research.
  • Teams don’t need your deliverables. They develop their own. Ask your stakeholders what do they need from you.
  • Deliverables do not make the project.
  • Stakeholders should moderate usability studies. Poor moderating is a training problem that can easily be solved.
  • There’s no point in working with unengaged stakeholders. Go find better ones.

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Article by

Tomer Sharon

Tomer is a Senior User Experience Researcher at Google Search in New York City and author of the book, It's Our Research: Getting stakeholder buy-in for user experience research projects (2012). He founded and led UPA Israel and is a mentor at Google's Campus TLV, a program including UX learning, collaboration, and mentorship for Israeli startups. He speaks at conferences and professional events, is a published author of articles and papers, and a past editorial board member for UXPA’s UX Magazine. Tomer holds a master’s degree in Human Factors in Information Design from Bentley University. He is @tsharon on Twitter.

Share your thoughts

  • Accessibility is a very important part of UX. However, many UX practitioners, including Tomer, are ignoring the needs of users with disabilities. None of his videos are captioned. YouTube auto captions are not of acceptable quality – they need to be cleaned up with proper grammar, punctuation, speaker identifications, sound descriptions, etc.

    • Hi Sveta,

      I’m sorry that the videos in our UX Video Section are not captioned yet. I agree that this is important and hopefully we can offer them soon.

  • I have more respect for Jared Spool who is one of few UX practitioners who not only care about users with disabilities, but actually do something about it. All of podcasts on his UIE websites are accessible with transcripts. He’s a great role model for others to follow.

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