Global UXR Interview series – Suzi, London

Paul Blunden: Hello and welcome to another in my series of interviews, where i’ll be talking to one of our many senior UX researchers from around the world. My name is Paul Blunden, I’m, founder of UX24/7, and we help global brands improve their products and services by being more customer centric.

So let’s meet our guests today.

Hello, and thank you for joining me today. Can I start by asking you to introduce yourself? What’s your name and whereabouts you located?

suzih: Hi, Paul, i’m Suzi and I’m in London, in the Uk.

Paul Blunden: Well, I knew that actually, because I do know you. But so how long have you lived there?

Suzih: I’ve lived in London for 25 years or so, but I’ve been in the Uk all my life.

Paul Blunden: So I’ve been doing these interviews with our sort of researchers from around the world, and quite a few of them are bilingual often, because, of course, they’re not living in the Uk. Do you have any other languages, or

suzih: I do? My mother’s French, and I speak some French, but I wouldn’t by no stretch. The imagination call myself bilingual, even probably fluent. I’m: just I can get by right? Okay. So you don’t run research in other languages. But yeah, maybe some time in the future.

Paul Blunden: Right? Okay? Well, I don’t know how they do it, I must admit flipping from one language to another that the yeah. It was amazing to me. But and i’d like to ask how you got into research. I know you’ve been doing it a long time.

suzih: Yeah, it was some. It’s a way back in 2,002, which sort of shows reflects my age. I was working at the BBC. I was the editor of the Music Website, and then we didn’t know very much about our users. We had analytics, so we knew which pages people were going to, and then passed around the website, but we really didn’t have any idea why they were going to certain pages, and a lot of it was based around our assumptions, and there was very much a thing at the BBC. In those days. Say, oh, well, my mom likes this because, and and you know, my base always goes to da da, and it wasn’t just in the web. It was in radio as well. Which is where I work to be some radio. So I went to a conference one day a one day conference in Ux, and I’ve never even heard of you. X. I don’t think it was even calls you user experience and those tastes. I can’t remember what it’s called user sense of design. I think it’s called Ucd.

I went to a conference and I was completely hooked. So we went away and we just crazed our own little user testing studio we just built. We just use the room. We set up a close circuit TV, and we lured people off the street with the promise of coffee and biscuits, and sometimes a tour of the radio theater, and that didn’t take much, really.

and it was really quick and dirty. It was very kind of we didn’t really know what we’re doing. We’re just feeling our way, but the most important thing that came out of that was just a completely different approach to thinking about our users like thinking about the most people who might surprise us, and might not be like our mum or our mate, or like ourselves.

And that was really that kind of actually filtered quite quickly through to management when they started hearing things that they weren’t expecting. So yeah, it was a fantastic time, actually really exciting

Paul Blunden: it sounds it. Yeah, those that sort of start of the the industry, I think, is fascinating when I mean I remember a Ucd. But also usability. You know every agency was usability. Everybody was doing usability. It was at the very different time to now.

And you sounds, I mean, obviously over the last. Well, nearly 20 years. I suppose you done a lot of research? Do you have a favorite methodology that you’ve used?

suzih: Yeah, yeah, I really, I really love ethnographic type methods, epigraphic research, particularly diary studies. I really like diary sense, because you’re sort of following someone around almost. I mean you’re not physically following the rounds of you, you know. You’re tracking them. For instance, you know you might get them to send you Whatsapp messages every day telling you about their behavior, and the thing I like about it is partly I’m really nosy, and it’s really interesting hearing what people are doing. But I think it’s really a really great way of of understanding people’s behaviors which you don’t get from an hour sitting in a room. Even if you conduct a really good interview, You just don’t get it because it’s a while people are living their lives and things come up.

interesting things come up, and the thing that I think is most most powerful for is identifying needs on that needs, you know. I’m trying to do this, and i’m real fast because I have to do this, and then this, and so it’s a great way to sort of spawn innovation to to to yield innovative ideas.

Things, you know. We’ll need to fulfill this need. How will we do it? And that’s where innovation can come from. So yeah, that’s my favorite method.

Paul Blunden: Yeah, interesting. And the you mentioned ethnography. And then diary study for those people who don’t understand what ethnography is.

suzih: I’m. Probably not the best person to define. If ethnography, I think, comes out of anthropology, it comes out. It just it just means, I think it just means observation. There’s close observation, so that there are different methods within ethnography. So one another one is. You can go to somebody’s house and spend time watching them do things you can all their workplace. You can do interviews with them which are very much based around what they do. So it’s not really like anthropology. You don’t spend the year sitting in there office watching them, but it’s the kind of next best thing to it. I think that hopefully.

Paul Blunden: That’s very clear thank you. That’s really helpful. And so you started life with the BBC: Have you worked in other sectors?

suzih: Yeah, yeah. I think probably the most of it is some financial services I’ve spent. I spent many years working for an agency, but embedded in a bank, a High Street Bank, and then the other sector I’ve done a lot in is is B 2 B, so particularly some specialist content. So I work for the Economist intelligence unit which produces content for a comments and politicians and policymakers. And I’ve also worked for the British Medical Journal, which produces content for medical professionals. I quite like B to be is quite hard because you have to actually get to understand the content.

Banking is everybody uses on the right, and everybody backs. But economic sense is quite challenging. So yeah.

Paul Blunden: we do a lot of B to be ourselves. And I think it’s it’s really interesting that, but particularly when you’re in commerce, of course yourself. But the recruitment, I I think, is always really really hard to try and get that representative sample of the actual people using it.

suzih: Yeah, absolutely. That’s that’s bang on. I mean, it just can be a a real headache, a real night, because some Also, when people are working in a field, they don’t have time in their working life to give to things like this that that always super busy, and particularly if you want to speak to people really, really hard to get the people you need. And and also it tends to be really specialists. The economist intelligent unit is a tiny, tiny market. So we you know it was. Yeah, it’s like searching for needle in the haystack, but incredibly rewarding. Once you find those people because they’re always super interesting.

Paul Blunden: Yes, definitely. And then I wanted to ask. I’ve been asking everybody about the sort of the maturity of the market they work in. Obviously, if you worked in the Uk the last 20 years. I’m really interested in how you think how sort of customer centric you think the market is and how customer-centric brands are within. It.

suzih: Yeah. I think we you, I think most companies in the Uk companies are quite customer-centric in the sense that they definitely want to know about their customers. I think there’s quite a history of market research, and that’s quite well understood, I think, what companies are less good at is knowing really how their customers behave, because they they They used to market research, which tells you what their customers got to say.

But that’s not always the same as what they do, and I think that’s where I think a lot of companies, the senior management don’t always get the Ux tells you different things from market research, and that can get blurred, so that they end up asking, and you ex professionals to produce marketing contents and vice versa. So I think.

Yes, there’s definitely the well in Uk companies and lots of companies spend an awful lot of money on Ux, but I don’t think it’s always the understanding at the senior level of what that customer, essentially the different layers and the different parts of of you know what different disciplines can offer in that area.

Paul Blunden: It’s really in some ways quite disappointing that after 20 years we still have an education problem.

suzih: Yeah, I mean, I think Yes, it it is isn’t it. I think. One thing that I’ve noticed happened is you can get ahead of us. Who isn’t really from a Us background there from marketing, and that can be really quite damaging, because they’re the person that sort of talking to the level above.

But I mean, I say that but lots of companies I mean the banks I worked, and really did get you X. And was doing amazing things, and hence they have a fantastic, award, winning, winning app, and some people love using their services. So you know, it’s not all that. It’s definitely there’s definitely a lot of a lot good going on.

Paul Blunden: Yes, yeah, for sure. And what do you think? The greatest challenge that brands and products directors face when they’re undertaking a a Us. Research study or getting involved.

suzih: I think this is maybe a related to the last question. I think sometimes it’s hard for them to know what they want to ask off that customers because they might be actually asking them a market research question, and they coming to you. It’s professional. So there’s a bit of that, I think. But even without that mix up, I think identifying what is exactly is it you want to know?

And I think a good researcher will be going back to them again and again, saying, yeah, but what exactly do you want to know? And also not trying to note everything, trying to identify the research questions which are important, because any given research study can’t.

Well, they can’t answer everything. They answer certain questions. So I think it’s about identifying the specific things that they want to know, and then getting the research professional to say, okay. So this is how I think we should approach addressing that question, answering that question.

Paul Blunden: So it’s like it’s about focus and clarity. Really. Yeah, I think so.

suzih: Yeah. And and and also letting the research at the in charge of deciding method, because that tends to be there’s this tendency for the senior management to go. Let’s do some user. Testing and then go. Oh, yes, what should we ask to be as a testing, and in fact, it should be. Let’s find out how our customers feel about financial management research. Tell me how to how to find that out. You know that that kind of approach is, it’s sometimes is better, but it’s not always the approach that’s taken.

Paul Blunden: No, quite okay. So you. you’ve you’ve long experience. I’m really interested to ask the next question about a flagship project or something that you remember. And you sort of very proud of. Could you speak to that?

suzih: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, flagship is a funny word isn’t it, but because it that it could be projects that sound really impressive, but the ones that I love, the ones that really speak to me. I think it does come from banking because I found that asking people about money is surprisingly fascinating. Surprisingly interesting. People get people feel very deeply about finances and money. So I did a project for this bank, so I work for which was about money management and how you can manage the money, and we did it.

We did a diary study. We did some lots of contextual interviews. We went into their home homes, and we it was quite a large study, and it was. It was really, it was really fascinating. Some really good insights. Great insights came out of it. For instance, the fact that when people when people are managing their money, it’s almost like gardening, it’s kind of constant tending, and if it’s successful, it tend to be constant tending, and that makes people feel in control. and they I mean, I have people who said that they first thing they did when they woke up in the morning, it’d be to look at their banking app. I mean when they’re sitting in there, which to me is a bit crazy.

Can they be the you? They’re banking at this. But I think I think what a lot of people don’t realize is that many, many people in their lives are living sort of almost handsome, out in terms of money. It’s like this: Money comes in this. Money goes out. It’s like to keep myself. Just my head just above water is a constant process of management. So I found that really interesting.

Yeah, you didn’t ask me about insights, but i’m telling you, anyway. The other insight that I found fascinating was was about how what gets people to change their behaviors because what the bank wanted to do was to find out how to change people’s behaviors, so they manage their money better because it’s in a Bank’s interest that people Don’t actually go over drawn, and don’t default on loans and things like that.

And one of the things we found was that there are major events that make people change their behavior like going bankrupt, for instance, but they’re also really little things. So when momso came along, lots of people change their behavior because for the first time. They could do things really easily and quickly, and that made them quite excited. And suddenly money became a bit more fun.

And they could see how they were spending, and that kind of thing. They could do little sort of things like they could move money around, put it in certain boxes to make sure it didn’t get used and used when they didn’t intend to, and that kind of thing people get really excited by having little gizmos and tools and things shiny new things. Yeah. So lots of interesting insights from that project. So really that you can sell the project that kind of estate with me.

Paul Blunden: And how did the research change the product?

suzih: Well, we we developed the bank, developed some money management kind of features in their app. So you can now go into the app, and you can see how your spending was divided up, and you can look at your spending over time. And that was, I think, the intention, when we started the study was to build this this content, but the study very much influence what we built, and how we built it. and I think it. I think it’s good. I think the only thing that did come out. The project, which is hard for the banks here is to actually changing behaviors. Ted quite often end up being temporary.

So I think that’s in the end. What’s happened is that people used it for a while, and lots of people then stopped using it and went back to old behaviors. But yeah, I mean it’s a whole section of the app, and I think it’s. Yeah, it’s. I still use it my bank with them

Paul Blunden: right? Well, that’s a pretty good strong endorsement.

I’m really interested to ask about the sort of behaviors that you’ve sort of come across through research that perhaps a unique to the Uk. Is there anything you’ve observed? I know it’s difficult to sort of contrast that with other markets you don’t know, but always think of a brand entering the Uk. What are the things they’ve got to think about in terms of the kind of users they’re going to come across.

suzih: Yeah, I mean it’s hard to say whether there are things that are completely unique to any market. I suppose there are probably behaviors that need linked to cultural norms, so I’ve been dealing with, not for my work, but personally I’ve been dealing with the bureaucracy and France quite a lot, and I’ve been thinking quite a lot about the how the British and the French compare, and I think the British actually a more pragmatic than some countries. They’re not a a race that likes bureaucracy. They’re not a race that likes form filling. And I think the possibly the upshot of that is that when it comes to using digital services

I think we may be a pretty impatient. We want things to be easy. We want things to be quick, and you know, if you make us feel in long forms and go through many, many, many pages of, and ask for lots of information. I think I suspect we probably may be abandoned more quickly than 150.

A other nations, which are more accustomed to a slightly more bureaucratic or more sort of ponderous way of doing things. I mean that’s that’s a bit of a that’s a bit of an assumption. But it is something that I do observe is that people abandon incredibly quickly. You know, when designers are watching, people use that that sort of carefully sounded product. I I think it’s always a bit crushing to see how quickly they go. Oh, yeah. this now I’ll go and find an easy way of doing it, you know, and I think that’s a real something that designers have to contend with a lot and think about. A lot is making it as easy as possible, and also senior people have to think about. Do we really need this specific information? Do we really need to ask this to people? Yeah. So I guess that might be a thing which is particularly a Uk feature. I’m not sure.

Paul Blunden: I think that’s quite interesting, particularly when you contrast that with the maturity of the the market in the Uk generally for Ux, which I think is is one of the most mature in the world, I mean, I think possibly the most mature. And and you, you know it makes you wonder whether there’s causation, you know, but people need it, and therefore they they’re getting it, you know, in terms of

suzih: That’s a really interesting point, you know, whether they expect it. And yeah, companies have to adapt. I think, yeah, that could really good point.

Paul Blunden: Well, I don’t know. But so it’s just. It’s really interesting hearing hearing about it from you. So the final couple of questions, Suzy. I’d be interested to ask you what’s inspiring you at the moment.

suzih: Well, i’m always, I said to earlier i’m nosy. I always like hearing I was like into being people I was like hearing from people. I think I’ve done some interviews over the last year or so. A few interviews with small business owners, or what small to medium business owners people in.

I did a set of interviews of people in sort of manufacturing and haulage, and those kind of industries which are quite, I suppose, that that long, long running into these, they’re part of personal history. Aren’t they the Industrial Revolution. These kind of industries used to be our bread and butter, and I found in sphere these people just.

I always love interesting business, small business owners, because they just are so passionate and so driven, and there’s no way you can stay alive in that environment without being driven. But they’re also incredibly adaptable. So I ended up with some interviews during products have been really hard to get. Staff have been really hard to get, and they’re just adapting, and I find find that really inspiring. I mean, I couldn’t do it. I really couldn’t do it. I couldn’t run a business like that. The work, you know it’s it’s it never stops, you know, from the moment to wake up when it goes back day off. you know, eating, breathing, living, that business, and I find that amazing.

Paul Blunden: It must be a real passion for them as much as it’s a you know, a job in their own company, them to commit that level of time and effort.

suzih: Yeah, I mean, I do feel I do feel that they they usually love it. They tend to love it so. I mean you don’t get people going on, go with a drag. They don’t get people like that talking to researchers about their business. They always passionate about it, and they. you know, quite often their family businesses, and they they’re working with a father or a brother or a sister. And and yeah, and the whole family is dedicated to the success of this business that the without exception, lovely people, I don’t really know why. Very intelligent, very interesting, and very driven. Yeah.

Paul Blunden: excellent. Well good, too good to hear that. And finally, as Susie, what’s your biggest learning since you became a researcher?

suzih: Oh, join me. I don’t know, really, I suppose I think I Yeah. Well, I like to. I think I I like to think this. I’ve become more humble, or I’ve I’ve understood this. I’ve got a lot to learn. I mean that’s a bit back quick. But what I mean is that I’ve I’ve learned this. I don’t know everything. because when you always interviewing people, you always you hear from people you’re always learning about them and about their lives, and it was something you to learn. So I think I know about you. I think I know about banking and financial services, and I interview somebody, and they tell me something I don’t know. I think my learning is that I don’t know things that i’m learning all the time. And hopefully, i’ll become a bit more humble and a bit more.

Yeah, a bit more humble as yourself.

Paul Blunden: I think that it does make perfect sense. I’m not a researcher, but I’ve been in research for 20 years, and I think it’s a unique position where you are constantly learning. Not least, I think, through this period, where technology is involved so quickly, and behaviors have changed to, of course, as well. But you can watch. I watch hundreds and hundreds of research sessions every year, and every one of them you!

You take away something new that you weren’t, expecting. And I think it’s a unique position that we find ourselves in this. Yeah, fascinating

suzih: absolutely. Yeah, I mean, it’s really. It’s you learn about human nature, I think, more than anything. But, as you say, also about technology and about behavior. And yeah, it’s a great job. I love it.

Paul Blunden: Good. Good. Well, look. Thank you for the Suzy for spending the time telling me about the great job today. It’s been really interesting hearing about your career, what you’ve been doing the financial services Stuff, I think, was really really insightful. And I’m. I’m sure anybody using that industry listening is going to be really curious about the work you’ve done there, and and really enjoy hearing about it.

Thank you again.


Paul Blunden: Well, I’ve known Suzie for quite a while, but one of the wonderful things about these interviews is, I just learned so much more than I thought I knew, and I hope I you me you really enjoyed the part particularly around her work in the early days of the BBC. And and then the financial services and the development of the app and People’s behaviors that was really really interesting.

My name is Paul Blunden, and I’m, founder of you UX247, and if you want to find out more about what we do, visit our website, or find me on linkedin and message me there and of course please subscribe to this channel, and there’ll be another interview coming along soon.

Thanks for watching.