By ‘getting out of the office’, Spire’s customer experience research team provides powerful insights to product development initiatives by understanding customer problems and desires, specifically how they perceive, interact with, and derive value (or don’t) from the products and services they use every day.

The success of a digital product is dependent on the customer experience (CX) research that underlies strategy and design decisions. To that end, Spire paints a portrait of the customer by learning who they truly are, what they need and want, how they feel, what makes them happy or concerned when interacting with a product, and the context in which they will use it. Using quantitative and qualitative testing, Spire then goes out into the world to prove or disprove their hypotheses, turning assumptions into truths or myths.

As a user-centered design firm, Spire puts customers and users at the forefront of every product decision. Our research typically begins with in-situ interviews and observations (i.e. contextual inquiry), along with surveys with a sample set of representative users, and an analytics review that includes Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, and Google Optimize, augmented by mouse-tracking tools such as Hotjar or Mouseflow. Survey findings and data analytics help us understand ‘the what’; qualitative research helps us understand ‘the why’.

It’s important to note that the term ‘customer’ also refers to internal customers, i.e. employees. In fact, much of our research is actually focused on helping employees achieve higher levels of satisfaction and productivity, by redesigning the systems in which they spend their workdays.

The principles that guide our approach for addressing underlying workflows are as follows.

Direct observation is key: Because it is vital to design user interfaces around ideal workflows, our research approach is focused on enabling a true understanding of various user types or personas. To that end, rather than doing phone interviews, we strongly recommend in-situ research, with particular emphasis on contextual inquiry. We seek to field our research with a balanced sample set across role types, company types, and geographies.  

Map the journey and critical path: We perform a lean evaluation of the existing user experience and workflows with existing applications to reveal opportunities for improvement. We identify pain points and gaps with the user’s ideal workflow. We often find that users are forced to compromise their ideal workflow to adapt to the design of a system. We focus on the converse: Designing systems around the needs and ideal workflows of the user.

Treat ‘super users’ with caution: We understand that significant changes to the flow of an application, no matter how necessary, can be upsetting to existing super users. Having mastered the oddities of an application, they acquire value in the organization for their proficiency in using software that troubles others. For this reason, super users have been known to deny that change is necessary, even when those changes are beneficial to the organization as a whole. We are adept at spotting this phenomenon and interpreting feedback accordingly.

Understand technical constraints: A thorough understanding of technical constraints is important for understanding why existing workflows are what they are, and what the limitations are for improving workflows. As such, we often perform technology assessments during the discovery phase of our engagements.  

Avoid analysis paralysis: We find that the last thing clients want is for discovery and research to drag on and on before moving to design and development. At the end of the day, clients want outcomes, not heavy research deliverables. As such, we take a lean approach to research. Rather than focusing on ‘thud factor,’ our research deliverables focus on the most critical and actionable elements:

  • Lean personas
  • Journey maps and workflow analyses depicting existing and desired states
  • Screen flow diagrams and screen element definitions i.e. an abstracted inventory of existing screens and a listing of every accounted form field
  • Scenarios / user story catalog – mapping to above definitions and to personas
  • Roadmap of prioritized critical path areas / improvements (typically the scenario with the most complex user interfaces and most reusable elements)
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