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Researcher Spotlight: A Day in the Life of a UXR

Updated: Mar 7

Curiosity in Action: Demystifying User Experience Research with Benjamin Mauve - PART 1

***Part 1 of an insightful interview with one of our own Expert UX Researchers

Have you ever wondered how companies create products and experiences that feel like they were designed just for you?

The secret lies in User Experience Research (UXR). Imagine a team of detectives who delve into the minds of customers, uncovering needs, frustrations, and the hidden factors that shape how people interact with technology.  That's UXR – and it's changing the way businesses operate.

Benjamin Mauve is a seasoned User Experience Researcher whose path reflects the evolution of the UXR field itself. With a business background and a passion for creating impactful products,  he found the perfect fit in UXR's blend of research and design thinking. Benjamin's insights reveal that UXR is a dynamic, adaptable discipline with the power to shape user experiences across industries and around the world.

In this exclusive interview, we explore the fascinating world of uncovering user insights. Get ready to discover why UXR is crucial in today's ever-evolving market, the industries that benefit most, and how Benjamin's own journey led him to this exciting field.

A: Hi, Benjamin. It's great meeting you. Thank you for doing this. I'm really excited to learn more about UX research and, between the two of us, attempt to demystify this somewhat new field of study and product development. Let me start by asking: What made you decide to become a UX researcher. Tell me a little bit about your journey?

B: It's great being here with you Andreea. To be honest, my journey was not at all linear, but I think I always knew that my passion was research. I first studied Economics and Social Sciences in France. I was very curious to understand exactly how society worked. Then I decided to attend Business School and this prompted an interest in understanding how to launch new products, new services. I realised I felt a need to combine my background in Economics and Social Sciences, with Business. I was trying to get a sense of how to fulfil people's needs with a relevant product and or service. And that's how I first heard about design thinking as an innovation methodology.

An image of a Tangram puzzle and a quote on User Experience Research

This led me to completing another degree in human-centred design. For me, the fundamental idea was really about bridging Social Sciences and Management in business and Design. At the time, the realm of user experience research was not what it was today. There were no UX Researcher jobs out there, we had UX designers, but UXR didn't exist yet. So for me, my role evolved within the job market, from business design, to service design, to strategic design. And finally UX Research was the thing, my thing. I was fortunate to be able to combine my academic background with the work experience that I had, and all of this led me to where I am today.

A: How was this transition for you? I imagine it wasn't easy to get into a role that was as new as UX Research.

B: Actually, it happened organically. My first job, from the beginning, was Business Designer. We didn't have the term UX Researcher back then, but that was basically what we were doing: user research and strategic design. So that's what I ended up doing. And I did a lot of research projects with this first company. I always felt more like a researcher, you know, so it was ideal that I got this first opportunity.

A: For how many years have you been in a User Experience Researcher role?

B: I've been lucky enough to work as a UX Researcher for seven years now.

A: I'm guessing your experience has evolved at the same pace as new technologies over the years. Did it ever feel overwhelming?

B: Not really. Something that I like a lot in UX research is that there's a lot you can do. And there's a lot of things you can try and explore. This exploration is truly at the core of our discipline, you know! There's no one perfect way of solving a problem. It's truly about thinking while making and making while thinking. I like the fact that it's not repetitive. It's truly fascinating, you can do this work in all types of industries and companies, in all countries.

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A: Do you make use of human psychology principles and other types of information in your research?

B: Good UX Researchers pull knowledge from complementary disciplines: Behavioural Economics, Psychology, Social Sciences, Economics, etcetera. It's truly a blend of lots of different disciplines, which makes UX research unique.

A: This brings me to my next question: what's your favourite part about being a UX researcher?

B: The flexibility. I can do this job anywhere in the world, it's not linked to any one country. I can do the job I love in all industries and all types of companies. UX Research is a global role, the true ocean of opportunities.

A: So, Benjamin, you're a remote worker. How long have you been working remotely? Is it a type of arrangement you enjoy?

B: Yes. I've been working remotely for the past 3 years, the recent pandemic kind of forced a lot of people into it. I like the fact that I can go anywhere, anytime I want. It allows me to be more autonomous but at the same time it requires more discipline. You need to be more organised but you're not bound to an office desk. But to be honest, I sometimes miss going to an office where I can mingle with colleagues, have a chat over the coffee machine. I miss the compartmentalisation of working hours with home hours. So it has its pros and its cons.

A photo of woman with multiple expressions on her face and quote on user experience research

A: Ok, I have a good one for you: What exactly is user experience? How would you describe its benefits and shortcomings?

B: The accepted definition is that UX is the experience that the user has with a product or service. But I think it's more holistic than that. A truly good user experience is the difference between a pleasant and a horrendous interaction with a product or service. Think of a product, coffee, for example. You have coffee, but first you go to a place and someone makes that coffee for you. Next comes the experience of actually tasting that coffee: how does it feel to have this particular coffee in this particular coffee shop? This is where companies can differentiate themselves from their competition. I've seen companies thrive when they invest the proper resources into the UX Research process. 

A: I feel that people often confuse UX design with UX research, like it's one and the same. What is your take on that?

B: It's true, we know about user experience because we've heard about UX design. But UXR goes beyond the visuals into designing the user's experience. I can see why it can be confusing to people that don't deal with these terms on a regular basis. It kind of feels like we created this confusion ourselves, now that I think about it. Looking back, throughout my career I would call myself a strategic designer often. And clients would expect you to use research with the purpose of informing the proper development of products and services that people actually want and need. But then UXR kind of became a standalone role and I think that's when the confusion happened. And then decision-makers thought 'Well, if it's just collecting data, then we can do this ourselves. We don't need an actual extra job for it.' So, it's kind of tricky because the bottom line is that every company is trying to save money, so they feel that if it's just collecting data then the designers can do it, or the PM.

A: But then they might not know how to interpret it. Right?

B: Exactly! What do you do with the data after you've collected it? How do you make sure that what you've gathered can actually inform the development of products that actually work? And it's definitely an intricate process from beginning to end. And, in my view, this process should be co-owned by all those involved in developing a new product or service. There needs to be alignment between all stakeholders, researchers, designers, developers, marketing, the PM, and so on.

A graphic of planet Earth and a quote on user experience research

A: From what you're describing it feels like UXR lives at the intersection of every department involved in such a project.

B: Yes. That's very true.

So far, we've learned that the journey to UX Research can be as varied as the field itself. Benjamin's unique background demonstrates how diverse skills converge in UXR. His enthusiasm for the flexibility and boundless potential of UX Research is contagious! But what do day-to-day tasks look like for a UX Researcher? Stay tuned for the next part of our interview, where Benjamin will pull back the curtain on the practical aspects of his work.

***Part 2 coming soon! Don't hesitate to get in touch for a free 30-minute free consultation, and add your comments or questions and we will address each individually. Thanks for reading!
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