Optimizely gathers user insights through interviews —  and turns it into action

Speaking to users to better understand customer needs and to conduct usability testing are both key parts of successful product development. Optimizely proactively engages their audience in their design workflow, leveraging insights through customer interviews, and Pop Up Archive is a key tool in their effort.

Jeff Zych is Head of Design at Optimizely, a tool for personalizing digital experiences. In that role, he runs a team of product designers, researchers, and user interface engineers whose jobs are to constantly develop and improve the company’s products.

As part of this effort, Optimizely regularly does research interviews with customers where they might share a prototype or talk about how an existing product is being used. Each Optimizely designer has a couple of projects in flight at any given time — depending on the cycle of the project, they might be conducting interviews to better understand customer needs or do usability testing, both key parts of product development.

They conduct around 12 interviews a month, all of which are recorded, and needed a way to quickly review the contents of those conversations to find insights and synthesize key takeaways. In search of an automated solution, they turned to Pop Up Archive. The interviews, which are one-on-one and usually last 45 minutes to an hour, usually take place over the phone and often include a video screen sharing component.

After an interview is recorded, it’s usually uploaded to Pop Up Archive within a day or two. Once the transcript is complete, it’s exported and edited (although not to the point of absolute accuracy) in a word processor. Often the text will be used to create an affinity diagram, where the raw text (such as key points or sentences) from across a number of interviews are clustered into themes to understand the overarching themes. Sometimes transcripts get shared with project managers or engineers, but often the raw research gets turned into a presentation that transforms the findings into actionable insights.

Before using Pop Up Archive, Optimizely gathered customer insights in different ways: sometimes someone would lead an interview and someone else would take notes, sometimes the interviewer would both conduct the conversation and take notes, and sometimes an interview would be hand transcribed after the fact. All of these solutions were a bit chaotic, often less precise, and time-consuming. Using Pop Up means they don’t need to worry about note-taking and can just focus on the customer. Two features of the software that they particularly value are the automatic speaker detection and the timestamps. “Other transcription services don’t split the speakers, but that’s important for us because of the interview format,” said Jeff. In the case of the timestamps, they’ll sync those back to the video if they know someone said something interesting, but can’t remember exactly what.

Turnaround time is really important for Optimizely’s needs since they’re often iterating quickly. “Once we’ve used the interviews to guide product and design decisions, we don’t revisit them all that often.