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.

What does “independence” really mean?

A “lost boy” votes for independence KALW Crosscurrents

In 2011, San Jose resident Bol Deng Bol, from southern Sudan, traveled 12 hours by car to cast his vote in the Sudan referendum in Arizona. Bol is one of the so-called “Sudan Lost Boys,” who fled the country and walked hundreds of miles through jungles to a refugee camp. Bol eventually became a program manager at Hope with Sudan, a San Jose non-profit, to help his country. Listen.

July 4th, 1970 Pacifica Radio Archives

The cultural revolutions of the 1960s changed the discourse surrounding freedom and independence. Archival audio from a July 4, 1970 celebration in Washington, D.C. captures differing views on patriotism and the American legacy following the Civil Rights movement, anti-war efforts, the Stonewall Riots, second-wave feminism, and the rise of Black Power. Listen.

Can a free people survive? Illinois Public Media

December 7, 1787 is a lesser known date than July 4, 1776, but it was a fateful month in our history as a nation. Delaware was the first state to ratify the charter of our liberties, the Constitution of the United States of America. 154 four years later, to a day, this nation was faced with the question of whether a free people living under the guarantees of that Constitution and protected by its Bill of Rights could survive. Listen.

Image: Joe PennistonCC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Behind the scenes of “America’s attic”

When you hear the words “Smithsonian Institution,” you might think of a hallowed yet fusty single museum in Washington, D.C. But the Smithsonian is much broader and deeper than that — in addition to its 19 museums  visited by millions every year, it encompasses 9 research centers and the national zoo spread across multiple states and countries where active research is happening. Justin O’Neill, the producer of the Smithsonian’s podcast Sidedoor, is trying to bring the many rich aspects of the Smithsonian to life and to share them with the broader public, and Pop Up Archive is a critical tool in his workflow. Continue reading

Experiences of World War II, 73 years later

This June marks the 73rd anniversary of D-Day, “the largest seaborne invasion in history,” that initiated the liberation of Europe from the Nazis and supported an Allied victory along the Western Front. Today, pieces from the archives that examine World War II through the experiences of three different groups of citizens.

Veterans remember  Illinois Public Media

University of Illinois professor Bob Espeseth undertook a huge project to gather oral histories from World War II veterans before they were lost. In this piece, he interviews an 87-year-old veteran named Ed Gordon about his experience as a soldier in the war. (You can find all of Espeseth’s recordings in the Early American Museum in Mahomet, IL.) Listen.

Japanese in California — Pacifica Radio Archives

Not all World War II atrocities took place overseas — in the United States, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered Japanese American to be forcibly relocated and incarcerated in camps. All told, between 110,000 and 120,000 were affected, 62 percent of whom were U.S. citizens. This audio piece documents the experience with personal interviews of those who were interned. Listen.

The attack on Pearl Harbor through the eyes of students — KALW Crosscurrents

The attack on Pearl Harbor represented a major turning point for college students. Worried about final exams one day, many were enlisting and joining the army just a few days later. Sam Redman, cultural historian with UC Berkeley’s Regional Oral History Office spoke about the effect this had: “For these young men and woman, it really was a major turning point in their lives. Do they stay in school? Do they continue their studies?” Hear firsthand how they felt — and what they did. Listen.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Crunch time: crafting audio news features efficiently

“No one gets into reporting because they like transcribing. …Overall [Pop Up Archive] is very accurate. I’ve seen it improve a lot in the time I’ve been using it and it’s helping us hugely in our day to day management and production of stories.”
—Audrey Dilling, KALW Crosscurrents

Audrey Dilling has been a reporter and producer for “Crosscurrents,” a daily news magazine at KALW in San Francisco. She has primarily produced features about water, reporting stories that are six to eight minutes long. That may not sound like a lot — until you realize that each feature is composed of at least three interviews, plus ambient sound, and that the raw tape for each interview prior to editing can run from twenty to forty minutes long. To help her use time efficiently and streamline the production process, Audrey uses Pop Up Archive to transcribe and organize tape. Continue reading

Three stories of what it is to be a mother

Dorothy Canfield Fisher said, “A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person to make leaning unnecessary.” This Mother’s Day, listen to three stories from our archives about the rich, complicated, one-of-a-kind bond that exists between mothers and their children.


Alfreda Duster, daughter of Ida B. Wells Studs Terkel Radio Archive

Ida B. Wells is a giant in American history. An African-American woman who was born a slave in Mississippi in 1862, she went on to become a journalist, editor, feminist and early leader in the civil rights movement. Her work has been honored in journalistic awards, a museum, a society for investigative reporting by journalists of color, and even a postage stamp. In 1971 her daughter, Alfreda Duster, spoke about the side of her only a daughter would know. Listen. Continue reading

Introducing the new and improved Audiosear.ch

In 2014, our co-founders — Anne Wootton and Bailey Smith — were very, very busy.

Every day they were commuting from Oakland, CA to 500 Startups’ Mountain View accelerator  as they developed Pop Up Archive, a business then in its infancy. They talked about developing a product that was like Google for all types of audio. Then the podcast “Serial” was released. Continue reading

People and the earth: it’s complicated

Earth Day, which is observed on April 22nd this year, was first celebrated in 1970 an estimated 20 million people attended the festivities. Since then, this holiday has become an important national reminder of the importance of preserving and protecting our environment. Today, we bring you three pieces from our archives that explore various aspects of our relationship with Mother Nature. Continue reading

Pop Up Archive: A partner in production

The Stoop is a forthcoming podcast from Hana Baba, Leila Day, and Julie Caine that tackles oft-ignored aspects of race and identity. They describe the project as “a space where fun, funk, and journalism come together in a podcast that’ll go deep into topics about black identity that aren’t openly discussed.”

Continue reading

Celebrating TryPod one listener at a time

TryPod is a recent effort hatched by industry executives to combat “podcast unawareness.” The goal of TryPod is to grow the overall podcast audience by encouraging people to share their favorite podcasts with those who don’t yet listen.

In 2016, 24 percent of Americans (67 million people) listened to a podcast in the past month, up three percent from 2015, according to last week’s Infinite Dial report from Edison Research.

Nancy Mills is a resident of Washington DC. She’s 67 and retired, and she’s a podcast power listener who is celebrating TryPod in a serious way. We spoke to Nancy about her listening habits and what she’s learned about how to be an effective podcast evangelist.

Let’s start at the beginning. How did you become a podcast listener?

My daughter encouraged me to try it, but I don’t remember how I actually got started. Lots of hunting and clicking I think. Continue reading