Hello Jane, tell me a bit about yourself.

I’m the Head of UX Research for Zapier, which is an all-remote company that’s dedicated to helping anyone and everyone offload the repetitive parts of their work. You’ll sometimes hear this referred to as workflow automation or app integration or a number of other terms, but the way I think about it is that we help humans spend time on the things that humans do best, and let computers take care of the rest.

My main focus is building out the UX Research program at Zapier and getting my team the resources they need to keep doing stellar work, informing company strategy. I love the place we’re at right now, because we have a huge amount of talent and capability, and we’re rapidly creating infrastructure to democratize research internally and start pushing our limits as a research team when it comes to producing foundational work.

The reason I got into management is because I’m driven by solving problems that are too big for a single person to take on themselves, and I design my teams with that in mind. Each person on the team might be working on a different research project, but they all ladder up to a single, overarching goal that will help Zapier make the best possible decisions as a business. My passion is building and leading teams that contribute meaningfully (and in measurable ways) to company success by helping align our product decisions directly to delivering value to our users.

Tell me about your design journey. How did it all start?

This was entirely accidental – I was actually going back to school to get my degree in Library Science. Hilariously, I managed to live in the Bay Area for four years without learning anything about design as a career option – I didn’t really know anything about tech, and I didn’t know that many people who worked in the tech industry. The ones I did know were people I knew through big art projects or weird street theatre, so we didn’t really talk about our work. I realize how strange that sounds to be writing in 2019, but it was 2007 – the Mission was still mostly full of hipsters, and I could still afford a studio apartment on a non-profit salary. I had no idea that there was a way for me to make a living that let me combine all the different aspects of my previous jobs that I liked best. My journey to design, and to research specifically, is really a story of some very lucky forks in the road in my career path.

So, back to how I got here: before I went to get my Master’s degree, I was working as an event planner, but prior to that, I spent several years working in libraries, starting in college, and continuing in my adult life. After four years of working a ton of nights and weekends as an event planner, I was ready for a change, and I really loved a lot of aspects of the library work I did, particularly book preservation and cataloging work.

However, as luck would have it, I went to the University of Michigan School of Information for my Master’s program, which has a lot of different specializations you can choose from, rather than just being a Library Science program. I started taking courses in Human-Computer Interaction and realized it brought together a lot of my disparate interests in a single field. If you look at my career history (librarian, event planner, design researcher), the thing all those jobs have in common is the organization of information in the service of human goals. There are skills from both event planning and librarianship that I use every single day of my life, like putting strangers at ease or categorizing information.

I also didn’t initially plan to go into research. My first job in design was as an interaction designer. I started as an intern at JSTOR, and they kept me on for the rest of my time in Michigan. Once I graduated, I was up for two roles at BitTorrent and had to make a choice between them: either an IC interaction designer or the UX research lead. That choice made me reflect on what I did (and didn’t) like about the different roles, and made me realize that research is where my heart has always been – I’m at my best when I’m operating in a complex problem space and helping others translate that knowledge into implementation. Once we get into solutions, I’m just not the best person for the job. And I like to have at least a shot at being the best person for the job.

Before being a Head of UX Research at Zapier, you were the Design Research Manager for Growth at Dropbox. Tell me about that.

While I spent most of my years at Dropbox managing the Growth Research team, I actually started there as an IC, which turned out to be invaluable for building cachet with product teams. There are many ways to do this without actually conducting the research, but it was early in my career, and I think it was the best way for me personally at the time. Being able to speak with authority that derived directly from experience in the field with our users was crucial to building bridges, and it laid the foundation for extending that cachet to my team once I moved into management.

I actually started there [Dropbox] as an IC, which turned out to be invaluable for building cachet with product teams.

My main focus was to create a working model for the team that enabled us to work on high-level, strategic questions that were relevant for all of the Growth while still ensuring that individual product teams had the access they needed to research. We went through multiple iterations of this before getting to a place where it was starting to work the way I envisioned, but I am pleased that throughout it all, we managed to tackle high-impact, foundational questions that informed a lot of future work.

The project I always love talking about is one that blended IC and management work for me. A couple of years into my time at Dropbox, Growth went through re-alignment of our strategy that entailed looking at crucial points in the user journey and developing a more complete understanding of them, with an eye towards redefining our key metrics based on our users’ goals. I led my team in conducting four separate streams of work that rolled up into an overall picture of our user journey and the key moments in it. We were able to uncover insights that immediately unblocked teams but also provided a well for them to draw from for years afterward. Even as I was leaving Dropbox, teams were running experiments based on ideas that they generated from that research from two years earlier.

There are a lot of reasons to move on to the next thing, but the one that always gets me is when I feel like I’m no longer solving new problems. Towards the end of my time at Dropbox, I felt like I was solving the same problems over and over again, without really developing new skills. And right around that time, Zapier reached out to me with this absolutely incredible opportunity to come to lead the UX research team at a time when it was producing amazing work but needed someone to come in and help the team turn its huge amount of potential into a well-oiled machine.

You’re now leading the UX Research team at Zapier. What kind of challenges do you face with your team?

At this moment, I’m actually managing both UX Research and Content Design, although we’re still deciding whether that’s the right structure in the long-term. I’ve got two IC researchers, as well as a Content Designer, all of whom are the kind of high-performing, exceptionally talented people that you have to be wildly lucky to inherit as your team. I had backfill for another researcher available when I started but made the argument to our Chief Product Officer (my boss) that we needed to hire an Operations person before we scale the team any further. To that end, I just hired an incredible Research Operations Program Manager to come in and develop infrastructure and help us scale our work.

In 2020, I’ll be hiring another 2-3 IC researchers, another 2-3 writers and content designers, and another research operations person. In short, we’ll be more than doubling in size over the course of the year. That’s why I was so adamant about bringing on Research Operations now – it’s the only way to scale that rapidly while having an ongoing impact at the level of company strategy.

At the moment, a lot of my day is spent building bridges between UX Research and other functions, as well as ensuring that UX Research and Content Design are focusing on the highest-impact projects. One of the key things I was brought on at Zapier to do was to help bring together all the different insights functions from across the organization so that we’re leveraging each others’ work and collaborating on the big questions. As part of that, we’re working on rolling out something called “Insights Pods,” which are a malleable grouping that consists of, at minimum, a Decision Scientist, a Data Engineer, and a UX Researcher, with other functions like Support Specialists, Content Designers, and Product Marketers joining as the work requires. These pods work together on key company initiatives. In an ideal world, these pods will ultimately be creating a shared insights roadmap aligned directly to the initiative they’re working on, with all the different insights functions contributing to each item on the roadmap. Of course, it’s easy to talk about ideal worlds when we haven’t rolled it out yet, so we’ll see what happens. ?

What projects are you currently working on?

We just released Zap Sharing in beta to our paid users. This lets users share their Zaps with others via a link. I love this project because it gets to the core of one of our company values, build the robot, don’t be the robot, and takes it further by letting users leverage work that’s already been done. So now, users only need to build the robot once, and everyone they share it with can benefit from it.

I love this project because it gets to the core of one of our company values, build the robot, don’t be the robot.

The next step in this is public Zap Sharing, which will let users make their Zaps findable not just through Zapier, but via a search engine, as well. We’ll be releasing that in 2020, and I’m really excited for what it opens up for our users, and for the new channels into our product, it creates for potential users.

You’re the expert in UX design research. How do you conduct user experience research for maximum value?

Something I say to my team with probably annoying frequency is that the purpose of a research team isn’t to conduct research, it’s to have an opinion. More specifically, it’s to have an opinion that helps the company make better decisions than it otherwise would. Over the years, I’ve shifted my teams entirely off conducting evaluative work. We focus solely on producing research that teams can draw from for years to come — like the insights on the Dropbox user journey that I mentioned earlier. My team at Zapier embeds directly on our key company initiatives, which span multiple EPD zones and product teams. Our work all rolls up directly to Zapier’s long-term goals, which is how my team can ensure we’re producing the most value for the company.

Research that in-house teams conduct should have a lifespan of years, not weeks or months. That means focusing on the complex, foundational questions. If you create that well of insights, teams will be able to return to it over and over again. Contrast that with evaluative work, which takes almost the same amount of lead time, but has a lifespan of a few weeks.

This isn’t to say that evaluative work isn’t a necessary part of product development. Product teams should be conducting as much of their own evaluative and even more generative work as possible. Not only does that ultimately speed up the product development process, since teams aren’t sitting there waiting for research to come back with usability findings, but it also connects teams more deeply and directly to their users, meaning they’ll have a stronger sense for what users need and want, so they’ll make better design and product decisions as they go.

This shift to only conducting foundational research means two things:

  1. Research Operations is a must-have function because we need to democratize and scale the ability to conduct research to everyone at Zapier.
  2. We need to develop some way of bringing more junior folks in and training them up.

I’ve already spoken about Research Operations and how important it is, but let’s spend a little time on that second point. Research is a relatively small discipline, and it’s important to me that as I’m building a senior team, I’m finding ways to create opportunities for people with little or no research experience to get into the field. The normal way that would happen is to hire junior researchers that partner with senior researchers in one of our product zones and have them take on the less complex, more evaluative projects. But since my team doesn’t take on any projects that aren’t complex, we need to find new ways to do this.

We need to develop some way of bringing more junior folks in and training them up.

I’m going to be piloting an approach to this in 2020, where we have a centralized junior researcher on our team. They’ll embed with a product team for the duration of a project, and then move to another team that needs some specialized research support. That way, they’ll get hands-on experience while still be part of a larger team that provides mentorship and helps them build their craft skills. Ideally, this will eventually turn into a kind of in-house apprenticeship program, where we’re providing opportunities to the next generations of researchers and creating a strong internal pipeline for our foundational research needs.

The other thing I’ve been thinking about a lot along these lines is building a team not based on methodological expertise or even the level of the researcher, but instead thinking about the jobs that research teams do that aren’t conducting research. I’m pretty sure there are researchers out there who would glare at me for saying this, but the least important thing that in-house researchers do is actually conduct the research. What we do is help companies translate the information we get from research into better decisions, and we do that in a lot of ways: through socialization, facilitation, thought elevation, subject matter expertise, and user connection.

There are a million different ways to get the same information in the course of a research project. I’m not concerned with finding one researcher who’s expert in one methodology, and another researcher who’s expert in a different one. I’m concerned with finding people who know how to get the information the company needs, and ensuring that the company is able to use it effectively.

As I’m building out my team, rather than saying, “I think we need a mid-level researcher here,” or “We could use a diary study expert here,” instead I’m working with my existing team and Zapier as a whole to understand what strengths we already have, and what additional ones we want to bring on board. To me, being able to conduct high-quality research is the baseline we start from. I take that as a given for anyone I’d hire. So I’m interested in how researchers ensure that their work has an impact, how they help the company translate it from ideas into action, and how they give it longevity.

I can teach anyone to talk to humans. What I want from my team is to be told how to think about them. How they get there is up to them. It’s what they do with it afterward that I care about.

How do you conduct your research and user testing?

Right now, we’re an all-remote research program, which has fit well with our company’s strengths as an all-remote workforce and has enabled us to move incredibly quickly and do a lot with very few resources. As we’re evolving the discipline at Zapier, we’re going to be spending more time in the field. There are certain things you get from fieldwork not just from a research perspective, but from a product development perspective, that is incredibly valuable, and that I want to make sure we’re equipped to do when it makes sense.

One of the most wonderful things about joining Zapier has been getting a crash course in remote synthesis (and all other things remote). My team is genuinely exceptional at this, and they have been patiently bringing me along. So much of my experience as a researcher has been with in-person synthesis, so this has been a chance to get outside of my comfort zone, push my own abilities, and learn a new skill.

A lot of apps become bloated with features in time. What would you recommend such products if they want to simplify/improve their UX?

“Simplify” is such a loaded word these days because it can get conflated with “go minimal” or “remove things.” Simplifying the UX isn’t a good end goal, in the same way, that efficiency isn’t a good end goal; they’re tools for achieving an end goal. But there are definitely situations in which the purpose of the product has been convoluted, or the UI is trying to do too many things at once. Once a product has found themselves in that situation, I start with a single question: How is this helping the user achieve their goal?

Simplifying the UX isn’t a good end goal, in the same way, that efficiency isn’t a good end goal; they’re tools for achieving an end goal.

I like this question for a few reasons: it forces you to have a very clear understanding of your users, the value your product is supposed to be providing, and whether or not the feature is contributing to it. You can ask it at multiple elevations, from the overall product down to each individual interaction. And asking it every time you’re considering a new feature or a product change can help you stay true to your original purpose and ensure that you’re making good on the promise you’ve made to your users, and avoid feature bloat that dilutes or even entirely removes the value you were originally provided to users.

It’s very easy to “value add” your way straight out of product-market fit, especially when you can make a case for a feature “adding value” to users. The question when you’re adding new features shouldn’t be, “Is this potentially useful to someone?” It should be, “How does this contribute to our users achieving their goals?” A lot of good products have gone sideways by trying to be too many things to too many people, while not ever actually nailing the one thing people wanted them to be in the first place. So you have to get crystal clear on what people need from you and ensure that everything new you put into your product is part of delivering on that original promise.

That doesn’t mean that you need to stick with a single job or a single product forever. But the way to innovate is to steadily add to your original values in ways that are adjacent to it. If you’re a note-taking app, the way to add adjacent value is to look at the steps in the workflow that come before and after the act of taking notes, and see if there’s an opportunity for you to support those, as well. It’s not to decide to also provide video conferencing because you noticed that people who take notes also have a lot of remote meetings.

If you’re a note-taking app, the way to add adjacent value is to look at the steps in the workflow that come before and after the act of taking notes, and see if there’s an opportunity for you to support those, as well.

Do you use any personal time management techniques like pomodoro?

I don’t use time management techniques per se, but I do keep a gloriously detailed, color-coded calendar that blocks off not just meetings, but project work, reading and writing time, and anything else that needs dedicated attention. This isn’t just for me, and it’s also for the rest of my company – any time that looks open on my calendar is genuinely open, so there’s no need to check with me first.

I’m also a pretty efficient context-switcher, so interruptions don’t actually bother me. This is great for my productivity, but it means I have to be mindful of how and when I’m messaging my team. They’re the ones doing the deep thinking work, and need to not be inundated with messages from me on a million different topics. Part of my job is to protect their time, both from others and from me, so while I make myself available for interruptions as much as possible, I work hard to avoid interrupting them.

Part of my job is to protect my team’s time, both from others and from me.

The only other tool I consistently use for staying on top of my time is actually just keeping multiple browser windows open, each one dedicated to a different context. I have three main windows: one for my basic work tabs (Google Calendar and Trello), one for personal (Gmail, GCal, and Mattermost, which my husband and I use for our household chat), and one for whatever things I need to read that day. When I’m working on a project in a heads-down way, I’ll pull out just the tabs for that project into a new window and minimize everything else.

How do you manage your projects?

I manage my personal projects with Trello since most of them don’t have formal outputs beyond documentation. I keep both running to-do lists on it as well as project-specific boards. Other than that, Coda is the tool I use most since it allows you to sub-divide your documents and keep all the relevant materials in a single, visible location that’s easy to navigate around. It’s particularly great for research projects since you can keep all of the related work in the same place – research plan, interview guide, recruiting screener, notes, findings, etc.

What excites you the most about design in 2020?

What a great question! There’s a lot I’m seeing in terms of the developing maturity of organizations’ understanding of what design can do. I’m particularly amped about the attention that Design and Research Operations are getting as disciplines, and am excited to see smaller and smaller companies starting to invest in them.

I’m also starting to see a growing desire on the part of designers and researchers for measuring their impact and really understanding the business side of things. The impact is my jam, so I’m very excited about this, especially having spent so much time working directly on growth. Design is about how we deliver value to users, but it’s important to do it in a way that aligns with the success of the business. I’m seeing a lot more about growth design out there in the world, which indicates to me that design is undergoing a healthy shift towards understanding and measuring how it contributes to business goals. While it’s not design-specific, this piece from The Margins is probably the best thing I’ve read on the topic in quite some time.

I’m also starting to see a growing desire on the part of designers and researchers for measuring their impact and really understanding the business side of things.

How do you educate yourself?

I try to read whatever’s getting passed around on Zapier’s design Slack channel at any given moment, to see what’s resonating with designers.

This is going to be a telling glimpse into my background in growth, but most of my daily and weekly reads aren’t design-related at all; they’re business-related. I’m hugely fond of Matt Levine’s Money Stuff, and I try to make it at least halfway through the Economist every week.

Most of my daily and weekly reads aren’t design-related at all; they’re business-related.

I read a ridiculous volume of management books, but the hands-down, best-ever book on management is Michael Lopp’s Managing Humans. This is the “if you only read one book on management, read this” recommendation I give everyone. I also love The Toyota Way, especially now that I’m working at a company whose product is automation – that’s one I think anyone working on integration or automation should learn from.

Erika Hall’s Just Enough Research and Donald Norman’s Design of Everyday Things are the ones I’d give to anyone. For deeper cuts, I like Christopher Alexander’s Timeless Way of Building and A Pattern Language. And The Responsible Communication Style Guide should be read by anyone who puts words in front of users, in any context.

Where is the best place for people to connect with you online?

I gave up on Twitter a couple of years ago, so the best place is LinkedIn. I’m also technically on Instagram, but it’s mostly pictures of soufflés I post as humblebrags.

I spent the summer after my senior year of high school canoeing in the Arctic Circle with a group of 5 other women. We were charged by grizzly bears and wound up getting airlifted out by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

My husband and I have a one-year-old daughter, and we’re working on introducing her to the things we love, like hiking and cooking. I’m also a voracious reader and something of a crossword puzzle freak.

Bonus Question: When was the last time you ate avocado, and how was it made?

This afternoon! I gave my daughter half an avocado as a snack, and shamelessly ate most of it after she crawled away to play.


A vital element of any new product cycle is user research. Miss it out at your peril or even worse; do it but do it badly.

It sounds easy enough, ask a few questions, get a few surveys filled in and you can say you’ve done user research.

However, it is precisely because organisations falsely believe this stage of the process is simple enough and don’t allocate sufficient time or resources that they risk achieving the opposite – a costly mistake.

The first thing you should do, before anything else, is conduct a UX audit of your products and platforms in order to achieve a proper understanding of how things stand for you right now.

If you’re passionate about quality user research that adds value, we’ve identified 5 common user research mistakes that your organisation should avoid:

1. Research that is all over the place

If you are looking to gather meaningful data that will inspire your project team and enhance product design, user research cannot just be embarked on. It requires careful planning, with clear, defined goals.

The temptation is to throw some money and a few members of the team into the mix and expect to get something vaguely useful out of it. By all means, if vague works for you and you have a limitless budget at your disposal then jump straight in. The risk with this approach is that it rarely yields enough information that can be used successfully. 

To avoid wasting valuable resource on unhelpful user research, be clear on what you want out of the event. Discuss requirements with the project team, the client and any other stakeholders. 

Evaluate data that is already available and drill down to what exactly you need to know that will inform the next stage of the product’s process. What do people want the research to inform them of? Dealing with these elements will ensure that the user research phase has purpose and adds value. 

A clear user research plan is vital to get buy-in from stakeholders for both the research and results. Smashing Magazine describes a 1-page research plan that will help to focus and describe what will happen, why and how.  

2. Asking people what they want

User research is all about understanding people and their experiences with specific tasks, environment and products. Therefore it would seem the best course of action is to ask people what they want.

Unfortunately, human beings, when confronted with such a general question, will falter and not be able to offer any coherent response. The majority of the time, people do not know exactly what they want.

It is a misguided belief that we understand how our brains works and the impact of this on our behaviour.

Nisbet and Wilson in their 1977 paper Telling more than we can know explain:

“when people attempt to report on their cognitive processes…, they do not do so based on any true introspection. Instead, their reports are based on a priori, implicit casual theories or judgments about the extent to which a particular stimulus is a plausible cause for a given response.”

In addition, taken out of their natural environment, people find it challenging to illustrate their activity and any problems they face. To maximum opportunity for learning, user researchers will find observation to be the ideal approach.

Observation should take place in the locations where people are naturally engaged in tasks using tools that will give you and how your product may be impacted. If unable to go to people’s workplace or home environment, it is helpful to try and replicate surroundings that will allow them to demonstrate how they operate. People find it easier to discuss and describe their goals and challenges when they have something to react to. 

User researches should not assume that because people are unable to articulate what they want, that their input is not required, or that user research is not helpful.  Rather they should reflect on their methods and plan to optimise data gathered during the phase, i.e. a combination of observation and interviewing. 

3. Research formats

We’ve touched on the possible forms that user research may take, concluding that a combination of focus group style and observation is the preferred approach. 

Nielsen Norman Group explains that the critical question is which format to use and when and agree that most projects will benefit from multiple methods. Despite this, a common mistake made by researchers is selecting the wrong type of research method.

For example, you decide to progress with a survey that is several pages long. How confident can you be that it has been completed honestly and mindfully, i.e. not just selecting random answers just to get to the end? Furthermore, a survey doesn’t always allow the participant to provide much context.  

The user research method must be proportionate to the project. If you’re unsure how the approach will work in practice, don’t be afraid to test it out — not testing user research methods before full roll-out is another popular misjudgement.

Asking even one user to go through the process can provide valuable information to perfect the style and format of your chosen method, as well as helping to fix any technical issues that may be lurking – if technology is involved.

If it all feels too much like hard work, don’t be tempted to re-use old user research studies!  

4. Doing it together

User research doesn’t have to be lonely work. In fact, involving others can enhance the quality of the project. It is a mistake to leave the project or client team out of the process.

Not including them can overall be a hindrance to the outcome you want to achieve – if you think moving without taking account of their feedback will get the job done quicker, you run the risk of them moving on with the design phase and dismissing your work.

People should feel invested in the results, as such, they should be included in all stages of the user research phase – from providing input to the research plan, to recruiting participants and being given the opportunity to review the findings. 

The UX collective helpful lists ways in which to make user experience a team sport.

In contrast, it is also a mistake to have too many team members on field visits. As such, participants can be left feeling intimidated and awkward, which may have an adverse impact on their usual performance. Have a rota in place that gives those that want to be a part of the process a chance to be involved. 

5. Objectivity

Objectivity is a challenge but essential in user research. Allowing your own prejudices or perceptions sneak into research questions or interviews is all too easily done. Bias can find its way into how questions are asked, how the findings are presented and worse; in deciding whether to present the findings at all.

Questions should be open-ended and constructed so they don’t lead participants towards a particular response. They should also not be laid out, so there is a default option because it is less hassle to just go with the pre-selected answer. For more about smart survey writing find out more at UX Booth

The findings of conducting research in this manner may not be popular, but it is not the user researcher’s decision to discredit without sharing and inviting a discussion.

If you’d like to discuss any aspect of your marketing or digital presence, why not contact us for an informal chat.


My name is Olga and I’m an introvert.

Well, sort of. On a good day, I’m perfectly able to engage in effortless small talk. But on a bad day, in the words of Marina, “I wanna stay inside all day, I want the world to go away”. And yet, I’m an UX researcher, which means I got myself a job that makes me talk to people all the time. And somehow, I love it! Crazy, right?

If your goal is to gather as many insights as possible, you need to open your participant up. And how do you open someone up if you’re scared yourself? Here are some things I learned along the way that you might find helpful. Read on!

Photo by Ismail Hamzah on Unsplash

Be prepared

This one goes without saying, but I think it’s important to mention. You’re already stressing out about the whole talking-with-a-stranger situation, so you don’t need to add more to the pile. Make sure you’re familiar with the discussion guide (or if you are on your own with the project, write the discussion guide). Memorize formalities you have to say at the beginning. And in case you get nervous and your memory fails, have some notes on you that will help you go on.

“Memorize formalities you have to say at the beginning. And in case you get nervous and your memory fails, have some notes on you that will help you go on.”

It’s your territory

I used to be afraid of bugs and spiders when I was a kid. My dad used to tell me, “Look how tiny he is. He is more scared of you than you are of him”. The same goes for research participants. They find themselves in a strange environment, with a stranger asking them (often personal) questions.

When you enter the lab, you do so with a clear plan as to what happens next. Meanwhile, your participants have no clue what will happen. They are afraid they will be tested or judged somehow. Remember — you are in charge here.

Start off with an icebreaker

Now, this is always recommended as a way to open up a participant, but in our case, it serves you as much as it does them.

I usually start a chit-chat about the weather (I know, I know, very original, but I do my best to only use that in extreme weather conditions!) or how difficult it was for them to find the lab (it’s quite difficult to find the lab). With women, I tend to compliment their earrings or nail polish colour. This makes them start talking about where they bought it, while I update my shopping list. Win-win.

What else can you do? There are plenty of small talk topics, but you should definitely avoid those which are in any way controversial, such as politics, immigration, or, sometimes, sports — especially the local league.

You can also try and crack a joke, but it needs to be generic as hell. People get offended over many different topics, and the last thing you want is for your participant to feel offended by you.

Take breaks

If you’re an introvert, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re super shy, but it probably means that social interaction drains you. Therefore, it might be tempting to get done with your project quickly and run as many sessions per day as possible. I’ve been there and trust me, it’s not a good idea.

Be sure to give yourself time to rest. What I find optimal is to conduct 3 sessions per day at the most, with at least a 30-minute break between participants. However, if you prefer to limit the number of sessions or take longer breaks, go for it (as long as your employer allows it).

“If you’re an introvert, it might not mean that you’re super shy, but it probably means that social interaction drains you. So take breaks to help your energy levels.”

Try an unconventional approach

We usually meet participants in the lab, but it doesn’t mean it’s the only way to conduct an interview. If you are ready to get out of your comfort zone (literally), check with your participants to see how they’d prefer to talk to you.

Some participants, especially young people, will prefer to talk to you via an instant messaging app. Interviewing via, for example, Messenger will help them (and, honestly, you) feel more comfortable. It might also get you more insights, and a transcript that you can always go back to.

Last but not least

Make sure to pay or otherwise reward your participants. Every time I was afraid I would mess up, I remembered that those people were paid (quite a lot) to sit down with me. From experience as both a researcher and a participant — being paid makes people more patient and kind. They will want to help you. Use that to your advantage.

“From experience as both a researcher and a participant — being paid makes people more patient and kind. They will want to help you. Use that to your advantage.”

Originally posted on Olga Wojnarowska’s Medium page.


Keyword research is a critical part of any SEO strategy. If you get it right, then you’ll bring high volumes of relevant traffic to your site. In this article, we are going to look at what keywords are, and why you need to research them.

Keywords are essentially the bridge between a website and a search engine. They are what helps a search engine identify what your site is about, and how relevant it is when a certain term or phrase is searched for by the user. A search engine keeps a database of websites which they have filed away under the appropriate tags/topics to be able to produce fast results. 

You can make sure you have a much stronger chance of appearing in the SERPs by optimising your website for the right keywords.


There can be hundreds of options when it comes to keywords. So how do you know which ones you should optimise for?

Keyword research.

The general rule of thumb is to look for keywords which have a high search volume (meaning your website will have more opportunities in the SERPs) but on the lower scale of competition (meaning you won’t be fighting multiple large companies for a piece of the pie). We will look at how you can do this a little later in the article. First, let’s take a look at what we mean by keyword optimization…

Keyword Optimisation Tips

Now when you think of keyword optimisation, you may be tempted to stuff your chosen keyword into your content as many times as possible. This may have worked a few years back, but now, keyword stuffing is a huge no-no!

When adding your keyword, it needs to be as natural as possible. But there are a few places that you want to ensure this happens. The three most important places to optimize are:

  • At the beginning of your title tag;
  • Your meta description;
  • The first 50 to 100 words in your content.

And there are still some other ways to optimize your keywords that will help when it comes to ranking your website:

  • Your image alt tags (preferably the first image on the page);
  • In the page’s URL;
  • In at least one of your subheadings;
  • 2-3 times (or more depending on your word count) throughout the content.

As you can see there is plenty you can do to fully optimize for a keyword whilst keeping your content natural.

Types of Keyword

The types of keyword that you decide to use on your website determine whether you bring in visitors who can offer you the most value. There are seven keyword types you should learn about:

1. Generic Keywords (aka Short-Tail)

Generic keywords will isolate a topic, but you won’t get any further detail. Usually known as ‘short-tail’ keywords. For example: “Shoes,” “Vacuum Cleaner,” or “Book.”

You should stay away from these types of keywords as the competition is usually very high and you have no idea around the search intent so conversions are generally pretty low.

2. Brand Keywords

Brand Keywords are pretty self-explanatory. They include a keyword relating to the brand of the product, for example: “Adidas shoes,” “Dyson vacuum cleaner,” “Harry Potter book.”

They are a step up from a generic keyword but it is still unclear what the intent behind the search is.

3. Broad Keywords

Broad keywords are more promising. They provide good levels of traffic and have much less competition.

Usually, the searcher has decided what they are looking for but may only have an approximate idea. For example: “Running shoes,” “Upright vacuum cleaner,” “Children’s books.”

These are still open to a little interpretation but the search is more specific.

4. Exact Keywords

Exact keywords show that the searcher knows exactly what they are trying to find.

This type of keyword is good to optimize for because they usually convert very well and have high search volumes. For example: “Best running shoes,” “Vacuum cleaner reviews,” “Recommended children’s books.”

There is a problem with exact keywords though: they have a lot of competition.

5. Long-Tail Keywords

In my opinion, long-tail keywords are the best type of keyword to focus on.

They generally have lower search volume, meaning they have less competition but they have a really high conversion level. For example: “Which running shoes are the best for marathons,” “Upright vacuum cleaner with retractable cord,” “Which children’s books are best for ages 8-10.”

Long-tail keywords have the right balance between competition, conversion, and traffic.

6. Buyer Keywords

Buyer keywords will have a word attached that signals the searcher is ready to part with their cash. For example: “Buy Adidas running shoes,” “Dyson vacuum cleaner discount,” “Children’s books coupons.”

If this fits with your business model, then optimising for buyer keywords can be a really smart move.

7. Tyre Kicker Keywords

Tyre kicker keywords usually indicate that the user isn’t one that’s going to benefit you in anyway (unless this aligns with your business strategy.) For example: “Free running shoes,” “Dyson vacuum cleaner exchange,” “Download children’s books.”

There is usually a word attached to the keyword which shows the are not looking to spend money.

Wrapping Up

In this article, we have reviewed what keywords are, why they are important and how keyword research is crucial for the success of your website.

We looked at the best places to optimise your keywords on your website without resorting to keyword stuffing. And you now know the seven types of keywords used, meaning you can make a decision which type is best for your business.


Although 5G is often touted for being newer, faster, and more secure than 4G, a team of security researchers from the University of Iowa and Purdue University has flipped the last bit of that marketing message on its head by discovering almost a dozen new 5G vulnerabilities. As a result of these breaches, they were able to carry out some nasty attacks like location tracking, broadcasting of false emergency alerts, and severing the 5G connection of a phone entirely from the network.

Given how important and prevalent 5G will become, you might think that the organizations responsible for the implementation of its security protocols, such as 3GPP, have devised clear and strong requirements. According to the research team, that is simply not the case. They claim in their research paper that the 5G protocol “lacks a formal specification and hence is prone to ambiguity and underspecification.” Additionally, the team says that the existing standard “often states security and privacy requirements in an abstract way” with conformance test suites encompassing “only primitive security requirements lacking both completeness and the consideration of adversarial environments.”

To demonstrate their point, the research team created an “adversarial environment” in the form of a fake malicious radio base station, and together with its newly developed tool called 5GReasoner, successfully carried out multiple types of attacks against a 5G-connected smartphone. In one situation, a denial-of-service (DoS) attack on the phone resulted in its connection being completely cut off from the rest of the network. In another, the phone’s location was tracked in real time and logged. The scariest demonstration was the hijacking of the phone’s paging channel to broadcast fake emergency alerts, which according to the research team, could lead to “artificial chaos,” like when a mistakenly sent alert claimed that Hawaii was under missile attack from North Korea that resulted in broad panic on the island.

Given the serious nature of these vulnerabilities and how easily the team was able to exploit them, they have wisely decided not to publicly release the precise methods and code behind their exploits. They did notify the GSM Association, but its spokesperson Claire Cranton, in response to an inquiry from TechCrunch, sounded noncommittal about any upcoming fixes, saying the vulnerabilities are “judged as nil or low-impact in practice.”

Syed Rafiul Hussain, one of the co-authors of the research paper, said in his statement to TechCrunch that while most of the security flaws in the existing design can be easily fixed, some of the vulnerabilities will require “a reasonable amount of change in the protocol.”

Image: Forbes



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How to learn more faster

Michael Margolis

Since 2010, we’ve helped hundreds of GV startups (like Nest, Foundation Medicine, Flatiron Health, Slack, Gusto, Lime, and Uber) use UX research to answer critical business questions and to build more successful products. We’ve shared our lessons on Medium and in the GV Library. This table of contents will help you quickly find everything you need to learn more faster about your customers, your ideas, and your designs.

1. UX Interviews

What equipment do you need?

Recruiting participants

Drafting interview guides

Interview techniques: Getting the most out of conversations with customers

Observing interviews

2. Surveys

3. Online Research

— — — —

Please leave a comment or tweet @MMargolis with suggestions for other topics you’d like to see here.

GV Library

Advice, lessons, and tips from GV partners and our community of entrepreneurs.

Michael Margolis

Written by

UX Research Partner at GV (fka Google Ventures). Advising, teaching, and conducting practical research for hundreds of startups since 2010.

GV Library

Advice, lessons, and tips from GV partners and our community of entrepreneurs.

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