In the summer of 2019, I was a User Experience Research Intern at Google. Because I can’t disclose the details of my project, here I write about the methods I used and what I learned from the experience.
My internship lasted a little less than four months and I worked in the Android Google App team in London, UK. I was in charge of leading a qualitative study with multiple phases and methods that informed a series of new concepts and prototypes for Google Search.
(If you're at Google, you can see more details at go/franvit)
Desk research and literature review
I started my work by conducting desk research and a literature review on previous projects in the domain we were investigating. I synthesized key findings from previous studies, both internal and external, and outlined the key challenges and user needs in the space, presenting them to the rest of the team, made up of project managers, designers, and other researchers. Together with the team, we decided what to focus on in the rest of the project so that we could inform new functions of our product.
I identified key user challenges and needs from past research.
We asked 24 participants to keep a one-week video diary.
We did followup at-home interviews with 12 diary participants.
Recruiting, diary study, and home interviews
After the literature review, we moved to the field: we organized a remote, one-week video diary study with 24 participants, followed by home interviews with 12 of the diary participants. In this phase, I took the lead in vetting, choosing, and coordinating participant recruitment with two external vendors. I worked together with project managers and other researchers to keep the study schedule on track even though we had some unexpected recruiting challenges.Eventually, all went well and we managed to run the diary study and the interviews without issues.
After sorting out the recruitment, I wrote the interview script and conducted a pilot interview to make sure that the questions were on track. I also asked other team members and project managers to go through the script and make sure that we were addressing pressing research questions they were looking to explore.
Then, it was time to run the the video diary and the interviews. I organized and analyzed all the data from the diary (several hours of video), synthesizing key insights to discuss with the rest of the team (researchers and designers), so that we could choose who to interview next. Then, I moderated 9/12 interviews and acted as a note-taker in the other 3. Each interview lasted about 90 minutes and was structured into several sections focused on understanding participants’ behaviours and reactions to some early design concepts we wanted to test.
Analysis and results
To make sense of the interview data, we had debrief-sessions with the whole team immediately after each interview. We took notes on what was interesting about participants, emerging trends we noticed, and first ideas on how to address user needs and challenges based on what they showed us.
Then, we had several, longer analysis sessions with the whole team, where we looked at data from all interviews and identified key behaviors, issues to address, and possible design ideas to explore. We prioritized the early design concepts we tested based on how participants reacted to them and provided an indication of whether it was worth to keep working on them.
I wrote a report based on the results and presented it to the rest of the larger team in London, with a fruitful discussion of possible directions to follow and where to go next in terms of developing specific concepts and ideas.
But that’s not all! My internship was supposed to finish in September after the interviews were over. However, I was happy to extend my internship and continue working on the project. After presenting the results of the main study to the larger team, we decided to run a design sprint to ideate more specific ideas targeted at a subset of users. We came up with new solutions that we prototyped and quickly tested with target users. We also planned a followup diary study focused on one specific new function.
During the one-week design sprint, I organized and led a one-day ideation workshop with nine team members (UX researcher, UX designers, engineers, and project managers), following the Google design sprint framework.
We started with some lightning talks and HMWs (How Might We), where I and other team members presented key findings from the main study we ran in the summer, thinking of directions to explore with the rest of the team. Then, we went into ideation with several rounds of Crazy 4s (not 8s, because we had more than one specific area to explore!) And finally, we all discussed and prioritized what concepts to work on.
Testing and followup study
After the sprint week, we tested some of the prototypes doing guerrilla interviews with target users and identified aspects that were working and others that needed to change. I wrote the report based on the design concepts testing, and then I worked on planning an additional diary study that will build on the results of my internship project. I took care of putting together the research plan with context, goals, questions, methods, and participants criteria.
Working at Google was an incredible and challenging experience. I was able to do so much in just a little less than four months, also thanks to a great team! I used different methods in my project, going from desk research to seeing study insights turn into possible new features. I learned how to collaborate with and involve other stakeholders throughout the research process, when to ask for their help, and how to present research findings in a clear, compelling, and actionable way.
I have used a lot of the learnings and research tips from my time at Google in my career and they have been quite helpful for growing and improving my UXR practice.