Data is renowned for being controversial in the age of Wikileaks, the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal, and cloud storage hacks. While we’re still trying to successfully regulate and govern data, there are some amazing benefits that surface when we safely access and interpret consumer information.

Nikola Spadina, former Experience Designer at WooliesX, has a background in research and data analytics by virtue of his Psychology degrees. His studies and career history give him a unique outlook on the world of UX and how we can use research and data analysis to create better experiences. Chatting with Nikola for Askable’s Fireside Chat series, we spoke about how his research processes are adapting alongside the ever advancing world of experience design.

“Data can be cut in a million different ways… you can tell a million different stories.”

In a delivery-oriented organisation like Woolworths, Nikola works with data analysts at WooliesX to formulate design decisions and test hypotheses. “When working in a competitive landscape like eCommerce you often don’t have the luxury of time, so I use data to measure and learn from the changes I’m implementing on the fly. I’ll have a hypothesis, based on research with users or something suggested by the data, and then I’ll put something small into the marketplace and see how people respond to it.”

Nikola says spending time with people and working with data and statistics is a big factor in what makes his design work valuable. He believes it’s a crucial step in formulating and validating the decisions he makes because design is no longer about moving pixels around but about moving entire businesses forward. He says while there’s a steep learning curve in learning stats, it’s important to know the basics when it comes to data. Nikola recommends nailing concepts like reliability and validity, as they will transform the way we view data and think about important business decisions.

Focusing on his experience at WooliesX, Nikola says he was pretty lucky that if a UXer needed to do research it didn’t take much elbow twisting to make it happen. However, the more common story in UX research is that key stakeholders and those controlling the purse-strings need convincing when it comes to budget and resources for research. Nikola’s suggestion for anyone struggling to create a human-centred research culture in their organisation is to reveal just how problematic a lack of testing is, to justify why it’s actually important.

“Research (with users) is the quickest way to de-risk business decisions and ensure product-to-market fit.”

Nikola referenced the Simpsons episode where Homer was given creative license to build a car based on what he thought people wanted. By not investing in research and understanding your customers, products and experiences could end up a lot like this:

I asked Nikola for his three top tips on better outcome-driven design, and this is what he had to say:

  1. Make the effort to understand how to structure and create a hypothesis-driven design
  2. Get things into people’s hands as soon as you can, at its lowest/leanest fidelity.
  3. Create efficient means of receiving and implementing customer feedback; invest in creating a continuous R&D cycle/culture.

When we’re clever with data and spend time doing consumer research, better products and experiences are created. While we continue to see changes made to privacy and data access, UX designers should harness the information they get from research to create products and services aligned to users’ needs and behaviours.

In line with Homer Simpson’s business-busting mistake, Nikola had one parting comment:

“If you’re in business it should always be about what’s right for the customer, not what’s right for you.”

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