22. Vicki Tollemache of Grubhub
In this episode of Dollars to Donuts I speak with Vicki Tollemache, the Director of UX Research at Grubhub. We discuss how to manage incoming research requests, running a weekly research session for testing designs, and why candidates should come into job interviews with a point of view about the company’s product. To me, researchers are educators. They’re there to translate and educate the organization that they work with about who their users are, what they’re experiencing, where their pain points are, what they care about, what their motivations are. There’s a number of ways you could communicate that and you can educate. Experience is probably one of the best, but due to time constraints, not everyone can come into the field with us and experience that. If you just rely on reports and communicating from the researchers there’s something that’s left out in the details. There’s a richness that’s not there that I think even researchers realize. – Vicki Tollemache Show Links Mind the Product Newton Minow’s “Vast Wasteland” Speech 500-channel universe Golden Age of Television Roku Roku Guide Vicki on LinkedIn Grubhub Seamless userinterviews.com Sam Hall John le Carré Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown Usability Sciences Ron Johnson and J.C. Penney Motley crew Mötley Crüe Chuck Klosterman – But What If We’re Wrong? Follow Dollars to Donuts on Twitter and help other people find the podcast by leaving a review on Apple Podcasts. Transcript Steve Portigal: Thanks for joining me on Dollars to Donuts, the podcast where I talk with people who lead user research in their organization. I’ve mentioned a public workshop happening in San Francisco; it looks like that has fallen through but I will be speaking at the Mind the Product Conference in San Francisco next month. I’m also doing in-house training workshops so let’s talk if that’s something your team might want to pursue. In my consulting practice I have the opportunity to work with different organizations with varying levels of investment in research, varying levels of maturity in their research and product practices, and so on. I started this podcast as an extension of that, as a way to highlight the emergent practice of user research leadership. So supporting me and my business is the best way for you to support this podcast. My consulting work informs the podcast. It also pays for this podcast. If you have thoughts about the Dollars to Donuts, email me at DONUTS AT PORTIGAL DOT COM or write me on Twitter at Dollars To Donuts, that’s d o l l R s T O D o n u t s. In 1961 the new chairman of the FCC gave his first speech, addressing the National Association of Broadcasters. He saw the potential of television, but complained that watching the programming currently available revealed a “vast wasteland.” That phrase echoed down the decades. In 1992 when cable TV executive John Malone coined the phrase “the 500 channel universe.” While that might have signified opportunity to the industry, but to the viewing public it felt like the vastness was simply increasing in scope. Yet somehow we made it today where 500 channels seems almost quaint, and critics herald the Golden Age of Television also known as Peak TV. Well, we purchased a Roku TV set recently. Roku basically provides an operating system for the television where you can add apps, just like you’d add apps to a phone. So we added all the usual suspects like Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, NBC, Vimeo, Amazon, and some others that we discovered like Pluto which is a free streaming channel with a ton of programming. But what I didn’t realize was that Roku is a somewhat open platform that allows interested parties to add content. Looking into how to do that, it doesn’t seem that much harder than putting out a podcast. And while the choice isn’t as overwhelming broad as with podcasts, there are an astonishing number of Roku channels. I found a blog that every week or two updates with the latest channels, not all of them, just the ones that they’ve reviewed! Here’s some of their latest update reviews. Funny TV Network – A collection of funny clips from Family Feud hosted by Steve Harvey Know Your Tools – Tool reviews, safety tips, recommendations and innovations The Home Depot Channel – Tips and tutorials for home remodeling, home maintenance, and tool use Louisiana Cajun Recipes – A Cajun cooking show hosted by a self-taught cook Smoky Ribs BBQ – Essential grilling recipes Stories of the Century – A 1950s Western TV series about a railroad detective who roams the west, tracking down outlaws and bandits who are preying on the railroad SOS Coast Guard – A 12-chapter 1937 film serial starring Bela Lugosi and Ralph Byrd Sci-Fi Zone – 19 vintage Sci-Fi movies from the 1940s and 50s DramaTV – Vintage public domain dramas from the 1940s and 50s Scary TV – 20 vintage horror movies from the 1930s, 40s and 50s Shemaroo Yoga – Yoga tutorials from Anushka Malao Aircraft Channel – Aircraft accidents and near accidents reconstructed with analysis of what actually happened Rockwell Off Road – Mud-bogging and proving grounds videos It’s not particularly different from what’s already online on some platforms, but I was surprised at how the bar for “television” had got, I certainly expect a lot of crap from TV in general but this is barely curated Internet detritus that mingles with TV channels from established media players. I’m not saying all this content is necessarily garbage, or isn’t of interest to some people, perhaps many people, but that my mental model for changing channels on a television set, even if I can’t pick anything over the air where I live and haven’t had cable for many years, that’s still an entrenched mental model, so to find that this new television lets me watch NBC and the Opossum Saga at the same navigation level in the menu is just surprising. I think they’ve got some way of streamlining the experience so searching on the platform will more likely reveal big brands that have more traffic or that perhaps have paid slotting fees. You won’t come across The Lawnmower Channel unless you know to look for it, I think. And just like I’ve mentioned in previous episodes these shifts in mental models, in how producers expect something to be used versus how consumers expect something to be used, these are fantastic things to explore in user research, especially as systems grow in complexity and scale, like this 5 zillion channel rokuverse. Well, I think it is time to get to the interview. I spoke with Vicki Tollemache who is the Director of UX Research at Grubhub. All right, well, thank you for being on the podcast. Vicki Tollemache: Thank you for having me. Steve: Why don’t you start by introducing yourself? Who are you? What do you do? Vicki: I am Victoria Tollemache, but everyone calls me Vicki. I am the Director of UX Research here at Grubhub. Essentially, I manage a team of researchers across our ecosystem and my job is really to make sure that we are working in a way, doing research that’s going to impact our organization. So, it’s a lot of strategy. I’m working with product leads and our design VP to make sure that we are positioned correctly and chasing the right questions. Steve: Hmm, chasing the right questions. What does that mean? Vicki: That means I mean – my research team – I think generally research teams are much smaller than the design organizations and product organizations they’re supporting. We have a million questions coming at us of all shapes and sizes and it’s determining which questions make the most sense for where we are as a business and which questions, if we get answers to, will the business be able to respond to and we’ll be able to have impact? So, making sure that we’re positioning in the right space. Steve: Right. You mentioned impact as well right off. So, what does impact look like? Vicki: Impact to me is, in the scheme of things maybe it’s identifying needs within our users ecosystem that we could create solutions for, to better solve for pain points they’re experiencing. Or it is – maybe we’re creating a new experience and we’re not quite certain if what we’ve created matches the user’s mental mindset. So, doing research at that point that our product and design teams can respond to and make changes to. Steve: Does that fall under the label of evaluation? It feels like there’s something else to it. Vicki: It can be. What do you mean? Steve: I mean maybe you’re just describing the way I’d like to see evaluation done where it’s not just thumbs up/thumbs down on… Vicki: Oh no, no, it’s iterating right through the process and we’re working with design to be like what can we change about it to make it a better experience? And then potentially testing again. Steve: And you’re framing it around mental mindset which is sort of the underpinnings of a concept. Vicki: Sure, absolutely. Steve: Not the implementation of a concept. I think that’s why evaluative to me is like – evaluative is maybe about the details of the design? Vicki: Sure. Steve: And so I feel like maybe there’s another word that describes what you’re doing which is looking at the value proposition or the construct, or the mental mindset. Vicki: Sometimes we call it an experience audit here, but I feel like that’s a term we’ve made up ourselves. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard that in the field or in the wild. Because we were trying to describe some of the things that we’re doing and we’re like are we auditing the experience? Steve: Not that you asked my opinion, but audit seems more passive than what you’re talking at.