dscout Research Lead Anna Bunda shares her experience moving from agency to in-house and the approaches she takes when partnering with new insights-gathering roles.
Words by Ben Wiedmaier, Visuals by Jarred Kolar
As researchers, we never seem to run out of questions. “Why did our user answer in this way?” “Why did they decide to click this over that?” “Why were they feeling that way in the moment?”
Each question leads to more questions and in turn, more findings—and that cycle is exactly what drew Anna Bunda into this line of work.
We sat down with Anna to ask some questions of our own and learn about her path to dscout, her take on the future of remote research, and walk through her meaningful moments template.
dscout: What was your path into experience research?
Anna: My senior year of undergrad I landed in a market research class. For me I really loved the process and system of inquiry that class introduced me to.
Moving from a hypothesis or question to assessing methods and then eventually deploying that method let me focus on the relationships between customer and business in a way accounting 201 just didn't (no offense to the folks who do love accounting 201).
More simply, it was the introduction of and the focus on "Why?" as a driver of business behavior. That process of digging deeper, to get at the source of something was fascinating; I knew then I wanted to make a career of this.
I learned the ins-and-outs working in market research agencies. The speed, the precision, the juggling of projects. The work tended toward quant given both the expertise of my firms and the questions of our customers. However, in my last role, I had more opportunities to do some of that digging I loved so much from that course and execute some qual research.
Moving beyond the attitudes and behaviors of someone to their motivations, context, and rationale. I started to realize this was an approach to unlocking insights I wanted to do more.
And is that part of what made dscout an attractive place?
Definitely. I admire how focused dscout's customers are on their users and their context...those "Why" questions I love tackling. Here, research is focused on the human who also happens to be the "user" and the methods match that ethos.
There's quant, sure, but there's equal measures of open-ends, interviews, and lots of rich media. Those inputs help paint a fuller, clearer picture of who a user is and what they expect or need from an experience.
Another aspect I love is the collaboration. I love working with dscout's customers to understand their workflows, processes, and needs of stakeholders. We troubleshoot and brainstorm ways to create the most impact for their work.
It can feel siloed in some agencies and that's not conducive to innovative methods; there's a real partnership focus here at dscout that makes the work enjoyable.
It feels a lot more collaborative working with our researchers because I feel like they are owning the research, but we get to help them bridge that gap between what they need to learn and how they can learn it using our tools.
How can they use unmoderated studies in a way that makes sure that they're capturing natural behavior? Or meeting customers where they are to really uncover those true insights or how to use live in a way to get their quick answers as well.
The last thing I'll mention is the emerging researcher roles we work with. In the market research space, our customers and stakeholders were often engineers or product folks. They were consuming the research but weren't often directly involved in it.
Here, I'm partnering with teams of researchers, designers, and product managers to execute the research, which I love. They bring a fresh perspective to the insights-gathering process, and I can advise them on how we can leverage mobile qual to get them the answers they need.
There are so many opportunities to democratize research here and emphasize how important user research is across organizations and departments.
What does the shift from mostly in-person to mostly remote research look like from your vantage point?
There are two elements that stand out to me. The first is the speed. Qual in the traditional agency space had a lot of resources that might slow it down: Site secures, focus group moderator training, transcription...plus all the travel to get a representative sample.
With a remote tool like dscout, I can help a client capture a broadly representative sample, ask some open-ended questions or conduct an interview, and start capturing those "why?" data much faster. Before remote, that was always a battle I had to prepare for: Making the case for these methods. Now, it's much easier because of the speed we can deliver.
The other—and I would argue more important element—is that with remote we're capturing natural, as-it-happens data for customers. It's as simple as moving from asking someone what they think they would do, to showing us what they do. It reduces bias, encourages agency, and offers an organic look into how folks really think about and ultimately use a product or service.
Those kinds of data points offer folks much more confidence when it comes time to make a business decision. Do I want to base a product roadmap on just a recalled answer or some of those recalls plus lived, in-the-moment behavioral data? Most folks choose the latter.
I can't stress enough how strong this trend has been and will be. Remote is here to stay. It's often better for both researchers and the customers they want to learn from. It's safer, offers more scale, and can—you're hearing me mention this a few times—get at the "Why" elements more easily.
Stakeholders love seeing video of actual participant frustrations, pain points, or confusion with an experience. Framing the opportunity spaces in the words of the customer is such an accelerator for empathy and decision-making. It's about confidence in the conclusions and remote helps with that.
I get and certainly miss many elements of in-person fieldwork, and think it's going to continue to be part of a researcher's toolkit. Rich observation is hard to replace digitally.
Remote methods, however, can replace in some cases, or should augment and complement traditional fieldwork, especially when a moment might be hard to capture naturally or might be unsafe for a person to share in-person. The ways our customers are answering "Why" questions is only diversifying.
With remote research, we're capturing natural, as-it-happens data. It's as simple as moving from asking someone what they think they would do, to showing us what they do. It reduces bias, encourages agency, and offers an organic look into how folks really think about and ultimately use a product or service.
In addition to enabling stakeholders like designers to get involved, my team is helping customers start to unpack two big questions.
The first is around making their experience as accessible and inclusive as possible. They want to ensure that anyone who wants to make use of their product can and can do so in a comfortable, accommodating way. Our customers are challenging themselves to widen the aperture on the question, "Who do we want to support with our experience?"
The other big area of focus is international...going beyond one's backyard to learn about users from different cultures, who might have different motivations and needs for and from a service. Remote is useful because we can spend more time thinking through research designs and recruitment strategies than planning flights and site evaluations.
What advice can you share for someone new to dscout?
Don't underestimate the value of a repeated, seemingly-mundane moment. If your stakeholders want to improve an element of an experience, start with the small moments of action around it.
Maybe you ask scouts to show 10 moments of them opening the app, or using a device, and asking them what led them to use it, and closing with a "what could be better?" You learn more because the user is focused on a single task and you see it multiple times: when they open it on the go vs. at home; when they're in a rush vs. bored; when they need something vs. want something.
All of that is useful to researchers and their stakeholders trying to make small tweaks for big impact. I'd say don't underestimate the power of the repeated usage moment...they might all look the same, but there are nuances there worth solving for.
Remote research is here to stay. It's often better for both researchers and the customers they want to learn from. It's safer, offers more scale, and get at the "Why" elements more easily.
Here is a sample mission part design if you want to start digging into those repeated usage moments. The question script offers breadth as well as depth, capturing open-ends for context, media for a deep dive, as well as closed-ends for frequency and affect.
While this is a qual tool, having closed end questions can make analysis infinitely easier on the back-end so I always encourage researchers to include closed ends when they can.
I like to keep the usage action as the trigger or prime (e.g., "Show each time you open our app and place an order) and then keep the rest of the action up to the scout to share. That way, you and your team allow for surprising moments to sprout from the same usage moment—those are where innovation and opportunity usually exist.
With this design, I've set the time limit for two weeks, but it can flex with your needs and the specific experience.
Over the next 2 weeks, we will ask you to bring us into the moments where you [insert task here]. This can be any moment that you’re [insert task here]. Please be prepared to record a video to show us more about this moment and answer a few questions!
1. Open-end, 140 character limit
Please give this moment a short movie title in 140 characters or less. Think about the length of a tweet!
2. Media response, 60s video
Record a 60-second video showing us what’s happening in this moment! Set the scene - what’s going on and how do you feel about it? Be as detailed as possible!
3. Open-end, no character limit
What prompted you to [insert task here] in this moment? Tell us in a few sentences!
4. Multiple choice, single-select
Overall, how would you rate your experience with [insert task here] in this moment?
- Somewhat positive
- Neither positive nor negative
- Somewhat negative
5. Open-end, no character limit
In a few sentences, tell us why you felt this experience was positive or negative.
6. Multiple choice, single-select
About how often do you experience a moment like this one?
- Every time
- Most of the time
- About half of the time
7. Multiple choice, single-select
Where are you in this moment?
- At home
- In the car
- At a store
- At work
- Somewhere else (tap to type)
8. Multiple choice, multi-select
Who else, if anyone, is involved in this moment? Select all that apply.
- My children
- My partner/spouse
- Someone else (tap to type)
- No one, just me [skip to Q11]
9. Multiple choice, multi-select
[Depending on what type of moment you’re capturing, we encourage researchers to include any other experience-related questions that are critical to their research. For example, if we’re asking about how they’re using their smart speaker, we might ask “Did you also use the smart speaker app in this moment? How?”]
10. Open-end, no character limit
In a few sentences, tell us how these people are involved in this moment.
11. Open-end, no character limit
If you could change one thing about this moment, what would it be and why?
Ben is the product evangelist at dscout, where he spreads the “good news” of contextual research, helps customers understand how to get the most from dscout, and impersonates everyone in the office. He has a doctorate in communication studies from Arizona State University, studying “nonverbal courtship signals”, a.k.a. flirting. No, he doesn’t have dating advice for you.
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