Words by the dscout Product Team, Visuals by Jarred Kolar
2021 has been another challenging year. Again, the pandemic has changed the way we research—how we collaborate with our colleagues, how we inspire impact with our stakeholders, and how we reach and engage with our participants.
At dscout, we wanted to ease these difficult transitions for teams finding their footing in new methods, strategies, and processes. The product updates we made this year reflect this focus—with changes made to improve the researcher experience, the participant experience, and the collaborative experience.
Below, you’ll find an “in-case-you-missed-it” list of some of our most substantive updates to the platform in 2021. We’ll cover what we changed, what it enables you to accomplish, and what we’re excited to improve further in 2022.
At a glance:
A few things you can do in dscout now, that weren't possible in 2020.
- Add anyone (with or without a dscout account) to observe a Live session
- Get an at-a-glance view of where your collaborators are within the platform
- Tag “bottom up” and “top down” effectively without leaving the analysis page
- Quickly collect preference feedback from scouts with rank questions
- Drill deeper into participant balance and provide recruiting quotas based on ethnicity
- Create scout groups and live and filter by scout groups during analysis
- Preview added stimuli and view stim in the analysis view
- Quickly request scout payments the same way across Diary and Live
Collaboration: Make research a team sport
Research suffers when researchers feel siloed; creativity, and expediency, result from truly collaborative workflows. This year, we worked hard to make the dscout platform a more robust nexus for collaborative research—allowing UXRs to fold more of their team into their processes, from recruitment, to fielding, to analysis.
A few new features worth highlighting:
No Account Needed Guest (NANG):
How it works: Invite an observer to your Live session—even if they don’t have a dscout account. Simply share a secure link and access code. Your stakeholders will be able to access the session without fumbling for login credentials.
What it supports:
Elevate the visibility of your moderated research, while setting appropriate guardrails for observers. Those invited as no-account-needed guests can hear and see sessions, but can’t participate. This allows stakeholders to be looped into a project while mitigating the risk that their presence may impact an interview.
A few use cases for this feature:
- Democratizing your research practice. Invite new “researchers” into the process for educational purposes. Let them observe an interview to learn more about how research is conducted.
- Pique greater interest in a project, or keep stakeholders invested in a long-running project. Inviting key teammates to a quick session gives them a “taste” of what insights are to come, and brings everyone closer to your primary audience’s “why”s.
- Involve formerly hard-to-involve stakeholders. Remove a primary barrier-to-participation and bring anyone closer to the voice of the user. Any stakeholder—from a new-to-research designer to a busy member of the C-suite—can now hop into a call as easily as they would with a video conferencing tool.
To get started with NANG, read:
How it works: Users can now work more synchronously. See where collaborators are within the workspace (builder, viewer, manage section) with the View Collaborators UI at the top of the page.
What it supports:
Know “who’s working where” so you can more seamlessly work together. In an increasingly remote work environment, it’s important to know that you’re (literally) on the same page. Collaborate in dscout with the same visibility you would have working in other remote collaboration tools (ie. Google Suite, Figma, Miro, etc.)
- Mitigate misunderstandings when reviewing the data together. It’s easy to “gut-check” whether you’re talking about the same mission part or scout entry. When you’re building a mission together, see where your teammates are building.
- Start better conversations. When you see other researchers exploring the same mission, it opens the ground for collaborative discussion. What do they find interesting? Are they seeing the same trend you are?
- Engage as a community. Research—particularly synthesis and analysis—can often feel siloed. Knowing who else is active makes a solitary research activity feel less isolating.
Resources to support your collaborative research practice:
Depth: Unearth meaningful insights with ease
The mantle of qual research is to unearth the “why” in a way that motivates a “what now.” We wanted to support researchers throughout the analysis process—enabling them to distill findings into more impactful insights, without leaving the platform.
A few ways we supported these critical research activities:
How it works: Create and edit tags via the new tag management page. Easily apply tags to entries, Live transcripts, or moments within entries—then view and filter by tags within the analysis view. Tag counts and tagged responses can also be easily exported for analysis off-platform.
What it supports:
Coding and tagging are the backbone of rigorous analysis—providing researchers with a way to find themes, investigate trends, note frequency, and make sense of qualitative data. We wanted to make tagging in dscout more powerful, and more flexible, so that researchers could add tags that best suit their workflow.
- Tag from the “ground up.” Create tags from words and phrases as you see patterns and then collapse tags together to see frequency.
- ….Or tag from the top down. Structure and standardize your data with navigational tag groups (ie. group screen recording moments for later review).
- Combine tags with filters. Within the new tag management tab, filter tags by demographic or scout groups to surface new, essential relationships.
- Zoom in to the exact right moment. Highlight larger sections, or just the appropriate word or phrase that represents a theme. For ease of analysis and ease of review, we rehauled tagging to allow for specific, atomically sized observations.
To get started with tagging, read:
How it works: When included in a screener, Express mission, or Diary mission, ranking questions ask scouts to compare a list of answer options to each other by placing them in order of preference. Scouts will assign some or all of the answer options a number, depending on whether you've asked them to rank all choices or defined a custom rank limit.
What it supports:
Whether you’re prioritizing feedback or assessing a new feature’s importance, having participants “rank” their preferences can easily unlock decision-guiding insight. This new question type also brings with it two new analysis views, which aid in the digestion and socialization of results from ranked-choice response data.
- De-bulk your study design: In the past, researchers asked single-select questions (What’s your first choice, What’s your second choice, etc.) to assess ranking. This built-in question type makes it easier and more intuitive to collect accurate scout data about preferences.
- Customize your ranked questions, for a range of potential use cases. Customizable in a number of ways, meant to support a range of potential use cases and participant experiences. Participants can be forced to rank all response options created or a custom limit set by the researcher. The former, is ideal when you're confident participants can order all options; the latter is good for when you need the "top #" or or "bottom #" responses.
- Easily visualize rankings in the analysis view. Once you get your ranking data back, our close-ended chart view helps you easily identify which options rose to the top, with an overall rank and weighted average score presented for each option.
To get started with ranking questions, read:
Resources for more impactful and effective analysis:
Inclusion: Gather demographic information accurately + ethically
In 2019, we realized the way we collected gender-identity data wasn't as inclusive as it could be—so we did extensive research and retooled the way we asked participants about gender.
This year, we realized we needed to give multi-racial scouts a more accurate way to report their identity. After conducting research, and listening to our multi-racial scouts, we reworked the way our platform collects and displays race and ethnicity data.
This resulted in two key feature updates:
From our research, we heard a few things loud and clear from scouts:
- It was critically important for multi-racial scouts to select as many race categories as they identified with (as opposed to a single-select of “multi-racial”).
- Multi-racial scouts want to be represented in any of their race categories. For example, if Jane Doe identifies as “Asian” and “White” she wants a researcher to see her amongst “White” scouts and amongst “Asian” scouts.
We redesigned scout profiles and changed how our platform balances and represents multi-racial identities, to more accurately represent the identities of multi-racial scouts.
For more on the study, and the platform updates we made to support multi-racial identities: How (And When) Should We Ask About Ethnicity? Use These Principles for More Inclusive Demographic-Gathering
We added an ethnicity balance option to complement our participant balance feature. Participant balance ensures a balanced sample across major demographics (i.e. age, ethnicity, gender) by limiting samples within each segment to 65%. Ethnicity balance allows researchers to further customize their participant pool by editing the maximum number of responses allowed per ethnicity group.
By default, participant balance creates samples with more varied demographic representation. But ethnicity further ensures researchers’ sample will recruit a specific, diverse group of participants. Both features are available in Express missions and screeners.
To get started with ethnicity balance, read our Ethnicity Balance How-To.
Resources for conducting more sensitive and inclusive research:
Usability: A more intuitive, more powerful dscout
Every year, we work hard to remove “paper cuts.” And while we’re always excited to announce features that bring new capabilities, we’re as dedicated to expanding the features dscout does well.
We hope the following additions to the dscout platform make your experience more fluid. And that these tweaks can sprout new use cases from pre-existing functionalities.
Scout groups in Live and as filters
How it works: Group scouts via the Manage page, within Diary entries, within screeners, and now in Live. Filter to your grouped scouts within each platform (Diary, Live, Screeners), and within the analysis tab.
What it supports:
Scouts can be “grouped” for easier analysis. Group them according to themes uncovered within their responses, by studying relevant characteristics, by needs, by behaviors, or by any other identifiers that help researchers to understand emerging trends within their study.
- Simplify scout communication. Scout groups allow researchers to provide guidance or share instructions with a group of participants in a single message.
- Create user personas or archetypes. Segment participants and easily refer to participant groups to visualize user personas. For example, create a scout group that represents your product’s power users.
- Unearth trends within scout segments. After building scout groups, you can focus on the data from one set of participants at a time—making it easier to spot overlapping trends.
To get started with scout groups and filters:
How it works: Stim can be attached to all question types (except for the Screen Recording prompts) and images can be previewed to ensure it displays correctly. Scouts are required to view all images associated with the question before providing a response; up to five images can be attached.
What it supports:
Adding visual stimuli—images, prototypes etc.—has long allowed users to get immediate feedback on a concept during their Live sessions. In 2020, we made it easy to get that same feedback from unmoderated studies—adding stim to Diary, Express, and Recruit.
This year, we improved the Stim experience across the dscout platform—allowing stim to be previewed for quality assurance, and pulling stim through to the analysis tab for easier synthesis. This power-up allows you to use stim with greater confidence—for feedback on concepts, high-level wireframes, design explorations, and more.
- Launch with confidence. Preview stim from the builder—as their scouts will see it on mobile or desktop—before launching their mission or screener. Now, you can get your image sizing, cropping and ordering exactly how you want it before it's in scouts’ hands.
- Analyze with ease. Stim is now displayed in analysis views, so you can easily see what images were referenced when a scout answered a particular question.
- Download stim from the viewer and/or stim library for use in presentations or other missions
To get started with enhanced stim:
Scout payment process improvements
How it works: Researchers can approve scout entries for payment with an easy click of a button. Requesting payments will ping your dscout Research Advisor, who will then initiate the payment process for scouts in 24-48 hours.
What it supports:
A top priority (for researchers, participants, and dscout) is ensuring scouts are compensated for their time and hard work. Before, researchers had little visibility into the payment process; tracking, requesting, and confirming payments wasn’t intuitive within the platform.
Now, payments can be approved, forwarded, and tracked easily easily from the Manage page.
- A standardized, in-platform way to request payments for scouts who have completed the project. Whether you’re running a moderated or unmoderated mission in dscout, the payment process is now the same.
- Shorter timelines between mission completion and incentive payout. Once you’ve requested payments via the Manage page, your research advisor will be notified to review and approve payments. This should significantly reduce the amount of payments-related communication you have to do with your dscout research advisor over email.
- Transparency around payment status. The new process also allows researchers to see the status of payments they’ve requested as they move through dscout’s internal payments process from requested to approved to sent. This can help with answering scout questions about the status of their payment
To get started requesting scout payments:
Resources for making the best use out of powerful dscout features:
Coming soon: What we’re building in 2022
We’re grateful for the feedback that fueled our efforts in 2021—it made dscout a more equitable, more usable, and more powerful product. We’re excited to continue building in 2022—with a focus on improving our external scout onboarding process, expanding Diary desktop parts, doubling down on data security, and making it easier to craft high-impact deliverables.
(Expanded) desktop research capabilities
Where we are now:
Desktop parts support an omnichannel research experience, allowing researchers to follow customers across their journey across platforms. Combine mobile and desktop parts in a single Diary mission, or run a mission where all parts happen on desktop.
This is a great way to get comparative feedback across your mobile and desktop experiences: Where does each excel? What gaps need to be addressed? And how can you best support your users regardless of the device they’re using?
Desktop parts also make it easier than ever before to get in-context feedback on B2B products, or experiences that happen on the desktop. Conduct your research in the same modality where the experience is happening, and utilize the 5-minute screen recordings to capture longer tasks or interactions when conducting usability research.
Where we’re headed:
Full desktop scout “home.”
While our Scout experience remains mobile first, we know it’s sometimes more convenient for Scouts to manage their accounts via the web. This is especially relevant for missions that are desktop only, or for external recruits who need to set up an account but don’t want to download the app. We’re working to create a seamless experience for Scouts that meets them where they are—whether that’s on mobile or web.
Additional desktop support
At the moment, a screener can’t be completed on a browser (desktop or mobile) if it includes stim or screen recording questions. Once we provide support for these two question types, any screener will then be accessible by a participant on the web. Having screener that is always accessible and completable through the web will help increase participation rates for scouts who are resistant to downloading the app.
Enhanced data security
Where we are now:
We know that our researchers have their own organizational needs related to data security and privacy. So we made updates to our data deletion capabilities, allowing accounts with “data sanitization” on to configure storage to their needs and internal security practices.
With data sanitation on, accounts can schedule when the data will be automatically purged after its marked as completed. And they can set different email preferences about who receives the warnings about the data sanitization (account owner or project creator).
This gives researchers greater peace of mind when working to abide by internal practices—spending more time can be focused on the project, and less time focused on good data hygiene.
Where we’re headed:
Hide PII Data Configuration
We want help our users use the data in compliant ways. That means providing more sophisticated ways to handle data around participant PII (personally identifiable information) data.
We’re exploring a setting that would allow an account to “hide PII” data in our analysis views and exports—saving researcher time present cleaning the data themselves. This also minimizes the risk of dangerously exposing PII data to the wrong parties, and further protects our scouts and their participants when engaging with our projects that need higher PII security.
Similarly, we’re exploring features that optionally “blur” out scout faces, as an additional privacy measure.
Lower-lift, higher-engagement highlight reels (Launching January 2022)
Where we are now:
Video storytelling is a qual research superpower. Allowing participants to "speak for themselves" is the most direct way to bring the user voice to key stakeholders. Our in-platform video editor allows anyone to quickly cut, combine, and export video research highlights.
This playlist builder was designed with researcher-tuned features (like trimming clips via transcript) in mind; it’s designed specifically to meet the needs of UXRs crafting deliverables for stakeholders, rather than with features more apt for production professionals.
With this ethos in mind, we’re expanding builder features. With these expanded capabilities, it’ll be even easier to craft a highly polished playlist that can be shared with stakeholders at any level within the org.
Where we’re headed:
Easily add interstitial text slides between video clips. Stylistic choices are available—fonts, alignment, duration, slide color, and hierarchy (title or subtitle).
Add scout name:
When toggled on, Scout names display with their associated clips. We’ve refrained from adding location, age, pronouns, etc. to protect PII.
Selfie cameras often shoot mirror images. This can be distracting, so now media clips can be easily flipped.
Improve the stability of shaky video files.
Change the title slide backgrounds, letterboxing colors, and fade colors to light or dark mode.
Ensure more uniform audio across a highlight reel by automatically boosting quiet clips and lowering louder clips.
Adds a 0.2 second fade to the beginning and end of all text slides and media.
Choose between a 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio for a playlist that’s more adaptable to your final shareout presentation.
We're extraordinarily grateful for your dedicated use of, and insightful feedback for, the dscout platform in 2021. Your goals and vision for a more human-centered research practice push us, year-over-year, to create a more human-centered research tool.
We're excited to keep expanding out capabilities, to better empower the critical and compassionate work you do.
Mac Hasley is a writer and content strategist at dscout. She likes writing words about words, making marketing less like “marketing,” and unashamedly monopolizing the office’s Clif Bar supply.