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Having Empathy, Seeking Empathy: How we Built our New Builder

dscout’s VP of Product gets meta on research and product design

Words by Jonathan Fairman, Visuals by Delaney Gibbons

Good research creates empathy. And at dscout, empathy is very meta. We’re empathetic people nerds, designing a product experience for researchers—other empathetic people nerds—who are helping to design a compelling product experience for their users. Our customers get their insights from our scouts, for whom we also must design a compelling product experience.

Whoa. We want to make research easier than reading that paragraph.

Empathy is our core drive. As a product manager as well as a former researcher, I understand this from all sides. Empathy compels us to understand what makes our users tick and understand how to help them. And because our customers are doing the very thing we do, they are particularly open to the kind of dialog that really promotes understanding.

Through on-site visits, shadowing, and 1-on-1 interviews with our customers, we have been cataloging the little challenges and annoyances that erode researchers’ ability to be nimble and confident. Seeing the many ways that our customers collaborate in designing their research, we yearned to dig deeper. Seeing how hard something as “simple” as sharing large files can be, we were driven to do something about it.

And that brings us to yesterday’s release (in beta) of our mission and screener builder, not coincidentally, on Valentine’s Day. Customer love! Our intent with this project and with so much more we’re still working on is to help researchers get to empathy more easily. To remove friction from the process of getting closer to your customers. To help you put your empathy skills to work with more confidence.

Empathy for collaborators

In our own research with dscout users, we learned that research design often starts in Word or Google Docs. Ease of sharing and editing facilitates collaborative design and dialog within teams. Once a project is designed, a user builds it on the dscout platform. While it’s easy to share a dscout project with collaborators, some stakeholders prefer a document to mark-up rather than a new account to create, so in our new builder we added the ability to export a project to PDF or RTF.

Then, of course, you’ll want to make changes based on that feedback, so we introduced the ability to edit question attributes on the fly. Want to change the single-select question to multi-select? Simple. Just toggle the question type. And we made skip logic more flexible so you can move questions around without breaking anything. And you can skip from almost any question type. Small changes, but a big impact when you’re trying to get a study out the door.

Empathy for participants

Good research requires empathy for participants too. To keep scouts—what we call our participants—engaged and in-the-moment as they participate, researchers need to see and optimize the actual experience of completing the screener or mission.

So one of the features of our new builder is a preview tool for the researcher. By helping researchers get a view of their research design from the scout’s POV, we give them a hand in improving the experience themselves. A 200-word question might work during a live interview, but in mobile ethnography, not so much.

When researchers see the questions and choices formatted for a smartphone, it’s easier to anticipate when a question or mission might overload a scout’s attention. Seeing the question in context, a researcher can get a better sense of the mission's rhythm. Are three open-ended questions in a row too much? Should I put a scale question after each of them instead of all at the end? Now you can see it a few ways and decide based on the scout’s eye view.

Empathy with a twist

The relationship between dscout, our customers and our scouts is like a mobius strip—a continuous loop with a twist, that has more dimensions than it first appears. When you try to cut one in half, you see how inseparable everything is. Having empathy while building a product to gain empathy to build better products. Meta or not, I hope you feel that empathy when you try the new builder on dscout.

Log in to your dscout account—or create a new one—and click “create new mission” to check out the new builder beta, the first of many empathy-driven and empathy producing improvements we’ve got planned for 2017.

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