The user experience (UX) design and research teams are preparing to revamp Rapid7's customer learning and online help. As such, I thought I would take the opportunity to provide our community insight into the role UX research plays in bringing new designs – of both new and existing features and experiences – to fruition.

Before I begin, I'll tell you a little bit about our “research” team. The Rapid7 UX research team, which sits within the greater UX team, consists of myself and my colleague Ger Joyce. Together, we bring many years of research, design and management experience, across continents and spanning industry domains.

Back to what we do, when the UX design team is tasked with creating a new design, or revising an existing design, the research team likes to be involved from requirements gathering through to measurement of experience success. First, we do our best to understand the problem(s) the designers are trying to solve. Next, considering resources such as time, schedule and availability of participants, we select the method(s) that we feel will best answer our questions, the ultimate goal being to provide our UX designers with all of the information they need to create first-in-class user-centered experiences for our customers.

Today, I'll use the example of our upcoming customer learning and online help redesign initiative. As a researcher, the first thing that I want to understand is the goal(s) of the upcoming redesign, and more importantly, the goal(s) of the research itself: what does my team want to gain from the research, what do we know and what questions do we have?

We could undertake a variety of methods to answer these question and to provide valuable insight for the designers as they begin to think about requirements for new designs. My recommendation is to begin by conducting internal stakeholder interviews. This would involve speaking with employees who work with customer learning and online help to understand what, in their opinion, is working for our customers, and what's not working; are there gaps in the existing solution, and if yes, what are those gaps? The Rapid7 client services and support teams can provide insight into the customer learning and online help experience from their perspective, again, trying to understand pain points and where and how they believe we can make changes to make better content for our customers to use and consume.

If time allows, another great source for understanding best practices and what does and does not work in this space is a competitive review. In this case, we would look at the customer learning and online help content of other companies– for comparative learning– to understand what makes this sort of content successful and what we should avoid. Surveys are another great method for collecting feedback from users, to understand if and how they're using the current content and what is and is not working for them. Finally, we would want to validate our discovery research with usage data and customer interviews.

Once we have an understanding of the problem space and our customers' requirements, and often before, the Rapid7 UX designers start their magic. From this point forward, we like to iteratively design and validate concepts and designs as often as we can. Validation can be in person or over the phone, and can include Rapid7 stakeholders or employees who represent users of this content. And we always try to involve our customers. Typically, if the latter, we conduct approximately five interviews per iteration, which is enough to let us know if our designs (direction) are meeting the needs of our customers, whether or not proposed content and interactions are clear and intuitive and whether or not we've missed anything important.

Once designs are final (or close to final), we test them with our customers. In this case, we compose a list of tasks that we ask customers to complete using the design, which is often in the form of an interactive prototype. This activity gives us great insight into whether or not content, design elements and interactions are intuitive and whether or not customers are able to complete important tasks, without assistance. If we've conducted frequent and iterative reviews through the design process we are unlikely to be “surprised” by anything significant at this stage, however, that's not to say that surprises don't happen!

The steps outlined above could be used to inform the design for this specific redesign project, or others like it. The methods discussed are only a few of the many methods that we use at Rapid7 to form a better understanding about our customers' needs and experiences, from the time that they become aware of Rapid7 through the evolution of our mutual company-client relationship and the experience that that relationship fosters. We constantly strive to learn more so that can continually improve the experience.

With all of this said, do you have any feedback related to Rapid7's customer learning and online help that you'd like to share? Or perhaps, you have experience using an exception customer learning and online help design? If yes, we'd love to learn more about that experience.

We may be in touch soon, to ask for your feedback on this topic. In the interim, we welcome feedback at: ux_research [at] rapid7.com.

Thank you for reading!

Mindy Maxwell
Sr UX Researcher, Rapid7