Most teams build in private and only showcase what went right. But we'd like more teams to share how research plays into their decision-making, what they did right, and what went wrong. We explore the mistakes we made when we launched our "Perspectives" category and how we researched the problem to address it.
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Founder's Note

This is not our standard post and that's on purpose.

For our 1 year anniversary, we wanted to do three things:

  1. Look back on where we started
  2. Share how we apply our research at Apple & Banana
  3. Start a conversation across the UX industry for others to share how THEY build through research

Research isn't perfect and neither are we. But we strive to be fruitful with every action so here's how we approach things.

Part 1 - Launching v1.0
Screenshot of v1.0 of our "Perspectives" category
Screenshot of v1.0 of our "Perspectives" category

“Let's just ship it.”

When we launched our publication last year, we had one goal: put something out there quickly and see where it breaks.

We were focused on thoughtful iteration but didn't want to spend weeks building something. We made v1.0 over a weekend and hit publish.

And then the data started to trickle in.

Using analytics, feedback from close peers, and our advisory panel, we knew we had some wins alongside some big opportunities. One opportunity stood out right away: improving our Perspectives page.

This page is all about "Learning from leaders in research, product design, and growth."

"I'm drowning."

Apple & Banana are in the water, drowning as each "Perspective" had too much text!

The number one comment that nearly everyone gave us on the v1.0 perspectives page was "I feel like I'm drowning, trying to read all of these paragraphs."

We knew we had a problem to address so what did we do?

Part 2 - Data Collection

Step 1

We landed on the main research question.

Before we started our study, we answered the three big research questions:

Those three answers lead us to the main issue that we wanted to address:

"How do Apple & Banana readers perceive and interact with the v1.0 Perspectives page?"

This a broad question but it's a good place to start because it tells us the 2 areas we want to improve on:

  1. How do readers feel about the page?
  2. How do readers interact with the page?

As a small team, insights were shared minutes after interviews were done. Our questions were broad and our approach was designed to be convenient enough to make simple changes, not to uncover deeper, unmet needs.

Step 2

We recruited participants.

A map of the world with different fruits showcasing the global nature of our participants!

While we could have reached outside of our readers, we already had a feedback group of 17 individuals, from all over the world. Sourced from our book waitlist group, those 17 served as foundational participants in building the Apple & Banana brand you see today.

Step 3

We ran semi-structured interviews.

Apple & Banana standing in front of all of the data they just collected from doing user research

We chose to run 16 semi-structured interviews with our feedback group because:

  1. We knew what we wanted to learn/were willing to change but also wanted some flexibility.
  2. We wanted to make the best use of our time in terms of efficiency
  3. It allowed us to dig deeper into anything unexpected that came up

Participants were asked to share their screens (hacked together using Google Meet's screen sharing feature) and talk/think-out-loud as they moved about the v1.0 Perspectives page. We had participants interact with the desktop and mobile versions of the site.

On mobile, we made note of how their thumbs moved about the page (such as what was easy for them to reach and where their thumbs rested when reading content). Every so often, we also had participants skim-read a section to get their thoughts on the voice, pacing, and language used.

We also asked participants to describe the purpose of the blue bubbles of text, how they felt about the social links on the top of the interview and the resources on the bottom.

To standardize the format, every interview was ran the same way (except for one interview where our Internet went out — we ended up having a phone call instead!).

Within 10 days, we had a treasure trove of data, opinions, wants and frustrations. From there, we started our qualitative analysis.

Step 4

We analyzed the data for insights.

Here are some of the major issues we identified + how often an issue came up (based on a simple & short thematic analysis framework):

Part 3 - Data Analysis

Insight #1

"Your mobile experience is bad."

Various screenshots of v1.0's mobile experience
Various screenshots of v1.0's mobile experience

We also found that participants found the entire reading experience to be significantly more challenging on mobile than desktop.

On average, a typical reader would have to scroll 15x on desktop to get to the very end.

On mobile, it was ~30x that, due to our margins and the way the elements stacked on top of each other. As the majority of our readers are on mobile, this was a big concern to address.

It was also much easier to get interrupted with notifications when reading on mobile (something that happened in many of our interviews), making it even less likely that someone would read all of the content.

Insight #2

“I only read what stands out...”

The true purpose of our "blue bubbles" was lost on readers.
The true purpose of our "blue bubbles" was lost on readers.

Another issue came in the form of our blue bubbles. What was designed to be interesting chunks from what the speaker was saying, turned out to be the only relief for our fatigued readers. However, out of context, some of the interesting ideas were either diminished or lost completely.

Many participants also had a different answer for the purpose of the blue bubbles with no one seeming very confident in their answers. Many, however, did mention that it was nice to see a spot of color on an otherwise boring, stale, and traditional page.

Insight #3

“Hey, where are the illustrations?”

The last big insight was around illustrations. While we are a visual-driven brand, we purposefully choose to avoid illustrations on the perspectives page for a few key reasons:

  1. The speaker's thoughts should shine, not our illustrations
  2. Illustrations  would make the page even longer
  3. It would even add more time between writing, designing and shipping an article.

Part 4 - Next Steps

Post-research, what did we do?

Now, armed with all of this data, what did we do? We'll pick up this story in the next part!

→ Get notified about Part 2 on Twitter or LinkedIn!

Action Steps
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Action Steps

Listen to "Your Research Character."

The concept of the "research persona" or "research character" isn't something common but is very important to consider. Who you are in your daily life and who you have to become in your qualitative & direct research sessions are (and should) be two separate things.

Laura & Kate dive into this concept and help you understand the line between standardized & human research.

Action Steps

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