– Hi, I’m Joe Welinske, and I’m the program manager for ConveyUX. That’s Seattle’s annual User Experience Conference. That’s coming up March third, fourth, and fifth, and it’s produced by Blink. Blink is really pleased to be doing this for the eighth year in a row. It’s pretty exciting that we can continue to move forward and grow this event. We hope you’ll be able to join us. One of the fun things I get to do is talk to our many speakers, and today I am talking to Katie Briggs. Hello, Katie.
– Hey, how’s it goin’?
– Yeah, it’s goin’ pretty good. I’m actually not in the Blink Seattle Headquarters today. I’m in Chicago, but it’s still great to be talking with you. Where are you speaking to us from today?
– Right now I’m in Washington DC.
– Well, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your background and the types of things that you do in DC?
– Sure, so I’m a senior product designer at NPR, which is National Public Radio. I’ve been there for about two years, and most of my career has been doing design in the public media space. So, thinking about other member stations who carry NPR or PBS content. I’ve worked at Houston Public Media and KPCC, which is the NPR affiliate in Los Angeles, before coming here. A lot of my focus throughout my career in public media has just been on finding ways to take public media’s mission, which is generally to create a more informed public, and find interesting and creative ways to reach out to our listening audience and new audiences, especially in the digital space.
– Well, I… Thinking about NPR, what I know about it, and watching it and supporting it, I’m not exactly sure what your role would be in an organization like that. I want you to just talk a little bit about maybe what a day or a week in the life is at NPR for the design crew?
– Sure, yeah. So, we definitely are not on the radio, like we do not do any of the programming at all. I, right now am a part of the mobile design team. So, there are about 12 or so designers in digital media at NPR, and then those designers are broken up into separate scrum teams, and so I am currently on the mobile team, and so my general, kind of average day involves the typical collaborating with developers, working really closely with our product manager to either make improvements to the apps that we already have or right now, kind of where we’re shifting our focus to is reconsidering our app strategy all together. NPR has two mobile apps, NPR One, which is kind of like Pandora for public radio, and the NPR News app which is kind of a more traditional news reading experience. And, they’re kind of in different states of disrepair across operating systems, and so we’re really trying to think strategically and have kind of a long, kind of forward-facing vision, as far as what we wanna do with those apps. Do we wanna have two of them? Do we wanna support those features that we support now? So, just thinking a lot around what the user experience can be like and what the value of proposition can be like for a new NPR app, especially when it comes to continuing to deliver the content that NPR makes and our member stations make, and also starting to reach out to new audiences that maybe don’t know NPR but would benefit from our programming.
– So, I imagine that continues to be more and more the way that people choose to consume your content. And you mentioned some of the challenges coming up with respect to apps, when we were talking earlier. Are there any other things that are particularly taking up your time or things that you’re kind of thinking through right now?
– Yeah. At work, definitely my main focus is just kind of figuring out the big, what does NPR’s app ecosystem look like and what is that user experience like, but on kind of, like the intersection of my person life and professional life, I just had a son in July of this year. So, I’m like a pretty new mom, and so I’m figuring out how to maintain kind of both of those identities, being a mom and being someone who’s very invested in my work. And so, I’m interested in just talking to other parents and reading a lot and writing a lot about what I’m experiencing and hearing what other people have experienced when they’ve had to kind of melt those two identities together.
– Cool, hopefully that part of it is coming together and not too stressful. I certainly understand what a challenge that can be to be involved in that transition right now.
– Yeah, it’s going pretty well.
– Well, let’s talk a little bit about your session that you’re gonna present at the conference. So, the title is “Research Meets Reality”. Why don’t you talk a little bit about what you’re going to present.
– Sure, so I came up with this session, because I do lead a lot of user research at NPR, and even more so at some of the other public radio and public media entities I worked at beforehand. A lot of times I was kind of the only designer in the shop, and so I was having to lead research as well as lead design. And, I think that it’s pretty common across the board and across different industries that research is kind of seen as something that can be really expensive or really taxing on your people you have working on your team, and a lot of times it’s kind of the first thing that gets thrown aside when you’re in some kind of crunch, especially when it comes to people power, money, or time. And so, I’ve developed something I call the super-rapid user research framework, which allows you to do pretty good quality research with real users over the course of a week. Kind of a Friday to Friday timeline. And so, it really kind of condenses down the actions of research, and sharing that out with everyone and gathering data, kind of walking through the traditional steps of research of forming questions, gathering that data, and running new tests and research, and then sharing it out, but doing it in a much more lean way so that you can actually kind of convince whoever might be dragging their feet about conducting research to get on board, because it really doesn’t have to take as much time and money and people power as folks tend to think.
– Well, that super rapid research sounds like the title of a book. Are you gonna write this up?
– We will see. We’ll see. I’ve definitely taken this approach for quite a few test drives now, with different rounds of research on different platforms and products at NPR, and I definitely wanna kick the tires on it a little bit more, and I’m also interested to talk to people at ConveyUX and in the design community, about improvements and suggestions that they might have for the method. So, it’s definitely still kind of evolving, but yeah maybe there’s some kind of longer tale there.
– Well, I think it would be really interesting. A lot of people should be looking forward to hearing what you have to say about that, and I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me today, and we’ll see you at, when you make your journey to Seattle in March.
– Yeah, I’m looking forward to it. Thanks so much.
– All right, thank a lot Katie. Bye-bye.