Making the move to user research

User research helps make products and services that work for the people who use them. It takes loads of different forms including lab sessions and interviews, onsite visits and analysing data but, regardless of its form, it must be present throughout the design process. And even after the thing is live.  

Moving into a user research role

I’ve worked at the Co-op for just under 2 years. I originally joined the Analytics and Optimisation team, but for the last 10 months I’ve been a user researcher at Co-op Digital.

User research really appealed to me because it’s about listening to users as well as looking at data. My old role was heavy on the quantitative side of things: I evaluated data collected from user journeys and improved the experience for users. Good user researchers consider both quantitative and qualitative research so I’ve been working on my qualitative research skills. Now I feel even better equipped to help teams design the right thing.

User research at Co-op Digital

I applied for a user research role after seeing the work that our now Head of User Research James Boardwell and the team were doing with wills. The multidisciplinary team was working in an agile way to build a digital service to make it simpler and quicker for Co-op customers to get a will.

I saw how both data and qualitative research fed into the design process. User research formed the basis for discussions and the team could test ideas, put them in front of people and iterate them quickly. The whole team came to user research sessions so that everyone saw first-hand how users behaved when we put prototypes in front of them and asked questions. The team analysed the themes that came out of the sessions together which meant that everyone had a similar idea about where the design was heading.

Everything moved so quickly and decisions were based on things that the team had seen or heard. At each show and tell the team knew so much more than the week before – they’d added another piece to the jigsaw. They’d started small and built the right thing, quickly. I loved watching their progress.

My first taste of user research

Supporting James was my first experience as a user researcher. I joined the Wills team during a sprint focused on increasing the number of people making it to the confirmation page. I already had good experience in this from my previous role but here I also got to see James talking to people, showing them the prototype and doing qualitative research in lab sessions.

The data I’d collected told us what was happening with real people using the website, and James’ conversations with people told us why it was happening. The data showed that the exit rate from the ‘Your details’ page was disproportionately high. Qualitative research told us that people felt uncomfortable giving their personal details before knowing exactly what the service offered. Changing the order of the pages, so, giving the user more upfront information, resulted in more people completing the form.

The 2 kinds of insight complemented each other. You can read more about this in James’ post, User research and sample sizes.

Learning how user research works in a product team

I spent 6 months working with the Membership team too. User research gives us the chance to test things to make sure we’re doing the right thing for users. This way, any decisions we make are better informed.

Working on Membership opened my eyes to other ways of doing research too. It’s not just about interviews. We:

  • used qualitative website feedback and quantitative analytics to compare what users told us with what they actually do
  • visited stores to find out what our members and customers talk to colleagues about
  • spoke directly to members

It’s about analysing all available resources.

Leading my first project

Photograph of a user research session. Shows 10 members of the Electrical discovery team talking about and analysing what they've seen in the user research lab.

For the last 2 months I’ve been leading the user research on a discovery in our Electrical business. This project has helped me learn a lot about how user research informs service design through techniques like customer journey mapping and service blueprints. Service design is a fairly new way of thinking at Co-op Digital so leading this project was sometimes challenging, but we’ve got a strong user research community at Co-op Digital and support and advice was always available if I needed it.

Hard work, but worth it

I think the biggest challenge for a user researcher is using all of their observations and data to find the need, and working with the team to translate these into things we can work on.

User research encourages teams to take a more balanced approach to design. It changes the way teams work and brings the business and digital sides of things together. It’s a way to stop people jumping to conclusions about what’s ‘right’ because we’re using evidence to make decisions. And ultimately, that’s going to work better.

If learning about how people behave and why sounds interesting and you want to help teams build the right thing, quickly and cost-effectively, get in touch with James Boardwell or leave a comment on the blog.

Vicki Riley
User researcher

Growing the Agile Business Analyst team

Hello I’m Joel Godfrey

I’ve just joined the digital team at the Co-op as an Agile Business Analyst.

Picture of Joel Godfrey
Joel Godfrey

I used to work in our Food business in IT as a Business Analyst, working recently on our Membership and Transformation programmes. I spent my first week shadowing Liam Cross who’s working on the Local Causes service which is part of our new Membership. I’m now spending some time supporting the team working on Location Services.

The main attraction of joining the digital team for me was the chance to learn a different way of working with new people, skills and technologies.

I had the chance to work closely with a lot of people in digital throughout the work we did to develop the new Co-op Membership. The team’s attitude and rapid response to change and challenge really appealed to me.

It was quite a tough decision to leave Food and join something new. I worked with a lot of great people to deliver some important pieces of work in the Food organisation, it felt like a big thing to leave behind.

Three weeks in, I feel I’ve made the right choice. There are differences (lots more post-its, fewer smart shirts and cufflinks). But the team feels very Co-op. Everyone’s been welcoming and happy to give up their time to share knowledge and talk me through Agile ways of working. I’m learning a lot.

Hello I’m Anthony Wilson

I’ve also recently joined the team as an Agile Business Analyst.

A picture of Anthony Wilson
Anthony Wilson

Like Joel I used to work for the Co-op in the Food organisation. Working in Commercial and more recently in Supply Chain in the Stock Exit Management function where I had to find the most effective way to dispose of stock we can no longer sell.

I’ve no experience of being a Business Analyst (BA), but a lot of the skills I’ve developed are exactly what’s needed in my new role – interpreting user needs, knowing what’s important to aid prioritisation, having a passion for quality and a curious mind. I’m grateful for the chance to continue my development in this new role.

The first 2 weeks have already been a great learning experience and I’ve been given fantastic support by Charlotte King and the other BAs and in fact everyone I’ve worked with throughout digital.

I’m now supporting Co-op Electrical as they get ready for their peak trading season.

It’s great to be part of a growing and supportive team that’s working on building a strong community of practice.

Co-op Electrical warehouse flood

Earlier this month the North-West of England was hit by some terrible storms and here at Co-op Electrical, we didn’t get off lightly either.

Colleagues on the night shift went for their break, but by the time they returned to the warehouse the rain had beaten them to it.

The emergency outlets on the building’s down pipes had been forced open with the pressure from the rainwater and proceeded to flood the warehouse. Luckily for our members and customers the team moved quickly into action.

Picture of the down pipe at Co-op Electrical's warehouse
The down pipe

Simon a member of our team  jumped onto the warehouse’s scrubbing machine to try to suck up as much excess water as he could, whilst fellow colleagues continued to pick stock for delivery wherever they were safe to do so.

The team moved around the warehouse in sections, with some colleagues redirecting water to drainage pipes. Simon with the machine and others continuing their usual duties as best they could, ensuring our customers’ purchases would be dispatched in time and in perfect condition.

Picture of the down pipe at Co-op Electrical's warehouse
The scrubbing machine

The rain continued to pour for over an hour, but due to the fantastic work from our warehouse team only 20 products were damaged.

Thank you to all the team.

James Holland
Managing Director, Co-op Electrical

 

Alan Williamson joins as Head of Marketing for Co-op Electrical

In March  Co-op Electrical became part of CoopDigital. We want to grow and to make it a truly digital business, not just an online one. To help us do this I’m delighted to tell you Alan Williamson has joined as Head of Marketing for Co-op Electrical this week.

Alan has worked in marketing and eCommerce for over 15 years, most recently at Netflights.com a division of the Emirates group where he held the position of eCommerce Director. Before this Alan worked at Bupa, Shop Direct and City Bank.

Picture of Alan Williamson - head of marketing - Co-op Electrical
Alan Williamson – Head of Marketing – Co-op Electrical

As well as welcoming Alan to Co-op, I’d like to also say thank you to Charlie Manson who for the past 3 years has managed marketing together with his day job as Head of Buying.

Thanks Charlie and welcome Alan.

James Holland
Managing Director – Co-op Electrcial

Highlights from the Co-op senior leadership event.

Last week I attended an event with group of around a hundred senior leaders from across the Co-op. It’s the first time I’ve been invited and I was proud to be included. It all sounds formal and intimidating, but that’s not what I felt when I got there. Everyone was warm, friendly and keen to know who I was and what I did.

The two days consisted of presentations and workshops. I got to see lots of exciting and insightful things from every area of the Co-op. The exec welcomed feedback on what we could do better.

Co-op Enterprise Leaders Event

 I learned so much in a short space of time – I thought I’d share my favourite bits:

 Richard Pennycook and  Rod Bulmer  showed just how much they care about the Co-op. They’re approachable, grounded and witty.

 Andy Phelps shared some great tips how to best engage your team through change. He’s even lending me a few books.

Robert MacLachlan exemplified the spirit of  our Funeralcare business.

James Holland from Co-op Electrical brought a tear to my eye. He talked about his best friend who suffers from a severe health issue. We employed him and supported him through his treatment. This reminded me the Co-op has a good heart.

I’ve never felt so positive about the future of the Co-op.

Danielle.
@MrsDHW

Co-op Electrical moves to CoopDigital

Co-op Electrical sells, as you’d expect, electrical goods online. From fridges and washing machines to iPads and TVs. It’s a great business with a turnover of £100M and  a Feefo rating of 98%.  That rating stems from a real co-operative sense of customer service –  discounts for members and free delivery for everyone with slots by the hour.

Co-op Electrical competes in a tough market with the likes of AO.com, John Lewis and Currys. The team work hard to deliver not only great customer service but consistently offer lower prices than competitors along with warranties at a cost price.

Currently Electrical sits within Co-op Food, but as it’s an on-line business it makes sense to run it from CoopDigital. Today we’re announcing that James and his team will move over to Digital and work under Mike.

James and the team have an ambitious plan to grow the business. We’ll help to speed that up, making Electrical a truly digital business – not just an online one. We’ll invest in service design, agile delivery and focus relentlessly on the needs of our customers and members.

Steve and Mike

Steve Murrells – CEO Co-op Food – @Steve_Murrells
Mike Bracken  – Chief Digital Officer – @MTBracken