How UserTesting’s Product Team Does Weekly Updates
UserTesting helps organizations improve user experience by making it easy to connect with the right target audiences to quickly get feedback on product design.
Mountain View, San Francisco, Atlanta
300 Employees (30 in Product & Design)
Meet the People Team
Vice President Product & Design
Chris Abad leads the Product and Design team at UserTesting. Prior to UserTesting, Chris served as the VP of Product and Design at Campaign Monitor and VP of Product and User Experience for Desk.com at Salesforce.com.
'A lot of the designers who have a much higher bar for product design said, 'This is a well-designed app. It doesn’t make me pull my hair out. I can use this every week, no problem.'"
Staying in the Loop
Chris Abad originally started using a weekly status updates process at his previous company as a way to keep up with his team.
“I had a lot of my team in Sydney, but I was here in the States, so the time difference and the office difference made it a little harder to absorb everything that was going on. I didn’t want to be overbearing, so using weekly status updates was a lightweight way to stay in the loop.”
Explaining the process to the team was easy. Chris would share a link to a blog post explaining the value of doing status updates and then explain to each person, “Look, here’s the process on my team. We’re super lightweight on process. You don’t have to fill out a bunch of reports or anything but here’s one thing you do have to do--it’s a 15-minute email to me once a week.”
Unfortunately, doing status updates through email became difficult to manage as his team increased in size.
“People were sending me one-off emails at different times. They were in all of these different places. I had to go dig them up and put them all in the same folder and they were in slightly different formats.” Organizing everything and interpreting the different message formats added a lot of cognitive overhead and only got worse as Chris added more people.
“Enforcement was tricky too because it was harder to keep track of who had sent updates and who hadn’t. It was really hard when everything was done over email. That’s when we started looking for software.”
New Company, New Tool
Eventually Chris found a software tool that was lightweight and didn’t add a bunch of features that he didn’t want, and he brought the tool with him when he joined UserTesting to lead product and design.
But there was one big problem: “It was so clunky that I got complaints all the time.”
“It was really simple so people liked that, but the clunkiness from a product design perspective was bad, and especially since a big part of my team are designers, they hated me for that. They would still do [the updates] but they hated me for it.”
Lattice released its updates feature around this time and Chris liked Lattice’s approach. He describes it as “similarly lightweight but much more well-designed.” It was an easy decision to give Lattice a try.
Onboarding with Lattice
Getting adoption was simple because his team was used to doing weekly updates. “When we did the pilot with the team, everyone already had the habit. The only thing we had to do differently is move to a new tool.”
Chris put extra effort into showing his team how much easier it was to use Lattice because he needed to overcome the trauma caused by the last application. He didn’t want them to think “Oh God, not another tool!”
He sent out an introduction email and walked his team through the steps in writing an update. He also made sure to watch for any signs of difficulty as people started using the tool so he could jump in and help people as they were learning the system.
“I didn’t want any frustration to go on any longer than five minutes. It’s such a lightweight process. It’s only supposed to be 15 minutes once a week. If the pain of using it became any bigger than that, I was worried that everyone would give up and I would have a pain of a time trying to get them to re-adopt it.”
Chris sat in the same room as most of his team, which made it easy for him to see if anyone was having trouble learning the tool. He also made himself available to screen-share with people located outside of the office.
How was the process improvement after switching to Lattice? “It was immediate,” Chris shares, adding, “People would fight me on it every week before, but using Lattice, a lot of the designers who have a much higher bar for product design said, ‘This is a well-designed app. It doesn’t make me pull my hair out. I can use this every week, no problem.’”
Read, Respond, and Remind
Chris sets himself a reminder on Monday mornings to go to Lattice and read his team’s updates.
“It’s really easy to go to my team [page] and see who’s submitted it and who hasn’t. The first thing I do is look at the bottom of the list and see who hasn’t submitted one for that week and I just go ping them on Slack. I try to be really nice about it because I don’t want to be annoying so I say something like ‘hey, don’t forget. send me your update‘ and a smiley face or some combination of fun emojis. That usually works 99% of the time. ”
“I feel pretty good about adoption because I come in every Monday morning and, in the worst-case scenario, one or two people forget [to submit updates]. It’s not a big deal to ping those people right then.”
Chris gets value out of reading the updates and he makes sure to respond to the information.
“Early on I felt obligated to respond or give a comment to each item. I don’t do that so much anymore but I do feel really weird if I don’t leave one comment on their overall update. In almost every case, I’m commenting through Lattice and not taking it somewhere else because the concern there is that you don’t want to lose the context.”
Keep Updates Short
Chris emphasizes to his team to “keep it short” because it helps people get comfortable with making updates part of their routine.
“I’ve had situations where people are very verbose and gung-ho at the very beginning and they write a novel. I think initially there’s a tendency to say ‘Oh wow, that’s awesome! You’re giving me all this detail.’
Now, whenever I see that I actually tell people to stop, not because I don’t appreciate the detail, but, if that’s what they’re doing, at some point they’re going to realize that this is more of a chore for them and they’re not going to want to do it.”
“If I see someone write too much, I actually encourage them to shorten it down and only give me bullet points. I’m more worried that it’s going to be too much of a burden for them if they’re spending 30 minutes doing it instead of 15 minutes.”
- Explain the value of doing updates and help people as they learn how to use the tool.
- Schedule time each week to read your team’s updates and send reminders to stragglers.
- Emphasize keeping updates short to prevent it from becoming a chore.