Design Leader Insights - Andrea Lewis

January 16, 2023

Alex Smith: Hi, Andrea thanks so much for joining the show today. 


Andrea Lewis: Really glad to be here, thank you.

Alex Smith: And to get started, can you tell the audience a little bit about your background and history in UX research?


Andrea Lewis: Sure. So well, first of all, everyone, I'm Andrea Lewis. I'm currently the Global Director of User Research for Adidas which has been fantastic. I've been there for about eight months now. And prior to that, I led research across the UK government for various projects. But really through the pandemic, I was working for the UK government welfare system, so helping to digitize that system, but also to manage the system that had already been digitized. So it's where I sort of poured my heart into for the past three years. And before that various places across government, e-commerce, you know, bouncing from more public projects, so things that are more centered on helping the public in general. I've been very fortunate to work with so many agencies, but like HSBC and eBay. So I've really seen a very different things.


Alex Smith: Let's talk about like research in e-commerce and in fashion, I think fashion seems to change so frequently, how do you keep up with the users and the consumers?

Andrea Lewis: Fashion has so many layers right, to how we consider it. It's the self presentation. But it's also just what we need to be a part of the world and exist really. It's just, just clothing. And I think it's so remarkable to, you know, be in that world where you can see that very different. Like when you're adorning yourself to really present yourself in a way that says, this is who I am. This is a statement, versus you know, just a pair of socks. Just because they're practical, because I need them, because they're warm. It's just so many different reasons why something becomes necessary in your life, that utility of it versus, you know, self-expression or something like that. I think that's what makes it really interesting. And the types of of ways that people incorporate fashion into their life and the different needs they have around it and seeing those different need use cases.

Alex Smith: I've a question about competitors. I think competitive research is important, but I also think there's a balance that needs to be struck between staring up the competition and realizing that you're something completely different entirely. How should researchers think about that balance?


Andrea Lewis: Yeah. I think designers often force us to think about that balance a lot, really collaborating. They wonder what good looks like or what the competition looks like. And then sometimes we also shy away from that. It's like, let's not follow our competitors. Let's be unique, 

let's begin from a core set of user needs and build from there, which is quite also quite fantastic. But I do think that there is something, especially in the digital world and understanding how the majority of people might think. What the majority of people might come across or what they might be used to. And I think that the most abstract we can call that mental models or ways of thinking, but there are certain patterns that we've grown accustomed to. And the more we rely on those patterns, those patterns, sometimes they're visual patterns that kind of become shortcuts not all of us tend to have. It's an interesting world when you become used to patterns and users look for those patterns. And I think that's where you might find benefit and not just looking at the competitors, but looking at the market.

Alex Smith: Andrea, what type of advice would you have for maybe either designers or researchers trying to break in or enter the UX research world?


Andrea Lewis: Try. Don't stop trying really is the biggest, I think there can be some, yeah, there, I have definitely read certainly in social media for some how difficult it can be and there are not always entry-level roles indeed. A lot of our work is about delivery and the ability to solve a problem immediately. If you're in a learning space in any of those settings where you're being asked to deliver or solve a problem immediately, you can see why it's not always the space for someone to learn. But is the space for someone to shadow learn? Right. So it's a great place to apprentice and assist someone else who's capable. And it's so looking for those types of opportunities. So that's the way in. And then starting to build up your own portfolio case studies, but real practical experience.  And that's the way in.

Alex Smith: I guess another question I have is where do you think UX research is headed and where should it be headed?

Andrea Lewis: Where is it headed now? I think a lot of companies are trying to figure out how they scale research alongside design. Is it a support function? Is it a leadership function? How is it structured? How many, the designer to researcher ratio and what does that look like? And that creates a lot of this backlog approach to research requests. And so I think how we think about research within an organization, maybe user research and user research belongs in different place in the organization. They come together as a community, but they're in different functions, in different areas. I think user research and UX research is quite dynamic. It's a great problem solver. And it's a great help in problem solving. Where it should be headed, I think we should be closer to the cycle of product development and that cycle of product development, we're very much close to the delivery aspects, but the more conceptual, super early ideation, maybe even so close as funding, pre-funding. I think user research and UX research should really be part of that whole true cycle of innovation and product development and product creation. 

 Alex Smith: Yeah, agreed. Dive into that a little bit. Cause that's interesting. 

Andrea Lewis: Yeah. I think I keep saying this, I think VCs should befriend us. I think we should be running VC firms. User research especially, and UX research to look at and validate ideas and concepts very early on.

Alex Smith:  So true. So yeah, let's talk about, you have your own kind of project that you work on outside of work. Can you talk about that a bit? 


Andrea Lewis: Yeah, absolutely. So it's called just researchers and it's  That's also the brand we use on Twitter and it's really, it's all about encouraging people who are new to user research or who are people who do user research and definitely user researchers themselves. It's just a community that welcomes people who are in this practice. So they're doing design research, user UX research, user research there's somewhere in this space. And we focus on peer review, peer standard setting and ethics. And the basic ethics we focus on is just understanding how to interact with the participant, how to get their consent, the most comfortable ways to do that. And then we point them to all the resources around consent and having templates and consent forms and things like that. And any guidance on data storage and data protection and what they need to explain to people and things like that. So lots of tips from the community and just pointing them to just resources,especially if you're a solar researcher at an organization, and this doesn't exist for you.

Alex Smith: Final question here. Sometimes you just see research. As an insight and then it doesn't necessarily get baked into the product or the launch. It's just like, oh, that's cool. Let me let these biases creep back in. When do you stop saying, hey, like following your research through, till the end of a new release or launch, or do you just hand it over to product and design and see what happens?

Andrea Lewis: It's really, that's a fantastic question because it is, it is a part of the job. I think, of user research and UX research that you don't often realize is a part of the job. And it's something that I encourage researchers to, if they think that their job is simply here's my report tada! Isn't it brilliant? Go follow my word! Go off in the kingdom and build. That's not what happens. I'm a huge fan and have definitely encouraged embedded user researchers within multidisciplinary teams. It's fantastic when it's possible, when it's not possible I think it's the next best thing when you have continuous delivery, it's almost a requirement. So if you have a big site, big service, big thing, that's up and running. You're going to need some embedded researchers because you need that person there to fold in the insights. And who remembers the insights, works with the team ideates with the team, we try fail, try, fail, succeed. Great. Off we go. And it's that beauty of working together and creating together that can happen. Researchers are an active part of product, active part of design, active part of content, active part of development, all those parts.

Alex Smith: -Yeah.

Andrea Lewis: All those parts.

Alex Smith: Andrea, thanks so much for coming on the show today.

Andrea Lewis: Alright, fantastic. Thank you for having me.