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Interview with UX Expert Aarron Walter


We’re so excited that Aarron Walter will be sharing his UX wisdom at our upcoming event, 31 Awesomely Practical UX Tips!

Register yourself—or your team&#8212for the May 29th day-long (10am-5pm ET) virtual conference. You’ll learn from and interact with UX experts you know and respect: Steve Krug, Luke Wroblewski, Susan Weinschenk, Aarron Walter, Jeffrey Eisenberg, and Whitney Quesenbery.

This week we pick Aarron’s brain about UX tactics and product strategy. Here’s what he had to say:

Rosenfeld Media: In our community MailChimp is perceived as a leader in newsletter services, heads above its competitors. Is it you who made the difference?

Aarron Walters:Not by any stretch. We have a bunch of really creative, sharp folks in our teams that all make cool stuff. We’ve found that hiring is a really important process to get right. We take a long time to hire the right folks rather than just going after skills. We spend a lot of time “dating” candidates, having dinner, testing their pool chops, and bringing them into design critiques. We want to hire talent, but a social fit is just as important, especially for a company with a distinct personality brand.

RM: Does your team take the lead in developing MailChimp’s product strategy? Or does your team execute a strategy that’s already been developed by MailChimp’s leadership?

AW: My team—User Experience&#8212works on design research, UI design, and front-end build out of MailChimp and many of our other apps, but strategy is becoming a bigger part of what we do as well.

Last year we had a small data overload crisis. We were getting so much feedback from customers, the support team, and colleagues. Though the feedback was valuable, it was too much information to triage into tasks for teams. Instead of just tossing it out, we started to forward all of the feedback into an Evernote account in the event that we may want to revisit it at some point.

Our CEO sent me an email asking how our customers were using a feature we were thinking about rebuilding. I did a quick search in the Evernote notebook and quickly found about 45 very valuable pieces of feedback from customers on this topic, each with an email address attached making follow up easy. In about a day we were able to define a series of recommendations based off real use cases from customers.

That experience got us really excited about learning more from our data. Because you can email notes into Evernote, it’s easy to stream data in that you can then run searches on. We started feeding in Google Analytics reports, aggregate app usage data, all user interviews, usability test findings, industry research, account closing surveys and tons more. Now when we have a question, a quick search reveals industry trends, trends in our apps, and individual customers we can talk to for deeper understanding of an issue.

We call this approach Big Data UX. We’re not parsing petabytes of data, but we’re breaking down silos to get a very broad picture of things so we can shape a smart strategy.

RM: Do you see your team’s role in product strategy changing much over the next five years?

AW: As we stream in new data from other departments, we’ll be even better equipped to define strategy. The hardest part now is telling a concise, clear story of our findings so many teams can grok it in seconds. We’re experimenting with video and posters so a strategic plan can be IMed or understood while you make coffee.

RM: Thanks, Aarron!

There’s still time to sign up for 31 Awesomely Practical UX Tips! Join Aarron along with five other experts for this awesome virtual event on May 29th.