Welcome to another episode of B2B Marketing & More with Pam!
In this episode, Vidhya is going to share how her diverse background in marketing and strategy helps her shape perspective and work in UX research.
In this episode:
- What UX stands for and what do UX designers do at Cash App?
- How to work with the product development team to develop features and user requirements?
- How to bring personal experience to the front and the whole product life cycle?
- What are the most common and effective approaches to design?
- How does a group of UX designers work together and share the insights with the product team?
- What tools do UX designers use to drive the brainstorming?
- Best practices for marketing people to work with and get to know UX designers?
- How can marketing and UX designers improve their collaboration?
- What are the key design elements sales and marketing people should be aware of?
Quotes from the episode:
“We spend time using different research methodologies to better understand our customers and our users. So that includes an understanding of them, attitudinally, understanding their mindset, understanding their behaviors. ”
“One thing that marketers can do that would be really helpful is building relationships with people on the UX side. Even if they’re not working together, understand what they do, their work, the design challenges they’re facing. Because they have this in-depth understanding often driven by UX research of the customer currently using the product and many things regarding value proposition or what features are working well for customers. ”
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Welcome to another episode of B2B Marketing & More with Pam! Today, I have Vidhya Ravi, and she is a UX Design Researcher at Cash App who transitioned into UX research for marketing several years ago. And she is here to share how her diverse background in marketing and strategy helps her shape her perspective and work in UX research.
So welcome, Vidhya! Glad to have you.
Vidhya Ravi: Thanks, Pam. It’s so exciting to be here.
Pam Didner: All right. Awesome. So I’m using a term called UX. So can you tell me what UX stands for and what you do at Cash App as a UX designer?
Vidhya Ravi: Sure. Absolutely. And that’s a great question. As we start this talk, I want to say that any views I express today are purely my own, and there is no reflection or representative of my employer. So I’m bringing my perspective here to you today about this field. UX is an acronym for User Experience. And so, a lot of the work I do is focused on how users, our customers, or anyone that is interacting with a product. What sort of experience do they have, or what experience do we want to bring to people who will use the product.
Pam Didner: So I have Cash App. I know many people do, and the Cash App is so simple to use. Like if you want to transfer money, you can; if you want to buy Bitcoin super easy–you hit the “buy” button and buy $500, you can buy $1,000. By the way, I’m not affiliated with Cash App in any way. But I use it just because of its simplicity and intuitive design.
I can tell, and just by looking at a design, I think the UX and design are part of the product development. So can you tell us how you work with the product development team to develop features and user requirements? How do you bring your experience to the front and the whole product life cycle?
Vidhya Ravi: That is a great question, Pam. And I want to take this even broader than just Cash App because the whole concept of UX and where it belongs in an organization is a really hot topic these days. Um, the concept of research in particular or UX research is not a new field; it’s existed in various forms over the last 20 years. You may have heard of people who do things like human factors, for example; that’s also a different name for the work in this field.
The creation of this craft as a function in itself called UX research/design research is a bit newer and where it lives depends on the influence of where the company wants this particular insight to live. And that changes from company to company. So in some cases, UX might ladder up into product as you described; but it can also ladder up into design, into strategy, or sometimes research even has its standalone pillar. And in that case, it will have a seat at the executive table, which is exciting.
But in terms of how we consider features, benefits and different user requirements–especially when working with the product–that’s our entire job. That’s our entire job. That is what we do. We spend time using different research methodologies to better understand our customers and our users. So that includes an understanding of them, attitudinally, understanding their mindset, understanding their behaviors. And we take this information we put into different types of frameworks to help companies and our stakeholders within those companies understand what our customers or users are like and how that might impact how they want to do their work. And from that, they take that information and then make business decisions.
So in terms of something like the front end and you described like Cash App and how simple it is, how easy to use it. Um, that a lot of this has to do with the design of a product. So in research, we uncover the needs of our users, and we might classify them in different ways. One popular way of doing this type of needs classification is jobs to be done. So that’s where an understanding of why a user has picked a particular product to do a specific thing is evaluated, and design is essentially just the process of solving problems.
Pam Didner: Design is essentially solving users’ problems. I love that quote. I’m going to use that.
Vidhya Ravi: Yes. And you know, it’s true because I think when I first went into this field, I was like, “Oh gosh, like now I’m going to be aligned to design. And, you know, I can’t draw worth a lick. And, um, you know, I’m not the most fashionable person out there, and here I am, and I’m supposed to be like-“
Pam Didner: Are you kidding me? I love all the outfits that you choose. You look gorgeous, always on Facebook.
Vidhya Ravi: Thank you.
Pam Didner: More than once I’ve said, “Oh my gosh, she is gorgeous. I love that outfit!” You are totally fine, girlfriend
Vidhya Ravi: Then I can say I’m not the type of fashion plate that I thought would be in, in a field like the design or am I like avant-garde or out there? The cool thing about design is that it’s not what it’s about. It is about how you solve problems for people and how you make your product something useful to them? That’s why there are fields like service design, for example, where you’re not even drawing anything; you’re figuring out how processes work to solve problems for users.
Pam Didner: The workflow. You figure out the workflow and how to serve your customers better. And then you add the design functionality on top of it to bring that to life. Would you agree?
Vidhya Ravi: Exactly. So like the images, the depictions and creative things you might see in an app, um, they’re meant for the user to be able to do something. And we work closely as user researchers with designers to help them understand these needs and problems so that they can create solutions in the form of products.
Pam Didner: So the next question is, do you follow the Agile approach in design? I know Agile is like many software companies. They have this very much the scrum type of approach, and they try to build a feature very fast, optimize and iterate over some time and make a very, very quick do you do to something similar like that?
Vidhya Ravi: Different design teams I’ve worked with use different approaches. Some use Agile, where there is a quick definition of product requirements and then various sprints associated with getting that work done rapidly. Some don’t. So I think one of the helpful things is that–especially in startups in particular–you know, being nimble and quick, being able to adapt quickly is more important. So that might mean we use an Agile methodology to design something, but we might do something different too. Sometimes, we will do parallel design work on multiple options simultaneously or different things. And I’m not speaking specifically about Cash App, but in general, what I’ve seen in the market is completely different based on the company, the needs, and the preferences.
I think our job as UX research is to better understand the requirements for the design team and what information can be helpful to them regardless of what stage they are at. So are they at a stage where they’re going through rapid prototyping? What will research methodologies be most helpful for them as they’re going through their sprints? What do they need to know during their sprints or even two sprints ahead? Finding that information and bringing it forward to make the decisions they need to make to design the best product possible.
Pam Didner: So it sounds like you work very closely with the product team and depend on the needs, and your approach may change depending on what they are doing.
Vidhya Ravi: Absolutely. And I think what’s hard about that too is that sometimes there might be a research methodology that will give them a huge breadth of data and information about our customers, but we’ve got to launch a product in two weeks. So then we’ve got to decide what do we want to do? Um, how do we want to get this information? There are always trade-offs to play.
Pam Didner: Yeah. Giving a UX designer is nice to work together in person and with the pandemic in the past two and a half years, and everybody’s working remotely. How does a group of UX designers work together and still come up with, you know, fantastic design or, uh, share the insights with the product team? How’d you guys done it? And also, what tools do you guys use to drive the brainstorming?
Vidhya Ravi: Yeah. And this is a great question. Specifically, on the design side, I think during COVID, there are some great tools out there. For example, Figma gets used a lot. And Figma is a great tool for collaborative design. Um, it even has review features in it–like you can put comments and Figma, which the design team I’ve worked with uses.
In terms of research and brainstorming building frameworks, um, working through design challenges, I’ve used many different tools: FIGJAM, which is associated with Figma, is one
Pam Didner: It’s called Figma? How’d you spell that? Sorry.
Vidhya Ravi: Yeah. Figma is spelled F-I-G-M-A.
Pam Didner: Got it. I, I thought so, too.
Vidhya Ravi: Yes, it’s a cool design tool, and you can put libraries in it, so a lot of assets are consistent. And it helps designers design quickly and consistently with branding principles of whatever product they’re working on with quick access to assets and libraries, which is great.
And they have a product within Figma or owned by Figma called FIGJAM. And that’s a really simple tool to do whiteboarding exercises, brainstorming and different types of collaborative activities. I use FIGJAM a lot alongside Miro to remotely do these kinds of activities.
Pam Didner: Excellent. Excellent. Yes. Miro is incredibly popular. Many enterprises are using Miro to drive the brainstorming sessions, especially virtually. And the user experiences and designs are so important. And this is something that marketers tend to overlook. Do you have any suggestions on how marketing people should work with UX designers? Any kind of inside tips?
And I know that when I was working with the product team, I tended to talk to a product marketing manager, and I talked to the product engineers; I’m not necessarily in close contact with a UX designer. And your thought in terms of how can marketing and UX designers work better together?
Vidhya Ravi: Yeah. So as function in terms of marketing and UX design, I found that most companies and organizations tend to be quite separated from what you’re describing, which is odd.
Pam Didner: I know!
Vidhya Ravi: I found that to be strange, too. And especially as someone from the marketing field, I was very familiar with market research and marketing research. I always wondered why these UX people like somewhere else and do not integrate with us? And why is their work so different from ours? And especially when I would see artifacts or information created from the UX side, I’m like, “I wish I knew this when I was designing a marketing program or a campaign or something like that.”
So I think one thing that marketers can do that would be really helpful is building relationships with people on the UX side. Even if they’re not working together, understand what they do, their work, the design challenges they’re facing. Because they have this in-depth understanding often driven by UX research of the customer currently using the product and many things regarding value proposition or what features are working well for customers? What is frequently used features, what features bring the most value to users? Those are all things that we spend a lot of time working on, evaluating and advising on. And those are things that could be incredibly useful when creating marketing messaging when building white papers, artifacts, information that can help promote a product. This is also great information to share, especially with your sales teams on the B2B side. For example, what users are finding particularly exciting or useful about the product, or even just from a UX perspective, what problems are we solving for users and how does the product do it? Because that is actually what we spend our time doing.
And I sometimes felt like when I was on the marketing side when there were challenges from a customer perspective with a product. My job was to disposition those challenges and reposition the product so that they wanted to still use it.
Pam Didner: There’s a term for it called “spinning”.
Vindhya Ravi: Yeah, spin! What would have been so helpful to know were these known user problems, to begin with? Like how could I have been better prepared when creating my spin? To be able to identify the advantages or disadvantages of a product. So I think that’s one area.
Pam Didner: You brought up a very good point. I do agree. And I work on the messaging framework a lot and the product’s positioning. And I work very closely with the product team, very closely with the product marketing manager. And most of the time, even though when I was positioning a software product, I did not talk to what UX designers extensively; and now come to think of it, to understand how they designed and what kind of information they have, definitely would have helped me in terms of writing the messaging and also positioning statements. I hear you 100%.
So it sounds like your recommendation is if you are B2B marketers and, especially on the software or SaaS-based platforms, not just have the relationship with your product team or your product marketing people, but also trying to understand some of the design elements and the working very closely with UX designers. And they have the information that you can tap into and possibly help you in your marketing outreach.
Vidhya Ravi: Absolutely. And I think the other thing too, I would recommend is being aware that UX is kind of everyone’s problem in the organization, everyone’s opportunity for a solution. UX doesn’t end when somebody is just in your product; you access the entire experience of discovering the product and how the product helps them in their lives.
And so design feels again like the scary, different thing, but it’s just the process we use to solve problems. So whether you are designing creative or designing a product, you’re still trying to solve a problem for the user. I think keeping that in mind could be really.
Pam Didner: Yeah. I 100% agree with you. Broadened in terms of how you look at the product is not just the finished product with the product feature, but in terms of look, look a little deeper into it. Look at the product’s design and how it’s done and bring that essence out. Love it! Love it!
The next question I have is some of the key design elements? Like-kind of a Design 101 you have learned over time that you think sales and marketing people should be aware of?
Vidhya Ravi: Yeah. A couple of things that could be interesting from a marketing perspective. One of the things you also mentioned is understanding the importance of different features to customers. That is something on the user research side that we spend a lot of time understanding. We’re usually trying to understand that in terms of how do we influence a product roadmap? So what should we invest resources in developing and building first? What should we invest resources in trying to improve or change?
But from a customer perspective, when it comes to marketing, it can be highly useful to know what customers most value? How to position that, how to message that. And that’s one area where I think the design process can intersect well with the marketing process. And I keep repeating it, but I feel like it’s such an eye-opener to me that design is just the process of solving problems for our customers. So, I can take that mindset into the work I did on the marketing side of the problem I’m trying to solve discoverability. I’m trying to solve the problem of having somebody understand what my product does and take on that design lens.
And I think finally -and this is something that happens in many organizations. Across the board, I want to say this whole concept of “insight debt.” I think we’ve all heard of something called “tech debt.” And that’s when you are rushing to build a product. Often, you are a bit sloppy in terms of the code or whatnot because getting the product out there quickly and meeting the customer’s needs with that product and whatever way you can is more important than perfection on the technical side.
And what happens on the research side as we do that, too; we are also often under pressure to get a product out there. And what we might not always do is build up the depth of knowledge that we might have needed to understand this customer deeply. And I think actually on the marketing side, you feel this the most of any organization.
Pam Didner: Especially trying to understand your customers. Deeply that’s the term I use all the time. You know, it’s not just like having a buyer’s persona, but understanding your customers.
Vidhya Ravi: Absolutely. That’s exactly where one of the things that we’re trying to do as a function or in our craft is being able to shift away. There’s something in a double diamond design, where the first part of the diamond is very much about divergence discovery and understanding the customer. And then the second part is about defining the problem and being able to start prototyping or building solutions around it. Much research today focuses more on that evaluative second diamond, but that first diamond is so important. And we must understand that because it’s not just helpful for us from solving problems from our user perspective, it’s helpful for people downstream, like marketing, that get to take these products and market them because they understand the user.
So, I think as marketers being able to understand these processes that we use from a design perspective to design great products and using marketing research to complement our work and understand how to utilize the user research parts could be exciting.
Pam Didner: Fantastic. When you share all these insights, it makes me think that you made a very smooth transition from being a marketer to a UX designer. Do you have any advice to share with all of us regarding making that transition? It can be a transition from a marketing field to the design field; it can be a marketing field to a sales field; it can be marketing to be anything else. So any kind of viable anyone out there who is thinking about making a change?
Vidhya Ravi: I get asked this all the time. I consider myself somewhat of a career change artist because I moved from finance into marketing many years ago. And then from marketing into strategy.
Pam Didner: Oh, you did? Me too!
Vidhya Ravi: (laughs) It feels like for many of us that are like, we have this, like, if you have this deep innate desire to build or create, you have to, you have to keep changing it up.
Pam Didner: Yeah. It’s kind of like self-improvement, you know what I’m saying? It’s also self-growth. Would you agree? You know, after I was in the field for too long, I was like, “you know what? I kind of need to do something else!”
Vidhya Ravi: I’m with you. I’m with you. I think, like, you know, I bet this is not the last career change I’ve made for me professionally. I can see myself doing so many things, but I love where I am now. So it worked out well.
But I think some of the things to keep in mind, especially if you are trying to shift from marketing into like the field of UX—or really from anywhere into the field of UX–is that UX is a new field. And that’s a huge advantage when you want to be a career shifter. Now, most people in this field had careers before this field. They came from somewhere else. Academia is the most common one that we see and hear about a lot because people have traditionally studied social sciences and, um, they’re social scientists, and they understand these research methodologies. But I promise you nothing that I do in my work is rocket science. And if anything, figure out the transferable skills that you have. I think-
Pam Didner: I think that’s very important. I like that a lot. What is the skill that can be transferred from the field to field? That I agree. Yeah, so what is your strength? What are some of the transferable skills that you have, or you possess that helped that transition, say from finance to marketing, to get into design?
Vidhya Ravi: Sure. And specifically from marketing to UX research. So I think I already thought a lot like a researcher. I loved building frameworks. I loved putting information in digestible ways. So that was a great, easy skill to transition, and even the way I think about my transaction is on that. And I have a mental model that I utilize when I’m evaluating researchers to hire or even evaluating my performance.
And what’s interesting is, is that I would say 90% of my background was transferable because the only area in my research mental model is, uh, in terms of research, experience and methodology; that was not a strong hardcore part my marketing experience. But it was something I was able to develop and learn through job crafting, but other things like communication, stakeholder management and influence, product sense and leadership.
Pam Didner: It’s very holistic communication skills that you are talking about, right? Stakeholder management, the communications. How do you communicate with diverse teams? And I think that is a very important transferable skill.
Vidhya Ravi: Exactly. So being able to understand that, um, what makes a great UX researcher, only one of the areas is the area I didn’t have the deepest, deepest experience in; but how could I go out there and get that experience? Whether it was through networking, whether it was through job crafting, whether it was through repositioning work I had done with a new lens. It is being able to understand how to position it and shift. And that’s how I was able to shift. So I think anyone can do this. If you have an interest in it, it’s absolutely.
Pam Didner: Another thing I think is also the inability to learn. If you want to make that transition, and it’s from one field to a complete, brand new field, you need to have the passion, ability, and desire to learn. And I think having that can propel you forward in terms of jumping to any other field.
Vidhya Ravi: 100%. And actually, that is one thing, if you want to be a researcher, learning has to be part of your innate thing because all we do is learn. And I, for me, I’m a lifelong learner, so for me, I don’t think there could have been a better field.
Pam Didner: Excellent. So let’s change to a completely different topic. What show are you binge-watching right now?
Vidhya Ravi: Okay. So I love period pieces and period dramas. So I have to say The Guilded Age on HBO Max.
Pam Didner: I know! I started watching that about five weeks ago. I was like, they did a fantastic job, but you know what, it reminds me a little bit of Downton Abbey.
Vidhya Ravi: Yeah. And I think it’s supposed to. It’s the prequel of sorts.
Pam Didner: I think it’s the same writer, if I’m not mistaken.
Vidhya Ravi: It is. Yeah.
Pam Didner: They packaged it a little bit differently, and it’s in New York instead of like in England, and it’s instead of the upper and the lower class is more like new money versus old money. I think everybody can relate to that, especially Silicon Valley. Right. There’s always the old money, and there’s always new money. So I was watching it and started laughing sometimes, but I was like, “oh my God. You know, the same thing still happens now.” But I love it. I love period pieces, too.
Vidhya Ravi: That’s so funny you say that, Pam? Um, just, I hadn’t even thought about it, but you’re right. When I think about old tech, new tech, it’s like the same thing. It’s so interesting.
Pam Didner: So let me ask a separate question. Did you watch Bridgerton? Did you enjoy that?
Vidhya Ravi: I loved it.
Pam Didner: I didn’t. I was not that into it. I don’t know why. I think they try to modernize it too much. And I think that it’s a little bit away from the reality of what happened during that time. And, um, so I didn’t, I didn’t get into that show at all, but I’m glad you liked it. I mean, many people loved it, and sometimes I watch the show just to see the fashion, you know what I’m saying? I just love to see the clothes. I was like, “oh my God, that is gorgeous!”
Vidhya Ravi: Totally. Outlander season six is another one I’m excited about in terms of period pieces that we’ll be premiering on March 6th.
Pam Didner: Oh yeah. I didn’t get into that one, but my mother-in-law loved it. So literally, I mean, she talks about it, and I kind of follow the whole thing.
Vidhya Ravi: Yeah, so there’s so much good TV coming out. I think we’re getting towards the end of the pandemic—hopefully–and I’m finally like new rich, neat stuff. I think the crown is coming out in November with their next season. So there’s a lot. If you love period pieces, a lot is coming our way.
Pam Didner: Wonderful. Vidhya, thank you so much for coming to my show. It is so wonderful to have you, and I’m so happy that you made that successful transition from marketing to the design field. And, uh, I’m looking forward to your next transition.
Vidhya Ravi: Oh, thank you so much, Pam. I appreciate you inviting me. It was a pleasure.