An interview with Meena Kothandaraman

About Meena Kothandaraman

Meena Kothandaraman has twenty years of professional consulting experience in the areas of exploratory user research, concept design, and experience evaluations. She approaches these components strategically so that businesses are able to derive measurable benefits from a successful user experience. By clearly defining personas and representing diverse user populations accurately, she brings meaning to product features that heighten the value proposition to key constituents. Meena is regularly invited to conferences to present how user segmentation can benefit different stakeholders in various industries. She is also a seasoned instructor and discussion leader, in particular while facilitating “white room” workshop sessions for quick prototyping and designing conceptual models. She also serves as Adjunct Professor in the Human Factors and Information Design program at Bentley University, Waltham, MA. In her 10 year tenure, she has contributed to the program being the largest and most successful of its kind worldwide.


Main points

  • Stakeholders have trouble moving research upfront before the development process often because they have the perception that it will increase project cost dramatically.
  • Often, they are focused on development timeframes and deliverables, and become nervous about adding a research piece in before development even begins.
  • My clients want to do research when they approach me so I don’t feel I have to fight for research.
  • The biggest value to stakeholders in upfront research is identifying a gap users have, quantifying it, and clearly measuring it to show how it can be closed. Measurements should continue so that there is proof that the gap has been closed.
  • Talking about user research and referring to specific quantitative savings or revenue generation makes stakeholders listen. 
  • It is my responsibility as a consultant to tell my clients when their request for research is missing the mark. Sometimes, that means they should be looking at a larger strategy, or possibly a different approach.
  • For user experience related activities they do not agree to do, I try to encourage them to have a plan to complete it in the future, or understand where and how it should fit in to the total customer experience.
  • I am very passionate about research, and try to modify the message if it is not being absorbed properly. It is important to understand the constraints that everyone is working within.
  • Start small – it is the best way to get quantifiable results that mean something.
  • A key aspect of field research is connecting all the data collected directly to design impacts. I try to come up with visual deliverables to carry meaning, and focus less on text.
  • When my clients are actively looking for their next step, it is a good sign for me that they see the value of what the research has confirmed.