An interview with Donna Tedesco

About Donna Tedesco

Donna is a Staff Usability Specialist in the user experience research team at a large organization located in Boston, MA. She is the co-author of the book Beyond the Usability Lab: Conducting Large-scale Online User Experience Studies with Bill Albert and Tom Tullis (2010). She received a BS in Engineering Psychology from Tufts University and a MS in Human Factors in Information Design from Bentley University. Donna has published and presented papers at national and international conferences, including the Usability Professionals' Association (UPA) and the conference on Computer-Human Interaction (ACM SIGCHI).


Main points

  • Demonstrate value of user research and return on investment.
  • In my organization, user research is already established. My challenge is with stakeholders who feel they are entitled to determine the right research methods to be used in different cases.
  • Understand what present and past research is going on in your organization, maybe by other departments such as Marketing. Take a look at that research and triangulate.
  • Identify gaps and what’s missing to identify research opportunities.
  • Develop your own processes and methodologies for gathering recurring research (baseline studies, benchmarking).
  • When struggling between research you are asked to do and one you think you should do, go back to building relationships with your stakeholders. The key is the rapport you have with them.
  • I never say no to stakeholders about what they want to do. I am always respectful of their needs.
  • If your key stakeholders can’t make it to important research planning meetings, meet them individually and loop them in to get their input and buy-in.
  • Use video clips to demonstrate the good and bad things you saw because it highly engages stakeholders.
  • Take little screenshots of study participants’ faces at moments when they are having problems and integrate them into your findings.
  • Tell a story with quotes. Stakeholders respond to that. The reason is that it comes from users’ mouths, not my own.
  • Always have recommendations or put yourself in a position where you participate or lead a workshop with stakeholders with a goal to develop actionable results.
  • Acknowledge the tradeoff of specificity of your recommendations: don’t be too vague and in the same time, not too specific. Find the road in between by giving specific recommendations while providing considerations and examples.
  • Researchers can tell if their stakeholders are bought into research only when it’s too late. When they do not attend debriefs, study sessions, etc. Pull them out in advance and make sure you are aware of their input and concerns.