Advisory Board Sessions
Background Information
In November of 2019, I joined LexisNexis as the first full-time researcher on a search engine product serving legal researchers and librarians at large law firms.
Part of the difficulty in designing for a complex industry (such as legal) is that the product team and I ran into many issues that were very multifaceted in scope. Even simple design decisions such as whether or not to group two similar fields together became very complex and were overall dependent on the user's workflow. These small design decisions had giant impacts on how our users, especially power users, were able to effectively do their jobs.
Additionally, the product was going through a migration process that was a tad rocky. Some of our power users had already migrated to the new product and were experiencing issues with it, and others were worried or uncertain about their future migration.
Overall Goal
Establish a source of feedback from power users of the product in order to:
• Obtain user input on our approach to highly technical and complicated design problems
• Mitigate risk associated with power users migrating to new version of the existing product
Methodology
Created an "Advisory Board" for the product:
• Identified over twenty current power users at key businesses with the product, UX, and customer support teams
• Invited select power users to join the Advisory Board, which met monthly for six months in a remote focus group setting
• Each focus group had an average of five participants in a given session
• Used Zoom and Mural for whiteboarding and gathering feedback in a structured manner (see below image for example)
• Advisory Board participants had trial access to the migrated version of the product to use and send their feedback on ahead of their company's actual migration to the new product
Example of How We Used Mural

Example participant comments with placeholder UI and data (actual UI shown to participants was high-fidelity)

My Role in this Project
I coordinated and facilitated research with the participants through corresponding with and scheduling them for sessions, and kept track of their attendance and incentives. I planned research sessions and collaborated on which topics to cover for each session with the UX, product, and customer support teams. Additionally, I moderated each focus group, and served as the contact point for the users to talk about their experiences, recommendations, and workflow in order to support the future of the product.
The product owner, project managers, customer support team, and marketing team sat in on many sessions to observe and hear the feedback from users first hand.
Reflection
Throughout the course of my time with this group, I developed my skills as a session moderator. On occasion (due to participants' scheduling conflicts) we had as many as seven or eight users in a single focus group session. The large number of users per session, the fact that the sessions were only an hour long, and the number of disparate topics we needed to cover in a given session forced me to get creative with and become skilled at moderating. I wrote the discussion guide for each session in a lot of depth and planned out how to record participants' comments and feedback ahead of time.
Looking back, I would have run a pilot focus group before our first session to iron out the technical difficulties.
Outcome
The sessions have been greatly beneficial in guiding the team's work by understanding our most active users' workflows and how to advocate for them. The expert advice and knowledge of the Advisory Board members has been tremendously valuable and has guided many of our design decisions.
Additionally, I provided resources for the other UX researchers on the UX team about how to set up, manage, and facilitate an Advisory Board for a specific product. Several of my colleagues have expressed interest in the concept and one even started her own product-specific Advisory Board which has also been successful.
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