Six years stronger
2019 wasn’t just another year added, it was the wrapping up of an important growth stage in the life cycle of a startup. It was about bringing together everything we have learned since the beginning, and transforming it into a foundation for the future.
We rewrote all our live infrastructure, our video tech and all of the client apps from scratch. We added critical team members and we figured out who we are and who we need to be as a team, as a tool, and as a user experience.
In the beginning of this stage, it felt like it was about fixing things. Now it feels like it was all about becoming who we are meant to be. And it’s a good feeling.
Delivering on promises made before making new ones
Like most product companies, we love building new shiny features that make meaningful tasks easier to do.
Our mission is, and has always been, to humanize technology by bridging the gap between end users and product teams. We believe this not only produces better results, but it ensures humanity is at the core of every product decision. We also believe empowering the research community to bring their valuable and artful skillset to their product organizations is essential. Our vision is for every builder of experiences to be able to interact with real users, in real time, and in real contexts.
This is why we built the first live research product 3 years ago. Lookback Live not only lets researchers break free of the lab and moderate remote participants wherever they are, it also lets the whole team join in from the virtual observation room, to take notes, chat with each other, or just observe the experience, without distracting the researcher or the participant.
Our plan was to then add a lot of helpful functionality. Serving the world’s best UX teams means we never lack great feedback on what features are missing (thank you and please keep the requests coming!).
But as it turned out, reliability just wasn’t where it needed to be. A lot of things can go wrong when you line up a researcher, a remote participant, a note taker, a room full of observers from all over the world, and record the whole thing in one Live video session. When things break, it’s very stressful and embarrassing for the user. We felt we couldn’t possibly make any new promises before we made sure we did everything we could to avoid session instability or video loss.
So, for the last couple of years, we paused some larger ambitions in order to shore up our infrastructure, reliability and to build the future of Lookback on a truly stable and performant foundation.
The recent release of our brand new Android participate app laid the final stone to that huge rewrite project. Our reliability metrics have improved dramatically across the board. We facilitate thousands of successful sessions every week. When we do run into hiccups, our brand new logging system provides great insight into what went wrong and why, allowing us to quickly troubleshoot and get our customers back on track. We also added more visibility for moderators, so that they can tell when the participant isn’t on a reliable internet connection.
Lookback is now successfully used by thousands of companies around the planet, and since the beginning of the year, there is a live research session in progress somewhere in the world at all times. The promises we made 3 years ago are being kept, and it’s time for a new year full of feature releases!
Building a good company UX
In retrospect, investing in all of these massive rewrites was the right thing to do. But it did take its toll on the team.
Not everyone wanted to join the rewrite journey, so we lost some key people at the beginning of it. The ones who stayed had to work hard on seemingly endless and very hard problems. We were very fortunate to bring on board a group of very strong reinforcements, but by the start of 2019, the collective tiredness was evident. We spent an all-hands retreat in Palm Springs talking about burnout and how we can make sure we do not work in ways that make Lookbackers sacrifice health and life balance.
We took these learnings and shared them to 1,000+ people at #UXRConf a couple of months later. Check out the video and let us know how it resonates (or not) with your own experiences!
For us, it’s helpful to think about companies as being products for their employees. This means that the company has a UX, and like with all UX, it doesn’t always turn out the way the builders thought it would. Founders may very well think they are building a unicorn spaceship with rainbow lasers… but the reality of most startups look and feel like a windowless go-kart.
To all the managers and team builders out there, please be mindful of the UX of the product you are building for your employees. Research it often and repeatedly! Keep investing in empathy and human connection, with your users and with your fellow team members.
I’m going into the holidays with a great sense of gratitude. It’s been a privilege to work with such a great group of people, not just internally with the team, but with all of our customers. Thank you for your patience and generous feedback and support.
In 2020 we plan on doing our best repaying the whole UXR community. In part by releasing a lot of useful features – my personal favorites probably being Lookback Guided Tasks on all platforms, transcriptions and a brand new information architecture. And in part by sponsoring conferences and initiatives that are beneficial for the community. Among other things we’ll be the title sponsor for the fantastic UXR conference in Toronto this summer, making sure every speaker is paid and helping them fund 150 student and reduced price tickets for those who otherwise would not be able to attend. Come hang out with us at #UXRConf in June!
From all of us at Lookback, I wish you a very merry researching break and a happy new year of talking to your users!