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A new profession in IT: what UX researchers do in Kazakhstan and why they are so important

Dinara Abdildinova (photo by Katerina Malama, )

A company may consider its product to be the best and most user-friendly in the world, but only user experience research (UX-Research) will show whether this is true. It is important to systematically compare hypotheses and the idea of the ideality of your product with the user's reality.

UX researchers study the user's interaction with the product, the context and scenarios of using the product in order to make it better, easier, and more convenient. In this way, experts help businesses earn or save money by testing product hypotheses.

Dinara Abdildinova, team leader of the Kolesa Group research team, helped us figure out the UXR profession, which is new for Kazakhstan.

I am currently working as a UX researcher, but my career path began 14 years ago when I joined a marketing agency. We have conducted research for large FMCG companies, banks, etc. I worked there for 10 years. For the last 4 years, I have been developing User Experience Research at the Kolesa Group.

Our team is engaged in product research in the three main products of the company —,,

At the Kolesa Group, UX researchers are a full-fledged part of the product team that participates in discovery processes. We directly influence the changes and improve the user experience in applications. Our role grows with the company.

At the Kolesa Group, all decisions are made based on data, and we just give them — although not as big numbers as analytics. Before the release, we will definitely find out the opinions of users, their attitude to this or that change. After that, almost all innovations pass A/B tests and only then are rolled out to the entire product. 

Data analysts collect data and transmit it to the product team. According to the data, it is clear that certain indicators have changed, but the reasons are not visible. To answer the question "Why?" and UXR helps. For example, the numbers say that there is a low conversion rate at some stage of the funnel. We give the team an insight: "Here the user does not understand the wording, the screen itself. Let's change this word, and the conversion rate will grow."

When the pain of users is determined, the team, with the participation of researchers, determines hypotheses on how to improve the interface. The proposed solutions are tested on users. We conduct qualitative and quantitative research and choose the best option. Before the release, analysts check it again. Each solution goes full circle so that the user gets the best product.

The difference in the approaches of data analysts and UX researchers is that the former work primarily with data. And we see people behind the numbers, and we help these data to "talk."

The Kolesa Group Research Team

Insights can be of two types — in CX and in UX. UX insights are often completely unexpected.

I'll give you an example. The site works in partnership with developers. The sales department is responsible for communication with them. The guys are great, they do it cool. But sometimes developers still disconnect from . And friendship with the sales staff prevents them from naming the real reasons. Like any respondents, they can give socially desirable answers.

We managed to get insights from developers when our UXR team conducted a survey among developers: what advantages they see in the site, what they lack. We talked to the developers and understood their needs and difficulties. And then we were able to solve some of their issues personally, increasing the transaction receipts as a result. This example shows how important it is to connect people who are not interested from the point of view of partners.

We are a bridge between partners, product users and the company. In communicating with us, they open up and bring a lot of interesting insights. They voice the real reasons for the shutdown.

We use different methods. Qualitative research is most often conducted in the format of in-depth interviews, telephone surveys. We use the Jobs to Be Done tool and create a Customer Journey Map. We resort to focus groups when we need group dynamics, in other words, we "brainstorm" with users.

If you need to collect data and measure indicators, we use quantitative methods, conduct surveys through special platforms — "Usability Factory", Pathway and others. To make important decisions, we collect information from tens of thousands of respondents.

At the Kolesa Group, we work closely with designers, analysts, and product managers.

In Kazakhstan and in the post-Soviet space as a whole, the functions of a researcher fall on designers or product managers. Small projects work like this: the designer drew, tested and made edits himself. Managers are engaged in communication with users, especially in startups. 

This approach has its drawbacks. Firstly, if the feedback is collected by an interested person, it is difficult for him to perceive the negative about his offspring.Or vice versa — make big eyes like the cat from Shrek and ask: "Do you like this prototype?"

Secondly, it is better for specialists to leave time for development. In our approach, the designer pumps hard skills, becomes cool in prototyping, and we help him set up processes, collect feedback. It is difficult for managers in a multitasking environment, there is always a risk of missing something. It often happens that a startup decided to conduct research, but chose an irrelevant methodology and target audience. Erroneous conclusions take up time and lead businesses to unnecessary expenses.

This job is suitable for those who like to communicate with people. Here you need to constantly talk to people: ask questions, immerse yourself in the experience, emotions of another person, sometimes stop talking in time and just listen. If a person is inquisitive and empathetic, then he will find himself in the UXR profession. 

But the main advantage from my point of view is that you see the results of your work. It is a great happiness to do as people asked.

Of course, we do not allow distortions that will harm the business. But in many cases we meet halfway. For example, users find the search filter inconvenient, we collect insights and the team offers a solution. It is being released and we hear words of gratitude from users.

When I come to a meeting with respondents, I explain our work with examples: "Do you remember this change? It came about through conversations like this one." People answer my questions with great enthusiasm.

After a year of work, you already know how to separate the real pain of users from socially desirable answers. You get insights, defend them at meetings with the team, and then it's all released and you see changes in the numbers.

I really like working in the product team, because I used to do research for a marketing agency and didn't know if my findings influenced business decisions. Here I can see when the user experience is getting better.

A couple of years ago, I thought that the capacity of this niche was not that big. Not all companies will hire researchers, at most one employee. But over the past year, I have seen an increase in demand for research in large companies and startups. According to our calculations, there are now several dozen UX researchers in Kazakhstan.

The presence of international companies in Kazakhstan is increasing. The business seeks to localize products to our market, for this purpose, local specialists with knowledge of the Kazakh language and mentality will be hired as researchers. 

The Kolesa Group is not the first company to introduce UXRS. But we are one of those who strive to pump up this community, to bring together researchers from different companies. We meet for coffee, hold meetups. We were also the first to publish our salaries so that our colleagues would have something to focus on. The salary fork of a UX researcher in the Kolesa Group is from 300 thousand tenge to 1 million 250 thousand tenge.

Many companies follow the same path as ours. But there are few people, there are no ready specialists. And the market is now open for new people to appear, study, and grow. In the near future, it will most likely be easy for them to find a job. 

Nowadays, people come to us mainly from related fields. HR managers, recruiters, support specialists, psychologists become good researchers because they regularly communicate with people. 

We often close the positions of researchers with internal staff — for example, from the user care service. The guys already know the target audience, they come to our profession with an understanding of the product.

Recently, AlmaU conducted a research course. We took part in its creation and gave lectures to students. If I'm not mistaken, this is the first such initiative in universities in Kazakhstan. But there are small courses from individuals. The Higher School of Economics trains good specialists.

For those who first learned about our profession, I recommend reading in more detail any basic sources, such as articles on Habra, Medium.

If you have a common understanding of the difference between qualitative and quantitative research, then you can get acquainted with the practice of UX research in modern companies. For example, Cyanogen and Avito run blogs. There are a lot of interesting materials on Habr and YouTube about what researchers do in large IT companies. We also hold meetups and post recordings of performances.

All this will help to avoid the distorted idea that the researcher is just talking to users. No, we primarily interact with the team, with the managers.

For people who have marketing education or work experience, I recommend learning a little more about UX. The difference is that we use more different metrics: SUS, CSAT, CES, etc. Based on them, we either collect feedback, or look at how certain solutions come to our users.

There are classic books that are recommended for beginners in UX:

  • Rob Fitzpatrick, "Ask Your Mom: How can I communicate with clients and confirm the correctness of my business idea if everyone is lying?";
  • Kirill Egerev, "This button needs text: About UX writing in short and clear";
  • Donald Norman, "The design of familiar things."

But if I were a novice specialist, I would just look for interesting articles and videos on the topic, this is enough at first. Pay attention to Mikhail Pravdin and Sergey Rozum.

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