How they do Design Research #1: Pree Kolari, eBay

These are some learnings that I found useful from Pree Kolari, Senior Director of Design Strategy and Research at eBay, in his interview on the excellent Dollars to Donuts podcast, made by Steve Portigal. I thoroughly recommend listening to the whole interview and all the other episodes if you are interested in the design research field.

The Team

Title: Design Research and Strategy
Size: 20 globally (eBay has 11,600 employees and multiple brands like Marketplace, StubHub, and Classifieds platforms)
Structure: Centralised, but with researchers assigned to new and existing product teams
Disciplines: blend of generalists with specialisms such as ethnography or MBA
Approach: A central research roadmap is fed by common needs across product teams
Outputs: Largely strategic – principles and criteria for product decision making, co-written with product teams
Evolution: eBay has been around for 20 years. User research has existed throughout, although it sounds like Pree’s team is focused on strategic exploration. So I assume that day-to-day usability and conversion research is handled by the individual product teams.

5 interesting ideas

  1. They try to balance quick optimisations (local maxima) with longer term strategies
  2. If they find 10 insights they will pick the most important 2 and focus on them: this is more likely to result in significant impact
  3. Product team members are encouraged to participate in research and co-write the output
  4. Their output is very action oriented: a key objective and a set of principles and decision making criteria
  5. As a leader, Pree spends more time researching needs within the company than he does with customers

Bonus UX nugget: Customers should not be aware of the company’s organisational structure!


Why am I writing this?

I am building an insights team at DueDil in London. Although I’ve led design and research teams as a consultant, this is my first in-house, managerial position. It is essential for me to learn from more experienced research leaders in different types and sizes of company.

When I speak to or hear interviews with these leaders I get loads of great ideas but they often never make it out of my head/notebook. These posts are a place for me to capture and structure my learnings. And as a collection they will hopefully be useful for others in my position.

If you’re interested in talking about your design research team (or if you work at eBay and I got this totally wrong), give me a shout on Twitter/LinkedIn.