Jul 4, 2023

User Research at Shapr3D

Learn about how we think about User Research at Shapr3D

While CAD might seem niche to an outsider, it is actually an amazingly horizontally diverse market. Tools like Shapr3D are being used for a wide variety of use cases, from Industrial Designers creating concepts for beauty product packaging, to Engineers designing specialized tools which they use to test rockets. Shapr3D is working on creating a tool that helps Design and Manufacturing professionals harness complexity in their workflow and create better products, which requires a relentless focus on our users. 

One of Shapr3D’s strengths is that we approach building for these industries as outsiders. Many of us are not deeply experienced Mechanical Engineers with decades of experience using the industry standard tools, and it helps us be more curious to listen to the problems they have. This helps us look at user problems with fresh eyes, and helps us be more open and curious to listen to the problems they have with their current tools. Of course in such a complex and technical space, it is impossible to solve problems we don’t understand, which is where our User Research team comes in.

Working in the User Research team puts you at the forefront of this impact, because you get to spend your days talking to our users, seeing the amazingly diverse things they design and build in Shapr3D, and using what you learn to make our product even better for our users. While User Researchers continue to play a part in making Shapr3D extremely usable for a highly technical product, the team spends most of their time sharing context and helping to drive alignment around our strategy.

We are a relatively small (about 110 people today) but ambitious company, so being aligned is critical to ensuring we can maximize the impact of our investments. User Research increasingly spends time understanding and evangelizing the broader strategic environment within which we operate. We do this because this is the highest leverage activity for the team, an hour spent at the strategic level has dramatically higher impact than an hour spent on usability testing, because the most usable interface is pointless if it solves the wrong problems for the wrong people. We also believe that knowledge in the head of 1-2 people like the team Researcher and Product Manager is good, but has limited impact when compared to knowledge that is shared by everyone on the team, which is why we are spending increasing capacity on evangelizing what we learn.

Over the past 6 months, research has been involved in defining and validating our Positioning and Messaging, expanding our understanding of the different market segments, building out and evangelizing Personas and a comprehensive User Journey Map, and more. Research is also a participant in the 2-4 planning cycles we have every year, where Product-Engineering and Go-to-market Leadership align on what we will be investing our capacity on.

This continues to be an area we are most excited about doing more in, especially in the space of lowering the barrier for everyone to have a deep understanding of our users and the space they operate in.

The place that User Researchers at Shapr3D probably spend most of their time today is developing and distributing context about the problems we are trying to solve, fueling the work of Product-Engineering and Go-to-market teams. Our teams are typically taking on large, longstanding projects which aim to solve particular user problems, like unblocking a workflow step or enabling a type of design output. We call these large projects Journeys, and they typically span multiple releases, with multiple interrelated features being delivered to solve the problem. At the earliest stages of these Journeys, Product Management, User Research, Product Design and Engineering work together to expand the project goals into a discovery plan that helps expand context of the problem space, and suitable solutions to meet the goals.

The problem space we operate in is really varied. In addition to the diverse user population, the problem space to explore is also really broad, meaning there is always something to learn. Recently Research has been engaged in understanding the 3D modeling workflow for complex products, exploring the collaborative roles and responsibilities within manufacturing teams, understanding the discovery and adoption journey for individuals and teams, and much much more. 

This variety brings with it a variety of Research tools and methodologies, the team has been involved in everything from simple research calls with existing or target users, to surveys, diary studies, site visits and more.

We are constantly trying to do even better, and if you have done exciting work as a Researcher we would love to learn from you, and share what we have learnt, so check out our open positions or connect.