How Descript Makes User Research Simpler and More Effective

April 22, 2021
Header image: Simpler and more effective user research

It sounds simple: If you want to make sure that your product or service meets your users’ needs, talk to them. When your team is small, lean, and nimble, that’s easy enough. But once your business begins to scale — with the complexity of your product or service alongside it — the more important it becomes to be systematic and intentional about user research.

User interviews are often the first step in any user research process. Done well, user interviews will help you understand your users’ goals, desires, and the challenges that your product or service can (hopefully) solve for them. 

Sharing insights or key feedback from a user interview usually involves a slew of different tools. You might need to juggle meeting platforms to record the interview, transcription providers to transform it into text, complex audio or video editing software to trim it down to the highlights, and a spreadsheet or two to make sure your data is properly archived and indexed.

Descript has fundamentally changed how I work — the speed with which I’m able to use the transcript as a medium to share video has changed everything.

Drew DiPasquale, User Experience Researcher, HubSpot

And while Descript might never make your spreadsheets obsolete, it will enable you to transcribe, edit, and share user interviews with a single app — which means you can translate insights into action more quickly and more effectively than ever before. 

Do you know your users?

“You are not your user.” There’s a reason that’s the first entry in this list of clichéd (but brutally honest) UX maxims. It sounds obvious, but the closer you are to your product or service, the easier it will be to overlook.

HubSpot, a software company that builds tools to help companies scale through marketing, sales, customer service, and operations, relies on user research to understand their customers’ motivations and problem-solving process. User interviews are at the core of this process, but these interviews often have little to do with HubSpot’s products themselves. Instead, they’re focused on the problems that might lead a customer to consider using HubSpot in the first place.  



“Fundamentally, I’m trying to better understand how our users think about things in relation to the problems they’re trying to solve,” says Drew DiPasquale, User Researcher at HubSpot. “I focus on mental modeling, or how people think about what they’re doing when they’re trying to solve a problem. I try to understand what they’re trying to do and how they’re trying to solve those problems,” he explains.

To do so, he conducts open-ended, freeform interviews with HubSpot users, and interjects as little as possible. “I’ll set up one foundational question, and then just listen — the only follow-up question I might ask is, ‘Can you tell me more about that?’ — and that’s pretty much all I’ll say throughout the interview.”

Deliver instant insights for clients

Many businesses and organizations don’t have the resources to properly conduct user research in-house. Instead, they turn to firms like Cascade Insights, a market research firm that specializes in the B2B tech sector. 

“We do a lot of qualitative research — in other words, interviewing users about how they use our clients’ products or services,” says Tyler Honsinger, Director of Research at Cascade Insights. “Typically, we interview users over Zoom. As soon as the interview is completed, we wait for the Zoom recording link to show up in our inbox, and as soon as we get it, we upload it to Descript to transcribe the interview,” he explains.

After Cascade completes several interviews related to a given project, they begin analyzing the interviews and comparing them to one another. “If we have five interviews we did for a client in a week, we’ll do analysis in chunks and put together 10 takeaways,” Honsinger says. “We use the search functionality a lot — it might be the best functionality in Descript. If I asked a question a certain way or used a certain keyword within an interview project, I can search to find that exact question within all the interview transcripts.”  

“Descript has made the process of sharing information with clients substantially easier,” says Honsinger. “We can deliver instant insights for clients, and point them to a transcript almost immediately,” he says. 

Edit, organize, and share — with one app

Before Drew DiPasquale began using Descript, cataloguing, organizing, and sharing research involved multiple different tools. But Descript is the “Swiss army knife” of media editors: Not only does it make editing audio and video fast and easy, you can use it to organize data and share it with key stakeholders.

“Typically, my Descript Projects are organized specific to a larger-scale research project that I’m working on,” says DiPasquale. “My qualitative research projects usually involve between 10 to 25 user interviews, and I use Descript Projects to keep these within one ‘square unit’ relating to the research topic.”

From here, DiPasquale uses individual Compositions within the larger Project to catalogue each interview. He leaves these interview-specific Compositions unedited, in case he needs to revisit the raw interview later. 

Afterward, DiPasquale listens closely for common threads and themes that crop up across different user interviews within the same research topic. Then he uses Descript’s organizational tools, like Markers and Clip to Composition, to build excerpts and insights he can share with his team.

Simplify procedure and manage teams more effectively

Tyler Honsinger and the chief research officer at Cascade Insights are responsible for overseeing the work and research of several different team members. Before Descript, reviewing their output involved juggling dozens of files at once.

“Previously, if I wanted to read through the transcripts on a project to double-check someone’s findings, I’d have to either open up 20-30 different Word files or use DocFetcher, which wasn’t a perfect solution,” he says. “With Descript, we’re able to open up the app and look at the projects we have going on right now, and I can quickly and easily read through 10 or 20 interviews. It’s made that process so much easier, to get caught up on what the team is hearing,” he explains.


Descript helps Cascade Insights manage their research teams’ output more effectively.

Cascade Insights’ procedural challenges extended to managing transcripts themselves, too. Cataloguing and archiving their user interviews was “a mess, to say the least,” says Honsinger. “It was a complicated process. We worked with contractors to plug audio recordings from Zoom into Rev to generate transcripts, track them in a spreadsheet, and make sure that transcripts were correctly aligned with interviews in the right folders.” 

“Now that we use Descript, we have a single source of truth for all interviews. All our contractors need to worry about is making sure our respondents are properly incentivized,” Honsinger says. 

Share insights and themes with your team — fast

Descript helps HubSpot’s Drew DiPasquale share research insights with his team as soon as he begins to notice them. “Certain topics or themes crop up when I listen back to my interviews,” he says. “When I notice that happening, I’ll create a new Composition for that topic.” Whenever DiPasquale adds an interview excerpt to the Composition he created for a specific topic or theme, he uses Markers to record thoughts and in-line notes. 

Features like Copy Highlights and Clip to Composition make this process simple and fast. Triggered by a couple mouse clicks or keyboard shortcuts, he can organize data on the fly without pausing.

“Now I’ve got interview data, plus my notes, segmented by topic,” explains DiPasquale. “So I can easily drop a selection from a transcript in Slack, discuss an early insight I think is coming together, and then share an actual clip from the interview itself: ‘Here’s a user explaining exactly what I’m talking about.’” 

The ease and immediacy of sharing video from Descript has not only made DiPasquale’s workflow faster, but more effective. “Descript has fundamentally changed how I work — the speed with which I’m able to use the transcript as a medium to share video has changed everything,” he says. 

Scale Descript across your organization with Enterprise

The privacy and security of users’ data is an utmost concern for user research teams. Research data invariably contains personally identifiable information, so it’s essential that systems and safeguards are in place to keep that data confidential, even from other colleagues within the same organization.

HubSpot uses Descript Enterprise, our plan custom-built to fit the needs of high-performance teams, to integrate Descript securely into their organization — and extend its benefits beyond the user research team. All new Enterprise accounts include a security review to integrate Descript into client workspaces, and SOC 2 certification guarantees ongoing compliance.

Controlling access to Descript Projects containing interviews and sensitive data was a key concern for HubSpot. HubSpot created a shared Descript Drive specific to the user research team, which meant Projects containing research subjects’ personally identifiable information were accessible only to researchers. Additionally, individual Descript Projects can be restricted from other members of a shared Drive, offering an even finer grain of control over sensitive data.

When it’s time to share insights and information more broadly throughout their organization, Enterprise teams like HubSpot can add an unlimited number of Basic users to their Drives. These Basic users can use Descript, for free, to create and edit screen recordings and collaborate with other HubSpotters. 

Streamline research and unlock productivity

Whether you’re an upstart organization just beginning to conduct user research in earnest, or an established team with an already robust research program, Descript will streamline your work and allow you to share results more easily and more quickly than ever before.

Descript has made sharing information substantially easier … we can deliver instant insights for clients.

Tyler Honsinger, Director of Research, Cascade Insights

Instead of juggling a multitude of editing and organizational tools, Descript will help you focus on what matters: Doing good research.

“If I didn’t have Descript, I would simply provide less effective research to my team,” says HubSpot’s Drew DiPasquale. “It takes the research I do and makes it exponentially better and more accessible for my team — it just changes things drastically.”

Ready to give Descript a try for yourself? Download it for free today, and if you’d like to discover how Descript can fit within your entire organization, visit our Enterprise page to learn more. 

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