June 9, 2022

Enter the Maze

By
Tobi Coker

We're excited to announce that Felicis led the Series B in Maze.design.

What is Maze?

Maze provides rapid, remote product testing for researchers, product managers, designers, and marketers. In short, it gives teams working on user and product research the ability to accurately collect real time feedback on their products.

Why you should care

If you’re reading this, it’s too late…chances are, as a consumer, you have already interacted with product research in some capacity.

In all seriousness, if you are, I’m assuming you came to this article through Linkedin or Substack. Take Linkedin, for example. Now let us presume that Linkedin is thinking of changing the way that ads are displayed for free users. Currently ads are displayed chronologically, within the feed, however, they believe that they can increase advertising dollars by showing ads on the right hand side of the page. This feature change has significant ramifications for advertisers, Linkedin (and its partners), and users. Before doing so, the company wants to understand how the change will affect its user base.

As a result, the product team spends time organizing the product launch; design takes point on the re-format; product marketing ensures that the feature is advertised in the correct way, and research collects qualitative and quantitative feedback on how the change will impact the user experience. Throughout this process, all of these teams need to collect, interpret, and act on user feedback. By improving the speed and quality of the user feedback process, Maze gives these teams the proper information and context they need to succeed and get their product enhancement to market quicker.

In this example, chronological, timeline based advertising was a conscious decision made by the Linkedin product team, informed by its careful understanding of their product and users.

Linkedin is not alone in this. The importance of user research extends to all companies. And in an increasingly competitive world, companies that focus on user and product research have an advantage (more on this in the appendix).

How it works today

The product development life cycle encompasses everything from ideation to release.

Figure 1. Product Development Life Cycle

Source: Smarsheet

You’ll notice that research is the first step after ideation, followed closely by design. Naturally, there has been software built in each of these verticals - Canva and Figma in design, are relevant examples. Currently, Maze serves the research function.

The growth and demand in user research has far outpaced solutions focused on catering to these business users. As a result, companies have either failed to update their tech stack or have outsourced this function to consulting firms. This has exacerbated the fragmentation in the market for UX researchers.

Figure 2. UX & Product Research Landscape

Source: Felicis

Maze’s role & the future

Enter Maze. Maze currently excels in real-time user feedback, or the administering and collecting of product feedback, asynchronously. However, the vision for Maze is much larger - to become the de-facto solution for research and product teams.

This is a two-fold effort. The first is creating products that cater to the other use cases for UX researchers including synchronous testing (see video clips), ad-hoc surveys, diaries/card sorting, and analytics. The latter is expanding from product testing to other parts of the design workflow, including ideation, research, prototyping, and more.

At Felicis, we are energized by the growing field of user research and product development. We also invested, and continue to work closely with Dovetail, the leading user research company out of Australia. We are confident these two companies can help supercharge growth in an industry poised to double over the next ~5-10 years. We are proud to join Emergence, Amplify, and other top venture firms in Maze’s journey and look forward to working with Jonathan and the rest of his team as they bring UX & product research into the 21st century.

Let’s get to work.

Appendix (for those interested in learning more)

User experience research is essentially human psychology. Ultimately, companies make products for consumers. Consumers are attracted to certain types of products over others for various reasons, which can range from a heightened perception of security to scarcity. Therefore, it’s of paramount importance that companies understand how consumers will interact with their products before making drastic changes. Companies make small shifts and gauge consumer response through the development process for a product. Without extensive UX research, it’s impossible for teams to design a product catered to the user.

Research shows..

Access to products is easier than before (i.e. App Store, Shopify). There will be 6.65B smartphone users by the end of 2022 (~83.9%) of the world’s population. Wireless internet is available in most countries (Starlink and other programs are making this ubiquitous). And there is a growing middle class in many emerging countries.

There is higher competition than ever before among companies to reach users. Easier access and capital means more companies exist today, per capita, than in the past. Personally, I cycle through 5-6 apps on a daily basis. Superhuman (email), Spotify (music), Instagram (vice), Linkedin (professional), Reddit (vice), and Strava (to counteract my vices). Compare that to how many apps there are available in the app store today. 1.96m in Apple’s App Store as of the end of 2021. That’s <0.0001% of all available apps. Given a lot of these apps depend on ad revenue - the longer they can keep you on the platform, the more info they can collect, and the more targeted their ads will be.

This predicates a growing need to differentiate. Companies need to differentiate on product - this includes user experience, user interface and design. The ratio of designers to developers: 1:8 - Uber (2017); 1:5 - Intercom (2017); 1:9 - Atlassian, 2017 (down from 1:15 in 2012); 1:8 - IBM, 2017 (down from 1:72 in 2012).

As a result, companies are spending more than ever on the product and UX side, to better understand users and how they will interact with their products.

Figure 3. Landscape of User Research Methods

Source: Nielsen Norman Group

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