Making Open Work
May 8–9, 2017: Training & Tutorials
May 10–11, 2017: Conference
Austin, TX

Build better stuff faster by talking to strangers: A case study

Jane Davis (Dropbox)
11:00am11:40am Thursday, May 11, 2017
In Real Life (IRL)
Location: Meeting Room 18 C/D
Level: Beginner
Average rating: ****.
(4.00, 2 ratings)

Who is this presentation for?

  • Engineers, product managers, and designers

What you'll learn

  • Understand the basics of doing research, how to do research-driven projects, how to move faster using research and design techniques, and pitfalls to avoid during the development process


Jane Davis shares how Dropbox used a research- and design-led development process to de-risk and identify assumptions for both engineering and design and explains how the company effectively integrated research into the development process and involved engineers in the research and design process.

Over the course of three months, Jane’s team moved from broad explorations of user behavior to a fully functioning early build—and did it while involving the entire team in the design and research process. This meant that the team had identified major risks and assumptions for the engineering team before they had even finished creating the mocks the engineering team worked from. Jane reflects on the process, examining what worked well, what her team would do differently next time, and what other teams can learn from their experience.

Jane then presents a model for teams that don’t have a dedicated researcher to engage in research-driven development, focusing on giving a high-level but practical grounding in research, including the basics of conducting your own research, as well as resources for developing further skills. You’ll learn the value of doing research at the beginning of the development process, when and how to engage in research in the early stages of building something, how to do research without a dedicated researcher, and how to use research and design to identify engineering risks and assumptions.

Photo of Jane Davis

Jane Davis


Jane Davis is a design researcher at Dropbox, where she embeds with product teams to explore big problems, refine ideas, and make better products. Jane enjoys talking to strangers, messing with electrons, and overly elaborate schemes of all kinds.