James Glasnapp, DrPH

James Glasnapp, DrPH

James Glasnapp, DrPH
James Glasnapp, DrPH

My Professional Journey

Venturing into New Horizons: From TAPPR to Leap AI

After leaving my role as Principal UX Researcher at Xerox PARC (now part of SRI International), I founded my own research insights firm called Tappr. During this time, I had the privilege of working with some of the largest brands, including a leading on-demand streaming platform, a leading food delivery service, and a major beverage company.

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This was a phenomenal experience that allowed me to delve deeper into customer insights and influence product innovation. However, when some former colleagues and new collaborators initiated an exciting venture studio called Leap AI (Check out what Leap AI is up to here.) I couldn't resist the opportunity. Leap AI is at the exciting intersection of healthcare and artificial intelligence, and I've embraced a new role as Head of UX there. Consequently, I've closed down Tappr and am limiting my availability for consultancy roles. Nonetheless, as a generalist with a keen interest in assisting others and helping companies grow, I remain open for limited projects.

Mastering the Art of Qualitative Research?

A Journey into the Mind of a User Experience Specialist

Can we ever claim to be a master? I'm always learning and evolving. In my role as a user experience specialist, I have focused on qualitative research methodologies. This involves conducting in-depth interviews, participating in observational studies, and moderating research sessions. This hands-on approach allows me to gain a deeper understanding of user behaviors, needs, and motivations.As a design researcher, I've learned to flex my design muscles in ways I never thought possible!

Want to know the secret sauce to being a good researcher? Well, it's no secret at all! It starts with an insatiable curiosity and a burning desire to peek into other people's minds and see the world from their perspective. It's like being a mind reader, without the crystal ball!

The Lifecycle of User Experience (UX) Research

User Experience (UX) Research plays a pivotal role in a company's life cycle. It provides valuable insights into user behavior, needs, and experiences, which are integral to product development and improvement. At every stage - from conceptualization and design, through to testing, launch, and post-launch evaluation - UX Research provides critical data that informs decision-making and strategy. It helps to ensure that products or services meet user needs and expectations, thus driving user satisfaction, engagement, and ultimately, business success.

Early Stage Discovery

The early stage of any project requires a keen focus on discovery. This involves identifying potential opportunities and outlining the direction of the project. Through my experience with qualitative research, I am adept at uncovering these early insights that can shape the trajectory of a product or service. My affinity for early stage discovery research stems from the invigorating process of understanding problems and exploring potential solutions. My comfort in this area is hardly surprising given my current role at a Venture Studio, where my primary responsibility is to scrutinize and validate venture ideas - a task I thoroughly enjoy. Furthermore, a significant part of my career was spent at Xerox PARC (now part of SRI international). There, I conducted early stage research for Fortune 500 companies and Xerox, utilizing PARC technologies and the technologies of Fortune 500 companies to comprehend the practical realities, problems, and potential solutions these companies could apply. This deep-rooted experience explains my penchant for and comfort in early stage discovery research.

Implementation and Evaluation

Once the ideas or concepts are validated, they are implemented. The implementation stage involves creating the actual product or service and launching it in the market. After the implementation, it's important to evaluate the performance of the product or service in the market. This involves conducting post-launch interviews, user surveys, and usability studies. This data is used to determine if the product or service is meeting its intended goals and to identify areas for improvement.

Testing and Validation

Testing and validation is a crucial stage in qualitative research where the ideas and concepts generated in the early stage of discovery are put to the test. This involves creating prototypes or mockups of the products or services and obtaining user feedback through concept or usability testing, and interviews. This feedback is then used to validate or invalidate the concepts, thereby ensuring that the resources are invested in the right ideas.

Comparative Research

Comparative research involves comparing different groups to understand the effects of certain variables. This can be useful in understanding how different demographics or user groups interact with a product or service. The insights gained from this type of research can help in tailoring the product or service to meet the needs of different user groups. Methods may include comparative interviews, observational studies, or focus groups.

Longitudinal Studies

Longitudinal studies involve studying the same variables over long periods of time. This type of qualitative research is useful in understanding the long-term effects or trends related to a product or service. This can help in predicting future behaviors and trends, thereby aiding in future planning and strategy development. Longitudinal research may involve diary studies, in-home interviews, or long-term observation.

Methods I Master in Research

In conducting research, it's essential to understand that no single method holds the key to every situation. Each project, with its unique circumstances, objectives, and constraints, may require a different approach or a combination of methods. The budget, timeline, and the depth of insights needed can also heavily influence the choice of techniques. With my extensive training and experience, I have the ability to discern the most appropriate methods and techniques for each situation. I can efficiently adapt and employ the most effective tools to get the job done, ensuring that the research yields valuable, actionable insights every time. Let's delve into some of the methods I often use in my research.

Conducting Interviews and Observations


Conducting interviews and observations are critical components of my qualitative research process. These methods provide me with direct information about how people use products and services. The insights gained from these interactions are instrumental in influencing decision-making in the design and development process. Read more about the three traits every qualitative interviewer must possess in my opinion.

Concept or Usability Testing

Concept or Usability Testing is an integral part of the qualitative research process. This involves creating a version of the product or service (often a prototype) and subjecting it to real-world testing by potential users. The objective is to identify any usability issues, gather feedback, and gauge user satisfaction. This feedback is instrumental in refining the product or service, ensuring it meets user expectations and needs, and ultimately enhancing the overall user experience. It's a dynamic and iterative process that continues until the product or service achieves the desired level of usability and user satisfaction.

Ethnographic Studies


Ethnographic studies involve observing users in their natural environment to understand their behaviors, motivations, and needs. This type of qualitative research is particularly useful in understanding the user experience in a real-world context. The insights gained from ethnographic studies can help in designing products or services that are more aligned with user needs and expectations. This often involves in-situ observations, contextual interviews, and cultural probes. The article I wrote in TechCrunch was based on Ethnography.

Unmoderated Research

Unmoderated research is a vital approach for capturing authentic user behavior. In this type of research, I provide a specific task or concept to a sample of 20 to 30 individuals, allowing them to interact with a website or prototype without my direct supervision. This method gives us the opportunity to observe genuine reactions and behaviors, free from any influence that a moderator's presence might have. After reviewing the unmoderated sessions, I select the most intriguing behaviors for follow-up interviews. These interviews allow us to delve deeper into the observed behaviors and explore the topic in more detail. Thus, unmoderated research often offers invaluable insights into user expectations and helps enhance the overall user experience. Read more about how and in what circumstances to consider unmoderated studies.

Diary Studies


Modern diary study platforms, like my favorite, Dscout, allow for a deeper understanding of user behaviors and attitudes over time, in their natural environment. This research method involves participants documenting their activities, thoughts and experiences, providing rich qualitative data.

Back in the day, to understand how a product, idea or service was integrated into someone's life or how they would think about it in their real life, you would have to conduct ethnography. While ethnography might still be a preferred method in many cases, it's often not financially feasible. Instead, diary studies have come a long way and have proven to be an effective alternative.

If you need help designing a diary study, determining whether a diary study would be helpful given your research questions, or would like for me to manage your diary study, I'd be happy to talk with you. Read a case study about a Diary Study I led.

Case Studies

I am excited to share two case studies that highlight the depth and breadth of my work in the field of user experience research. These cases illustrate the careful application of different research methodologies to address specific research questions. The art of research lies in selecting the best method for the question at hand, and these examples demonstrate this crucial aspect of my work.

In the first case, a diary study approach was used to understand how travelers' dietary preferences change while they're on the go. This method enabled us to capture rich, in-depth data over a period of time, providing a comprehensive picture of the travelers' experiences.


The second case leveraged interviews to delve into the factors that affect conversion rates on a food delivery platform's grocery partner page. This method allowed for a deep understanding of the barriers that prevent potential customers from finalizing their purchases.

In both cases, the chosen research methods facilitated the extraction of meaningful insights that could be directly applied to enhance the user experience and meet business objectives.

Case Study 1: Understanding Consumer Dietary Preferences during Travel - A Diary Study

I conducted an in-depth diary study for a leading food delivery platform aiming to increase their market share among travelers. The study involved tracking the dietary preferences of both business and leisure travelers while they were on the move and staying in hotels. Participants, who were traveling for various reasons, documented their eating habits and patterns during their hotel stay. This allowed us to capture authentic experiences and understand their dietary choices' pain points and satisfaction elements. I selected 25 individuals to participate in the diary study, and conducted followup interviews with 8 of those individuals to probe more deeply on what I observed. From this, we gained a profound understanding of their needs, preferences, and expectations, helping us formulate strategies to better serve them.

Core Question: What are the dietary preferences of both business and leisure travelers while they are on the move and staying in hotels, and how do their dietary choices' pain points and satisfaction elements help in formulating strategies to better serve them?


One particularly interesting finding from our study was the difference in consumer behavior regarding delivery address management:

Address Management Behavior:

General Trend: Consumers exhibit different behaviors when managing delivery addresses based on their location. At home, they rely on saved addresses and location services, adopting a more passive approach. However, while traveling, they become more proactive, manually entering addresses to ensure accuracy and avoid delivery issues.

Example Insight: This shift from passive to proactive behavior highlights the importance of providing intuitive and user-friendly address management features in delivery apps. Simplifying the process for adding and saving addresses can significantly enhance the convenience and reliability of services for both home and travel scenarios.

By understanding and addressing these behavioral patterns, businesses can improve customer satisfaction and ensure a seamless experience, whether consumers are at home or on the move. This insight underscores the need for adaptable and responsive service design that caters to the dynamic needs of consumers.

Additionally, I developed a framework to understand the factors influencing customer confidence when ordering to new locations. The framework identified that unfamiliarity with the location and uncertainty about delivery possibility could lower customer confidence. It suggested improvements such as using pre-verified addresses and simplifying the delivery details entry process to enhance the customer experience and improve conversion rates.

Case Study 2: Enhancing Conversion Rates for Food Delivery Platform’s Grocery Partner - Interviews

I was hired to conduct an extensive consumer research study. The goal was to boost conversion rates for a grocery partner on the Food Delivery Platform. The research primarily aimed at understanding why potential customers visited a grocery store page but did not finalize their purchases. The objective of the study was to recognize the obstacles to conversion and formulate actionable insights to improve the customer experience and elevate conversion rates.

Core Question: What are the key factors influencing potential customers' decisions and hindering them from converting their interest into actual purchases on the grocery store page?

The case study detailed a consumer research project on a prominent Food Delivery Platform. The primary objective of the research study was to probe and understand the reasons why potential customers would visit the grocery store page but refrain from finalizing their purchases.

In order to achieve this objective, a multi-method research approach was utilized, which combined the quantitative data of a survey with the qualitative insights from in-depth interviews. A total of 25 participants who had visited the Food Delivery Platform grocery partner’s store page on the platform but had not made a purchase within the last seven days were surveyed. This was supplemented with in-depth interviews of eight selected participants who had also visited the grocery partner’s store page but did not complete a purchase.


Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

The research study revealed actionable insights that highlighted key factors influencing customers' decisions not to convert. These actionable insights were derived from issues with meeting promotional thresholds, concerns over proximity and delivery costs, unavailability of key ingredients, brand loyalty, and browsing behavior.

For example, one actionable insight was the understanding that customers were struggling to meet promotional thresholds. Based on this insight, a strategy could be implemented to lower these thresholds or offer alternative promotions that are more easily attainable.

Another actionable insight was the concern over proximity and delivery costs. Here, a potential solution could be to offer free delivery within a certain radius or provide discounts for first-time users.

These insights led to the formulation of several strategies aimed at enhancing the in-app shopping experience. They were actionable as they could directly influence and shape the strategies and tactics for improving customer conversion rates. They were transformed into concrete recommendations - enhanced promotional strategies, improved inventory management, better communication of the value proposition, and expanded affordability and incentives.

To further illustrate the practical application of these actionable insights, several use cases were proposed. These use cases presented possible scenarios where the insights could be deployed in real-time, demonstrating their direct impact on boosting conversion rates.

Hence, the case study offered a comprehensive look into the challenges faced by the grocery partner, provided actionable insights to overcome these challenges, and proposed strategic recommendations to boost conversion rates.

Highlighted Publications in Popular Media


As a UX researcher, I've had the opportunity to channel my understanding of complex concepts into clear, engaging narratives. I've been fortunate to share my expertise and insights through popular press outlets such as TechCrunch and VentureBeat. For example, I wrote an article for TechCrunch discussing the real-world implications of AI in product development and the potential issues users can face from poorly implemented AI features. This work highlighted my commitment to conducting thorough research and translating findings into actionable insights for a broad audience.

In VentureBeat, I discussed the challenges and potential solutions related to mobile ordering systems. The article was based on comprehensive user studies and offered my unique perspective on how businesses can better cater to customer needs while maintaining operational efficiency. Writing in these popular outlets has allowed me to reach a wider audience, highlighting the importance and impact of UX research in today's tech-driven world. This work complements my commitment to conducting thorough research and translating findings into actionable insights for a broad audience, as showcased in my TechCrunch article.

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