30 Most Influential CEOs to Watch 2020


Optimal Workshop: Putting People at the Heart of Decisions

Two important questions come up when you want to improve a product: why, and how often something happens. In general terms, when these two questions are translated into research, the former can often be answered by qualitative research and the latter with quantitative research. To build empathy into your design process, helping you understand current trends and reach customers where they are, you need a combination of quantitative and qualitative research methods. This is called user research.

Experience designers, information architects, and usability researchers all over the globe rely on user research methods to make the world around us easier to navigate and enjoy. One of the foremost organizations making the tools for these people is a Wellington, New Zealand-based company, Optimal Workshop.

Founded in 2007, the company is the brainchild of two usability consultants who came together to revolutionize remote card sorting. In the years since then Optimal Workshop has developed an entire suite of powerful UX tools that today helps teams of designers, researchers, and information architects in 106 countries. Their tools enable researchers to create studies in over 80 different languages.

Revolutionizing Card Sorting

There are many research techniques which are used to discover how people understand and categorize information. These research techniques can help organizations group and label their website information for an enhanced customer experience. Card sorting is perhaps one of the best techniques to do this.

Card sorting is immensely helpful when organizations want to:

  • find out how the customers expect to see the information grouped on a website
  • discover and compare how people understand different concepts or ideas
  • design a new website or section of a website, or improve an existing website

With OptimalSort, Optimal Workshop’s card sorting tool, users can learn everything there is to know to design the best experience for their audience while cutting way down on analysis and preparation time.

Card sorting was a commonly used method by the founders of Optimal Workshop to build their understanding of how real people think about concepts an organization deals with. Hence, it was natural that they developed OptimalSort as the very first tool for the company. But as good as OptimalSort is, it is focussed on generating a model for categorizing content.The company next wanted to build a tool that could evaluate navigational models to make navigation easy. That’s how Treejack was born.

Test your information architecture with Treejack

While browsing through a website, people can get lost in the content which could be due to bad findability of topics on a website. Tree testing is a technique, popularized by Optimal Workshop’s Treejack, and is used to evaluate this findability. Treejack gives design researchers the insights they need to build highly intuitive information architecture.

Whether you are starting fresh or trying to improve your existing website, Treejack helps in understanding parts of a website like never before. It will help you evaluate all the nooks and crannies of a website to identify where people are getting lost and where they expect to find key information. The tool does this by testing only the content structure; all other content and visual information is excluded, allowing you to be sure that the chosen terminology is right for your audience before exploring other avenues to guide people on their way.

Looking ahead

Optimal Workshop is helping their customers put people first by helping them study behavior and design new ways of making life easier. The company has been the name behind the improved user experience of many big companies including Uber, Capital One, GE, and IBM. Their customer portfolio keeps growing.

Optimal Workshop Supremo

Andrew Mayfield, CEO

Andrew started out at Optimal Workshop as the company’s CTO. He has been the CEO of Optimal Workshop since 2010. As the CEO, he is responsible for leading the strategic growth as the company continues to build tools to improve products and their experience. Prior to Optimal Workshop he founded Spikefin, a company that created a POS system for food franchises. He spearheaded the company as its Founder and CEO until 2009.

More tools by Optimal Workshop to optimize user experiences:

Questions– A survey tool that helps you collect survey data using a variety of question types. You can run surveys in over 80 different languages. It also allows you to upload wireframes and images to add another layer of insight to your surveys.

Chalkmark – Optimal Workshop’s first-click testing tool which can help you conduct first-click tests on screenshots and visual designs. It can also identify issues prior to committing design and development resources.

Reframer – A powerful note-taking tool for qualitative research. Log your observations, tag them, analyze them and share them with your organization.

Customer Testimonials

“Optimal Workshop makes it so easy to do user research, there’s no excuse to make uninformed design decisions.” Evan Leach, Eventbrite

“I can test wireframes without being physically present in a room with participants. It expands my testing and actually gives me more accurate results, while I continue to do my other work!” – Jessie Broderson, Mesaaz.gov

“Optimal Workshop’s tools helped us understand how we could improve our website navigation and make sure we were making changes that actually made sense to our users.” – Richard Allardice, Information Architect, Xero

“We’ve built upon proven user research methods to make globalusability research easy and affordable.”