Author Archives: Heather Gay

Heather Gay

About Heather

Heather brings over 15 years of research management experience to Mediabarn. She has a special ability to look at a situation through the eyes of a target audience, especially consumers. Her enthusiasm, coupled with the confidence of a seasoned researcher, make projects run smoothly.

Prior to joining Mediabarn, Heather previously managed the market research departments at GlobalEnglish Corporation, Central Garden & Pet, and The Learning Company, led the qualitative team at Socratic Technologies, Inc., and started her research career at Frost & Sullivan.

Heather is passionate about understanding why consumers make their choices regarding branding, packaging, and price. Her in-depth interviews and ability to skillfully ask the right questions help to uncover insights that otherwise might go unnoticed. She has traveled nationally and internationally to moderate over 3,000 research interviews, focus groups, and ideation sessions.

Heather holds an MBA with an emphasis in Marketing from the University of San Francisco; a B.A. in International Affairs with a minor in Psychology from The George Washington University; and is a graduate of RIVA’s Moderator Training School.

As more of our clients develop sites and apps for mobile devices, we have seen an increased need to conduct usability testing on tablets and smartphones. Finding the right recording solution has been challenging, especially when compared to recording desktop usability sessions. For desktop usability, there are many different applications that allow us to capture screen interactions along with a picture-in-picture view of a participant’s face. When trying to apply this to mobile device testing, it’s particularly difficult to capture an accurate and clear video recording of the session. Although clients typically want to see the participant’s face, often it’s more … Continue reading

Our own Sara Mastro (Director of Interactive Strategy & User Experience) and Heather Gay (Director of Usability & Market Research) will be speaking at User Focus 2012, UxPA DC Metro Chapter’s annual conference on user experience. Their topic is “UX Marks the Spot:  Finding the Right Place Between UX and Marketing,” part of the track on Selling UX. The conference will be held October 19, 2012 from 8am to 5pm at the National 4-H Conference Center in Chevy Chase, MD.  For more details, visit the UxPA DC Metro Chapter website.

A New Year Post

As we approach the start of the New Year and reflect on the work completed in 2011, one study comes to mind when thinking about time and, specifically, user age. Here at Mediabarn Research Services, we have conducted research studies with users from 2 to 70 years old.  There are very obvious differences among user groups, but one study in particular brought differences based on age to light. Our client’s target market is comprised mainly of adults aged 25-65, skewing somewhat more male than female.  While we expected to find more significant differences in the way gender influences usage of … Continue reading

Using a Professional Moderator

I was talking recently with a colleague who runs the market research department of a large media company.  In addition to evangelizing research, managing her staff, and synthesizing results, she was attempting to conduct a usability study on her own as the moderator.  While I didn’t doubt her ability from a technical standpoint to conduct the interviews, I came away from the conversation with some ideas about how best to conduct the interviews.  .  In particular, I wondered about  her ability to effectively serve her customers.  In order to moderate 10 hour-long interviews, she had to schedule them around the remainder … Continue reading

Study Sample Size

We are often asked about sample size when we talk about usability testing. Skeptics find it difficult to believe that we can achieve so much by talking with so few. Here’s our stance on usability sample sizes. Lots of work has been done to determine the appropriate number of respondents required to gather usability test results. Nielsen Norman Group has talked about this for years and stands by their suggestion that 85% of critical usability issues can be uncovered by testing as few as 5 respondents. We have found this to be true in study after study. There are a … Continue reading


Not sure how many people can say that they love their job, but I truly love what I do – helping to uncover the ways people interact with products and suggesting how to make things easier to use. As a researcher who focuses primarily on usability, I am constantly amazed at what I learn from respondents.  At the start of each project, I spend time reviewing the stimulus (e.g., website, app, device, etc.) to become familiar with it and to develop the tasks and discussion guide I will use in the research interviews.  A natural part of that process is … Continue reading


Usability Findings: Search Results

I’m certainly not a search engine expert, but here at Mediabarn we’ve already conducted several usability tests in 2011 in which searching within a site has been a primary user task. Across these studies we have uncovered a few findings that we wanted to share. Google has made it so easy to conduct a search that we have been spoiled to expect the same level of service within a website. Theoretically most site-specific search engines should have an easier time of returning desired results because the amount of data or items accessible through the site is limited to the site … Continue reading

Back-to-School Teacher Insights

As millions of children prepare to head back to school this fall, Mediabarn had the opportunity to talk with several elementary school teachers to find out how they prepare for the beginning of the school year. Since we talked primarily with teachers of Kindergarten through third grade, the top priority for them is bringing students up to speed on classroom routines, rules, policies, and procedures.  Many kids in this age range are still learning about the structure of being in a classroom environment. The social aspect of being in school is also high on the list for classroom teachers.  Getting … Continue reading