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How can we make user research more inclusive, and more representative?

By Opinion

Following on from our previous team roundtable on the privacy implications of voice assistants (read that here), we held another to gather hot takes from the team on how research can be made more inclusive and representative.

Research is at the heart of what we do as user experience professionals, and finding the right audience to gather insights from plays a major role in our final product or design. The impetus for inclusive research is large – we want our designs to fit all audiences – but how do we identify those missed by research? The ExperienceLab team discuss how research can be improved:

Megan Kurtenbach, UX Consultant:

Research should be mindset and behaviour led as well as demographic led.

Research that is undertaken with participants based on mindsets rather than demographics produces research outputs that consider more contexts.

For example, when we recruited for The National Forest project we were primarily focussed on finding participants who had common hobbies and motivations surrounding taking part in and supporting initiatives around the outdoors and preservation.

That meant what we ended up with was a very wide range of participants from all different life contexts – everything from a retired teacher from London, to an immigrant mother of a young family, to an outreach worker planning activities for at-risk youth.

This gave us a more representative understanding of the different motivations for why users engaged with The National Forest. This meant we were able to make better recommendations, helping users with the targeted mindset to find the information that they needed more accurately.

Had we focussed on demographics first, we could potentially have missed out on the patterns that common goals and mindsets showed us.

There is a strong ethical case for research being more inclusive.

In the same way that we want to make sure that products do not exclude participation from users with physical or cognitive disabilities, we should be applying the same principle to research activities. This will help us to include representation in the way we understand context of use for our products and designs and how they impact people and behaviour, making sure to include all types of thinking rather than limiting ourselves based on types of people who fit into certain boxes.

This makes commercial sense, but it’s also ethically the right thing to do. We have the power to shape the way that we investigate impact and behaviour, and how we feed these insights into designs which will eventually impact the way that our society works and is understood. We need to make sure that it includes all perspectives.

To do that, we need to take an inclusive approach to developing recruitment pools – including finding those individuals that aren’t on recruitment lists and might not be the easiest to reach.

Katherine Corneilson, UX Researcher:

Research will be more inclusive when the stakeholders involved (e.g., the product owners, engineers, designers, and researchers) understand and expect their user-base to be formed of a diverse group. We can do this by not only diversifying the groups of people we recruit, screen for, and select to participate in studies, but also by ensuring that we diversify the groups of people who are responsible for procuring, directing, and conducting research studies. When we have a lack of diversity within the groups who have the power to decide what research is conducted and how, we will, unavoidably, be exclusive and fail to produce research that represents the needs, goals, barriers, and motivations of all users.

Neha Gupta, UX Consultant:

It’s a fact that people will use your products in ways you had never imagined, so I think a key principle to follow is to design for the lowest common denominator in terms of technical skill.

This doesn’t mean ‘dumbing down’ design but designing beyond the obvious target group of users (the ones who will be able to learn to use the product most easily), to consider users who may not already be engaged with that type of product or service, and who might be on the periphery of research as a consequence.

Understanding who these people are and ensuring you capture insights from them should be considered a critical part of the research process.

To achieve it, it’s important to avoid making restrictive assumptions regarding who will and won’t use a given product or service.

One example is a digital product we researched that was primarily targeting millennials, with a client research brief that focused exclusively on meeting this group’s needs. During our initial discovery work, we quickly discovered that following the brief would mean excluding a considerable customer base of users aged 50-plus, who generally used the product in a different way to the millennial group. As a result we brought together a broader cross-section of ages and technical abilities in the ensuing research.

Terms like ‘accessible design’, ‘universal design’ and ‘inclusive design’ can be useful, but putting them into action requires sticking firmly to the principle of continuously learning from a broad range of users.

ExperienceLab is a research and design agency specialising in helping organisations understand their customer needs and creating innovative solutions that are designed to succeed. Want to get in touch? Contact us here.

Digital Assistants: Will Privacy Concerns Stand in the Way of Improving Voice UX?

By Opinion No Comments

Following on from our previous team roundtable on the UI/UX techniques behind the success of Amazon (read that here), we held another to gather hot takes from the team on the perils of privacy concerns to voice UI design.

Digital assistants are being welcomed into an increasing number of homes, yet the apparent loss of privacy inherent in housing always-on microphones creates challenges for UX designers in this space. Not afraid to use their voices, the ExperienceLab team tackled three questions on the topic:

Does adopting voice mean the inevitable loss of privacy for consumers?

Emily Hudson, Senior UX Researcher:

Not necessarily. Consumers now have a right to know what data is being collected, why it’s used and how it’s stored thanks to the GDPR. Designers and manufacturers all have a responsibility to ensure the services and products we create (voice or not) are created with integrity and that consumers are aware of it.

Megan Kurtenbach, UX Consultant:

We don’t have the legal systems in place to deal with the rate that technology grows, nor do these systems adapt quickly enough to deal with the rapid and immense changes to user context that come with new technology.

Meaning, there’s little way of knowing exactly how a new technology advancement will actually end up being used by the public at large, or the kind of long-term impact it will have on how users interact with technology and each other. This means legal guidelines and standards are often a step behind – and that to some extent there’s a need for technology companies and their users to manage the broader ramifications of using a technology. So it’s a yes and a no.

Richard Len, Senior Consultant:

I don’t feel the privacy question is as black and white as we think, look at the prime areas of voice’s deployment: inside cars, homes, and other contained areas of trust where voice has flourished.

How can developers and designers deal with privacy concerns while preserving the quality of the UX?

Emily Hudson, Senior UX Researcher:

Testing the voice experience with real users! By testing the voice controls with actual people, regularly and in-situ. Then adapting the voice commands/responses based on what you learn.

Megan Kurtenback, UX Consultant:

People generally seem to think that they should be concerned about their data privacy, but asking ‘why’ often tends to generate vague responses.

The pattern seems to be that users are concerned about their data privacy with new technology until they find value or delight from their data being used. Then it doesn’t seem to be so much of a concern and actually becomes more of an expectation. I suspect that voice UI will follow this pattern.

Richard Len, Senior Consultant:

In the public space the design of voice needs to consider context and execution much more carefully. Simple, neutral, single-word responses that do not have private or secure content currently seam to be the design trend. Technology is also allowing more subtle ways of using audio, with better embedded microphone technology (in glasses!) and headphones. These will be key moving forward.

Will privacy fears deter users from enjoying the full experience?

Emily Hudson, Senior UX Researcher:

 Not if the voice-based experience solves a problem the user previously experienced. If it doesn’t, they won’t use it; it if does, they will probably thank you for it.

Richard Len, Senior Consultant:

It never has before: websites track us across social media to offer personalised discounts, social media shares are used as marketing research tools or inducements to buy, while freemium mobile games require access to contacts and other private data to access different in-game benefits.

Pratheep Chandrasekhar, Lead Interaction Designer:

Privacy concerns will always be a hurdle for innovation!

However, they’re constantly evolving and the hurdles we see today will not necessarily be the ones we tackle tomorrow.

The privacy fears of baby-boomers are quite different from those of Millennials and Gen Z. Having a device that listens and monitors you 24/7 is barely a privacy concern now for perhaps the majority of people. Those consumers are also being given more control over their data and more ways to protect it via policies like GDPR.

At the same time, we as designers should create products that are transparent and makes the consumer feel empowered about their data.

ExperienceLab is a research and design agency specialising in helping organisations understand their customer needs and creating innovative solutions that are designed to succeed. Want to get in touch? Contact us here.

Amazon is the most valuable company in the world: how did UX and CX design help?

By Opinion One Comment

Amazon overtook Microsoft this week to become the world’s most valuable company.

Founded only 25 years ago by Jeff Bezos, the retail giant has seen meteoric growth in recent times, notably pushing its nose past the $1 trillion valuation mark for a brief moment in September 2018.

We thought this provided an opportune moment to take a look at its UX and CX design. Through a roundtable we gathered hot takes from the team to try and uncover how this retail rainforest became the largest on earth.

Gavin Sambles, Managing Director:

“Amazon have created a one stop shop for pretty much everything you could need and, in parallel, built trust with the consumer.  In addition, they have created a perception of being the benchmark for low pricing by creating what appears to be a competitive market place within Amazon. If you step back, the fact that an online retailer lists the same item multiple times would, as a concept, could seem ridiculous but the out-come is making the consumer feel like Amazon is driving the best price point.”

Megan Kurtenback, UX Consultant:

“Generally I think the companies that are successful at this level have invested and ingrained user-centred thinking into their company culture and all their processes. It isn’t something that is added on at the end to either prove a point or to tick a box. It’s about keeping the user at the heart of what they do and using ALL insights (not just the convenient ones) to drive innovation in the services that they provide and the products that they develop. For companies like Amazon, users aren’t an afterthought but are the focus.”

Neha Gupta, UX Researcher:

“I think Amazon sells “choices” and “hope” – plenty of choice in products from every walk of life on their platforms and lots of hope that as a user you are getting to choose what you want to spend your money on and how you want to use your time. This appeals to the need for individualisation and personalisation that are key drivers in creating a good user experience.

But Amazon is successful because they are able to back this up by developing robust infrastructure such as their own transportation fleet, that makes the interactions and experience with Amazon as easier and more convenient than their competitors.”

Emily Hudson, Senior UX Researcher:

“My first response to this was ‘I wonder how the rapid growth and sheer scale of Amazon has impacted, either positively or negatively, our local grass-root businesses?’

I wonder how businesses who have shifted to sell on Amazon over time feel about this? What things have they learned/done to enhance the customer interactions not owned by Amazon in their buying journey? How do these two things tie together? Where are the pinch points or opportunities?

I suspect there are two sides to the coin – Amazon opens up a potentially global marketplace for SMEs who may have never achieved this type of reach before. While on the flip-side, I assume its impact on the personalisation of their service to their customers is reduced (as Amazon owns the digital experience).”

Kristine Pitts, Head of Practice:

“Amazon for me has gone from being a place I ordered and sold books to where I do most of my shopping. I’m someone who has rejected products such as iPhone because it forces me to be tied into iTunes and other Apple products (not entirely, but Apple is not fond of playing well with others). However, I’m now in a position where I have almost everything from music to clothes to food stuff coming from or via Amazon.

I use Amazon music, I read Kindle books, I listen to Audible books, I watch Amazon Prime Video. I tried Amazon Fresh, but they’ve not really got that experience sorted yet, so I’m back with Ocado. I also have an Amazon Echo, but I’m still not quite sure what it’s for. And it’s happened almost without me noticing. Why? – one word, convenience. It’s quick AND free to deliver, it’s easy to buy – almost everything is in one place (including lots of stuff that I never thought I needed). I’ve been converted to most of this by stealth though the convenience of having everything in one place. The importance of convenience to the Amazon experience cannot be overestimated.”

ExperienceLab is a research and design agency specialising in helping organisations understand their customer needs and creating innovative solutions that are designed to succeed. Want to get in touch? Contact us here.

What’s Trending in CX/UX – Wednesday 9th January

By Opinion No Comments

Welcome to our news roundup, here you will find a selection of articles that have piqued our interest recently. They often focus on topics such as user experience, customer experience, user interfaces, design and more.

Four Articles for a New Year – Jared M. Spool / UIE

UIE is a popular source here at ExperienceLab and their latest blog, which revisits four of their top articles from 2018, didn’t fail to peak our interest. We share their mindset that the start of a new year provides an opportune moment to reflect on the one before.

Their look back brings into view: What UX professionals can do about Net Promoter Score (and why it is considered harmful); How to show the value of UX and the ROI for UX design; Why proactive UX design is a big leap requiring baby steps; Users don’t hate change – they hate our design choices.

Top 5 Curated Articles of 2018 from Microsoft Design – Grace Queen / Microsoft Design

Microsoft Design have also made a visit to the past by listing a collection of their most read articles from 2018. Their anthology will take you on a journey through Cortana’s personality, have you consider better user research practises, kill your personas, build a better UX writing portfolio and design a great fake Acrylic Material effect.

Ask a UXpert: How Micro-Interactions Can Enhance the User Experience – Oliver Lindberg / Adobe Blog

This article from Adobe highlights how the micro is meaningful. In this case, micro-interactions. Those ‘little design features that can make a big difference to the user experience’. We included this article from Adobe because, as the body copy recognises, ‘when we think of motion design, the first things to come to mind might be sweeping, choreographed page transitions or elaborate data visualizations’ but it is often the smaller details that seal the deal.

ExperienceLab is a research and design agency specialising in helping organisations understand their customer needs and creating innovative solutions that are designed to succeed.

What’s Trending in CX/UX – Wednesday 12th December

By Opinion No Comments

Welcome to our news roundup, here you will find a selection of articles that have piqued our interest recently. They often focus on topics such as user experience, customer experience, user interfaces, design and more.

Attaining a Collaborative Shared Understanding – UIE

‘For a design, it’s a long journey from the first idea through the final implementation, involving many people along the way’, notes Jared, ‘maker of awesomeness’ at UIE. The key to a successful design journey is retaining a shared understanding between the design team about the final goal. A team that lacks a shared understanding of the project’s goal is far more likely to fail. Seems obvious? It’s easily, and quickly, forgotten. Read Jared’s advice on attaining a collaborative understanding here.

What Can Bike Sharing Apps Teach Us About Mobile On-boarding Design? – Luke Wroblewski

Luke Wroblewski is currently product director at Google, and has previously sold a successful start-up to Twitter (Bagcheck), and another to Google (Polar). In this article Luke examines the on-boarding process of six bike sharing apps to better understand the design of mobile on-boarding in general. Read on to discover what compelled Luke to abandon some apps entirely, and how others left him cycling away a happy customer.

Micro-interactions: why, when and how to use them to improve the user experience – Vamsi Batchu via UX Collective on Medium

Micro-interactions are the abundant moments on your digital device that revolve around a single use or purpose. When implemented effectively, micro-interactions can turn the banal into the brilliant. When ineffective, the opposite. This informative article explores micro-interactions in further detail, including the why, how and when to use them – and even recommends some tools to get you started.

ExperienceLab is a research and design agency specialising in helping organisations understand their customer needs and creating innovative solutions that are designed to succeed.

7 maxims for multi-market UX research

By Opinion No Comments

In our global economy multi-country research is becoming a necessity for an increasing number of brands.

There is a fast growing appreciation of the huge value in understanding both geography-independent factors and those vital for impact in particular markets. At ExperienceLab we are specialists in undertaking research across the world – below, we’ve assembled seven critical guidelines, our multi-market maxims.

In our experience, adhering to them can mean the difference between success and failure for this type of research.

1) Ensure you have excellent local knowledge to guide you

Working to forge and nurture partner relationships with UX agencies around the globe is critical to accessing the local knowledge essential to making a multi-market project a success.

We don’t tend to use our partner agencies to directly undertake research, but instead work with them at the earliest stages of projects, prior to commencing planning, and discuss the brief and its implications for their market in detail.

Critically make no assumptions regarding local markets and check, clarify and confirm with them all aspects of the research prior to commencement.

2) Keep your research options flexible

Any agency used to UK research might find themselves surprised at the variations amongst participants, behaviours and cultures within a single country elsewhere. The US is a good example, where the differences between the East Coast, West Coast and Midwestern or Southern states are significant enough for these almost to be considered different international markets.

Keeping a flexible approach to your research is critical to adapting to unforeseen variances even within what appears to be a single market.

3) Know your participants

Selection and recruitment of participants for non-UK research is a specialist skill. Ensuring you have the right person for the brief means going beyond the standard question set usually used for UK-based candidates, particularly with a view to exploring their personal situations in greater depth.

Make no assumptions about your participants’ predilections in an unfamiliar market – even when receiving the guidance of local agencies.

4) Stress test how your insights are captured

Create a concise, relatively bounded format for the participant’s evaluations to be recorded within – then perform a full dress rehearsal with your translator and moderator to ensure that they have a comprehensive understanding of how the insights are recorded.

Multi market research often involves multiple parties, and ensuring your insight capturing process is bulletproof to avoid insights getting lost in the layers of interpretation between the participant, the translator, the moderator and the researcher.

5)  Ensure your translator understands the technical terminology

Create a brief but precise glossary of the key terms to be used in the research – particularly terms such as ‘dashboard’ or ‘main navigation’, which might become ambiguous in translation.

For the total avoidance of doubt, use visual methods such as labelling screenshots. This gives translators and participants the latitude to use the phrasing they feel is most appropriate, while the meaning remains consistent.

6) Triple check your tech spec

For projects in which participants are testing websites or software on their own personal hardware, put in place a system to guarantee they are meeting technical requirements – and don’t rely on third parties to verify this.

Require participants to submit proofs that they have the correct software and hardware, and guide them through the process of doing so.

7) Ensure contingencies for technical mishaps

In technology-reliant projects, ensure every research team member – especially third party translators and moderators – are briefed on what to do in the event of technical problems.

Draw up contingencies for problems such as connection loss, software crashing or hardware failure, and ensure that all research team participants know the exact steps to undertake if they occur.

In short, for international research the devil really is in the detail. It looks seductively easy until you try it and then the importance of experience becomes evident very quickly.

ExperienceLab are experts in multi-market research, having conducted live technical research simultaneously in multiple markets for a range of blue chip clients.

Contact us to find out how we can discover your international customer insights.

What’s Trending in CX/UX – Wednesday 14th November

By Opinion No Comments

Welcome to our news roundup. Here you will find a selection of current articles that focus on customer experience, user experience, design and more.

What Makes an Experience Seem Innovative? – UIE

This article by Jared Spool of UIE breaks down what makes an experience seem innovative. Referencing Apple’s genius bar Jared notes, ‘Apple didn’t invent making an appointment. Yet their approach to using it for customer service seemed completely innovative.’ How did Apple achieve this, and what can be learnt from their example?

How CX Will Help Power Autonomous Vehicle Adoption – IoT For All

As we enter into the fourth industrial revolution the automotive industry is reinventing the way we interact with cars, with brands like Amazon, Uber and Tesla all jumping aboard. This article notes ‘as smart car technology evolves, so will the way human assistance is interwoven within its customer experience.’ Read on to discover how CX will help power the future.

10 Awesome Lorem Ipsum Alternatives – Justinmind via UX Planet on Medium

A simple change that may have large implications – have you considered a different type to Lorem Ipsum? Using more interesting filler text, such as dialogue from popular TV shows, may well help you hold the interest of your clients and customers for longer. Read on for 10 great alternatives to Lorem Ipsum.

ExperienceLab is a research and design agency specialising in helping organisations understand their customer needs and creating innovative solutions that are designed to succeed.

What’s Trending in CX/UX – Wednesday 31st October

By Opinion No Comments

Welcome to our news roundup. Here you will find a selection of current articles that focus on customer experience, user experience, design and more.

How To Save The Planet Through Better User Interface Design – Forbes

This article discusses global warming, and the profound challenge of changing large volumes of small behaviours and habits amongst substantial populations of people. Stephen Galsworthy, Head of Data Science at Quby, notes “Typically in European households, 80% of all energy is used to heat water and the home. Giving people the ability to control their heating simply and easily from their mobile phone gives a lot of opportunity for change.”

E-commerce UX lessons we can learn from Amazon – Justinmind via UX Planet/Medium is forecast to generate just over 49% of the USA’s entire online spend for 2018 – around $258.22 billion. Yet when you consider it’s UI design, it is perhaps best described as a hot mess. So, what are the lessons to take from Amazon’s UI design? This article explores the question further…

These Texas voting machines reveal a basic truth about bad design – FastCompany

Voting machines should be experience design in its simplest form – accessible for everyone, even those that are not computer literate. But when they produce errors, who is to blame, the user or the design?

ExperienceLab is a research and design agency specialising in helping organisations understand their customer needs and creating innovative solutions that are designed to succeed.