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Why every researcher should be using visual summaries

By Opinion No Comments

Research is undertaken because organisations want to learn something.

A key role of the researcher is to communicate those learnings to them in the most accessible and digestible way – and that’s why visual summaries should be considered a vital tool in their arsenal.

A visual summary is a graphic which compresses the insights from a post-project report – something which, as most researchers can attest, tends to be lengthy – into an approachable one-pager.

Light on words and heavy on quick-to-digest graphics, they’re an excellent method of rapidly and effectively communicating key findings to individuals outside of the project team, especially stakeholders or senior management. They also have the advantage of avoiding the often banal high level bullet points of ‘executive summaries’, and are useful in helping to ensure that research findings are communicated in a consistent fashion across an organisation.

They’re also easy to use – rather than asking recipients to download and read a multi-chapter report, a visual summary can be embedded directly into an email for a quick, at-a-glance overview.

As an example, the following visual summary was developed to provide an immediate synthesis of a complex research/design project aiming to provide restaurant design options for a major institution. 

The visualisation was created in place of the usual multiple slide deck and was hugely successful in imparting insight and engaging key stakeholders;

 The three groups visual summaries help you to reach

We’ve found that there are three groups that primarily benefit when we incorporate visual summaries into projects:

  1. Delivery staff and senior stakeholders

These groups are critical to a service’s execution, and can be challenging to communicate with effectively. By democratising the key information through a visual summary, service designers can better ensure these groups understand and are engaged with the design.

  1. Service users and the general public

Not every service needs its inner workings to be publicised – but government services in particular can benefit from making the processes which drive them more accessible to the general public. When reaching a service’s users with these details is a project goal, visual summaries are an effective method of achiving it.

  1. New collaborators and team members

Visual studies can be a major timesaver when onboarding new members of the service design team, or bringing new collaborators into a pre-existing project. We’ve found that it cuts down on the time required for briefing, and enables a faster, more comprehensive understanding of the service. 

How to get started

Before a visual summary is begun, the user journey must be walked, the new service design completed and the insights from the project collated. All of these should now feed into the visual summary.                                                 

Break out your previous journey maps, infographics and other project work, incorporate the key elements, and compress the information as much as possible, cutting everything non-essential.

Once you’ve cut the fat, add the colour. Make the graphics eye-catching and engaging to help draw the reader in. This is where visual summaries really shine, and will help grab the attention of those stakeholders who would have skimmed past a lengthy report in their inbox.

ExperienceLab are experts in research and service design and we believe passionately in the power of visualisation to communicate findings, concepts and designs. To see examples of our work or perhaps to explore how we can help you please contact us.

What’s Trending in CX/UX – Wednesday 17th 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.

Adobe is doubling down on voice interfaces – Fast Company

Voice interfaces are dramatically changing the way consumers engage with their devices and content. The impact may be most evident with less technically-literate users, allowing them to transform a complex task into a ‘friendly’ conversation with a robot. However, as most tools and software are created around the visual experience, designing them remains a challenge. This blog covers how Adobe is rising to that challenge.

How to storyboard experiences – Bryant Hodson via Medium

There are numerous benefits to using storyboards, harnessing the illustrative power of the visual experience over the written experience. This article covers many of those benefits, and goes on to detail how you can begin the storyboarding process to better understand your customers and their experiences.

Accessibility in Government – GOV.UK

The British government have written the following article on designing for accessibility. Detailing a list of the important dos and don’ts, this information will help you make existing and new services better for your 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.

What’s Trending in CX/UX – Wednesday 3rd 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.

What The Karate Kid Can Teach Us About Agile and UX – UIE

What can the 1984 film The Karate Kid teach us to improve our work? This article emphasises a few key takeaways, including the benefit of repetition to achieve mastery. Read on to discover how to harness karate techniques to give your work an extra kick.

How Sephora “sucks” all my money through great UX and psychology – Yudi He via UX Collective, Medium.

This article examines what makes Sephora’s (personal care and beauty store) mobile app so hard to put down. Noting the importance of both UX and psychology, the article pays attention to the omni-channel experience, user pain points, a reward system that hooks users and more. A useful read that will likely provide points of inspiration for your next UX design project.

Design Failures – Interaction Design Foundation

Ok, this one’s a bit of fun. This article features 30 design failures with humorous photos to accompany that will either cause you to chuckle or recall bad nightmares. Enjoy!

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 19th September

By Opinion No Comments

Welcome to our news roundup which highlights a selection of the best current articles that focus on user/customer experience.

Pleasure, Flow, and Meaning – The 3 Approaches to Designing for Delight – UIE

If we can integrate delight into design a plain experience can become pleasurable. Jared Spool of considers Moosejaw as an example and goes on to examine pleasure, flow and meaning – the 3 approaches to designing for delight.

The Ultimate Guide to Proper Use of Animation in UX – SoftServe via Medium

Interface animations have become increasingly common. These days it’s hard to impress, or even surprise, with an interface animation. With user expectations high, a bad animation won’t cut it. This article aims to compile all the rules, principles and practises of animation design in one place (and contains an abundance of excellent animations too).

3 Practical Cheat Sheets for Designing Attention Grabbing UIs – Marvel

The connection between design and technology with practical examples. Read on for techniques that you can apply into your designs and ensure they appeal to your 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.

What’s Trending in CX/UX – Wednesday 5th September

By Opinion No Comments

Welcome to our news roundup which highlights a selection of the best current articles in user and customer experience.

Experience Rot: Killing your Design with Features – UIE

The allure of more features is more functions, and therefore more fun for users. But over-saturating your design with features is an easy mistake to make that will hurt your user experience.  Jared Spool calls it ‘experience rot’, in the name of giving your device a competitive edge you inadvertently do the opposite.

How to Design a Mobile App for User Goals (by Example of Airbnb) – Icons8 via Medium

The Airbnb app works well, but could it be better? In this article Ivan Braun plans how to hypothetically redesign the Airbnb app home screen for user goals. A thought-provoking read that delves into detail, it’s likely to help you raise questions about the design of your latest project.

What Are the Two Qualities of Brilliant UX? – Tech in Asia

It’s always worth asking yourself ‘what makes a brilliant user experience?’ This article does exactly that, bringing two qualities of brilliant UX to the forefront. An important takeaway: remember to delight your 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.

What’s Trending in CX/UX – Wednesday 22nd August

By Opinion No Comments

Welcome to our news roundup which highlights a selection of the best current articles in user and customer experience.

Google Home designer Tríona Butler says UX is sound – Silicon Rebuplic

“There was that big transition from web to mobile and that was a big moment for designers. I feel that right now, we are at a similar point but it is bigger with voice and AI and all of this new wave of content.” – Google Home UX lead on how data and voice are changing how we design UX.

Amazon, Airbnb, and ASOS are all investing in this one simple design idea – Fast Company

One weird trick for making services better. Or 15 of them, actually. A solid primer here on some key tenets of service design, delivered in an 8 minute read.

The Hunt for Missing Expectations – UIE

Users don’t always vocalise the expectations that they think are the most obvious – making them easy for designers to miss, and potentially annoying users. Jared Spool expounds on how to identify these ‘missing expectations’ ahead of time.

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

The challenges of performing research in a court cell

By Opinion No Comments

Richard Len provides a very personal account of the challenges when researching in a prison environment.

Upon entering the holding cells found underneath a court, two things strike you. Firstly that there’s an overriding sense of cold, both figuratively and literally – these often Victorian buildings are barren, wiped-clean white, full of utilitarian hard surfaces, and missing any heating apparatus that might be fashioned into a make-shift weapon.

Second, that there’s a pervasive sense of boredom. Holding cells are liminal spaces between the real world and the prison world, featureless places filled with people uncertain of their fate, and with nothing to do but contemplate the (largely unpleasant) possibilities for it.

I found myself in this place to research how Prison Custody Officers (PCOs), the cells’ front line staff, are best equipped to provide the proper duty of care to vulnerable prisoners, those most at risk to themselves – particularly the very young and those suffering with mental health issues.

It’s not a normal place of work for a user experience researcher, and prisoners aren’t normal users. But working in a challenging environment such as a prison can be hugely instructive – below are three key learnings that I took away from the experience, re-usable for any such assignment.

1) It’s a tough place, take your learning as you go

PCOs are, understandably, not used to giving tours. They are also short on time, and responsible for maintaining control in an environment where must be constantly be alert to potential danger. That leaves little headspace for answering an inquisitive researcher’s questions.

As if to demonstrate this, on my very first morning an alarm went off due to a fight erupting. I began walking away from the cells, PCO behind me, and came face-to-chest with a very large, very angry prisoner. I was escorted safely away, but it was a salutory lesson in why I would never get one hundred percent of a PCO’s attention.

To get as much face time with them as you can, setting out the context correctly is critical – truthfully telling them that I was there to cut down their paperwork cut a lot more ice than the vaguer ‘I’m here to observe’, which saw me sat in a waiting room for much of the first morning.

2) Be wary of emotional bias

Holding cells have a constantly charged atmosphere, and as a researcher there’s a temptation to let emotion cloud your assessments. One young kid I saw came in cocky as anything, and after twenty minutes in the cells had broken down and was plaintively blubbering. It’s impossible not to feel empathy in those situations, but being sucked into the human story can get in the way of gathering the facts.

This goes for speaking with staff, too – PCOs are only human, and some feel more strongly about some types of crime than others. One woman brought in for driving under the influence – poignantly and incongruously still dressed in party clothes from the night before – was given particularly short shrift from a PCO whose family had suffered at the hands of a drink driver. Again, I had to separate the facts from the emotions, and found keeping a watchful eye for bias critical.

3) Expect your powers of observation to be tested

A research lab this isn’t. Even as an experienced, professional observer, it can be extremely difficult to pick up the information you need. I was looking specifically for evidence of how we might improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their check-ups on prisoners, but found watching the PCOs more difficult than I’d suspected.

For reasons of safety and security that speak for themselves, PCOs do not want to telegraph their moves to prisoners. Their movements look relaxed and casual, but have in fact been carefully honed to be as subtle as possible. You’ll see two walk to cell, loiter for a second, looking nonchalant, then suddenly move in unison to open the door and slip in.

Recalibrating your observation eyes is mandatory, particularly as no concessions are made for you in this type of environment. Even the simplest acts are carefully choreographed – a rich seam of information for the researcher, but trickier to initially make sense of than you might think.

The payoff

Researching in the holding cells is a unique experience. But I believe it’s tremendously important work, that I’m privileged to be a part of. PCOs are an example of the type of public service worker who is providing a crucial service, but dealing with imperfect processes to do so.

Cutting the paperwork and increasing the time for person-to-person care is a win-win for both PCOs and vulnerable prisoners – and there simply is no other way to do that than immerse yourself in the environment. Challenging? Yes. Worthwhile? Indubitably.


At ExperienceLab, we have developed a unique approach for tackling the improvement of often complex and sensitive public services. We also apply this user-centric philosophy to commercial projects which make a real difference to ROI – talk to us about how we might help your organisation today.

More about Richard Len:

Richard is a senior UX consultant with strong roots in the financial services space who enjoys creating innovative solutions from simple apps to large ecosystems. Experienced in the meaningful design of new technologies to solve real problems.

With a keen eye for detail, constantly curious to learn more, strong communication skills with stakeholders local and remote, Richard’s approach is a constant focus on the User and Business Win Win.

The UX secrets behind the success of 5 top apps

By Opinion No Comments

Transport tools, kids’ catchup TV, instant messaging, fintech, music streaming. What ties these five disparate categories together? The leading apps in each have relied in part upon market leading user experience to help them grow their userbases.

To demonstrate how and why user experience is so critical to a successful app, we’ve identified five market leading apps that each demonstrate particular excellence in a different aspect of UX design. If you’re considering building mobile software, consider this a handy five point guide to what you should ensure is considered from the very beginning of your planning and design process.

1) Citymapper

UX Secret: Usability

Citymapper received the Grand Prix Award by TechCrunch and was nominated Best App of 2017 by Google Play Awards. Two notable achievements, so what makes this app so successful?

For Citymapper it all comes down to usability. Initially created to simply provide train times for tube commuters, the app quickly became popular and a myriad of extra features were added, from live updates to multiple transportation modes. Despite the additional features, it still remains one of the most user-friendly apps on the marketplace.

Citymapper allows a user to complete their desired goal without any unnecessary steps, irrespective of their technical proficiency. The features are abundant, but when trying to organise your travel they don’t get in the way. The less hoops to jump through, the quicker the user can access the information they desire, and ultimately the quicker they can get on with their journey. Usability is key, and Citymapper keeps it simple.

2) BBC iPlayer Kids 

UX Secret: Tailoring

The BBC iPlayer Kids app is tailored specifically for its target audience – kids. It provides content which is safe for a younger audience, matched with an interface designed to engage them.

A special mention goes out to Snapchat, successfully tailored to engage a teenage audience. It does this through a complex interface, perfect for those with a higher technical proficiency.

Tailoring ensures an app fits its audience, and both the above apps were built to size.

3) WhatsApp

UX Secret: Nativity

An app needs to be tailored not only to the user but also to the platform it runs on. WhatsApp is a prime example of how an app can be designed and developed natively for different platforms. Each variant of the app has a slightly different interface and options allowing it work seamlessly with the hardware buttons and OS of the respective device. For example, the iOS version offers great usability with iPhone’s single Home button setup.

4) TransferWise

UX Secret: Speed and Performance

10+ years ago, sending money would require most people to visit a bank. Fast-forward a few years and Internet Banking became more the norm – but this required a web browser, and therefore access to a computer. Now in 2018, with smartphones in abundance, money can be sent to anyone, in almost any location. As technology develops users have higher expectations and a reluctance to compromise on speed and performance. With TransferWise, they don’t have to. This app requires just a few seconds to send money to someone. Handy.

5) Spotify

UX Secret: User Interface

Spotify features a UI design that is well organised and consistent across all platforms. The controls are placed in the correct position and the hardware buttons work well in the hand. Music suggestions, discovery and other options are present in the right position at the right time. This allows the user to quickly and easily complete their desired actions. This is one of the main reasons Spotify is tough competition for competitors, staying ahead of the likes of Apple Music.

Building a successful and highly adoptable app requires the co-ordination of a number of key influencing factors and at ExperienceLab we spend a lot of time researching what works best for different types of app. If you are looking at building an app or looking to improve an existing offer why not contact us for a free consultation on how we can help you ensure the positive experience critical to growing your userbase.