For us, this is where it all starts. We believe the foundation of all our work is a deep, insightful understanding of the user; who they are and the tasks they will need to complete using the digital product that we will design.

Customer / User Research

Our clients often call them “customers”. We call them “users”.

Customers or users might also describe themselves in those terms: or, they might call themselves tenants, passengers, tax payers, drivers, investors, practitioners — even, victims.

Whatever they are called, or call themselves (we’ll call them users for now) we need to know about them.

Who they are, the needs they have, and the tasks they need to fulfil, will focus everything we do.


By the end of the research phase, we will want to have developed a true empathy for the user: the person they are, the responsibilities they have, the tasks they need to do, the frustrations they have with the products and services they currently use, their wishes for how things could be improved, and their expectations about how our client can help them.


Before we start, we ask our client if they have any existing user insight that might be of use to our work. We don’t believe clients should pay twice for research that has already been done.

We’ll then assess what’s already available and suggest a research programme that balances our need for greater understanding and insight with our client’s available resources.

Our approach will be the most appropriate mix of qualitative and quantitative research that will bring us the understanding and insights we need as efficiently as possible, and will be drawn from some or all of the following techniques:

  • one-to-one interviews
  • workshops and focus groups
  • user surveys
  • top-task analysis
  • ethnographic research.

Plus, where there is an existing product:

  • in-product customer satisfaction surveys, primarily Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Effort Score (CES)
  • expert review (heuristic evaluation)
  • competitor/sector analysis
  • “first-click” analysis
  • in-person usability testing
  • remote usability testing.


By the end of the user research phase, we will know a lot more about, and feel a lot closer to, the user.

We will want to ensure that all this understanding and insight can form the foundation of everything we do next — constantly guiding our actions. Even when the user is not physically with to us, they should still be present.

So, we package up all these understandings and insights into lasting artefacts such as:

  • personas — pen-portraits of a small number of archetypal users
  • customer journey maps
  • high-level product/service concepts.