Conduct research to spend effectively when improving your product

So, you have yourself an existing website, service or application and you might be asked to find a way to improve the customer experience. You have plenty of ideas of where you could add cool features, make an area look more appealing or speed things up, however it can be quite difficult to select one area to focus on that is worth the investment and is likely to produce noticeable results.

The thing that comes with being so close to a product is that you can easily lose sight of what really matters to the user and what changes would benefit them the most.

There are many ways to gather data about your users to influence any decision made. One of these methods is Generative Research.

This type of research is used to define the problem before you even know what your doing to solve it. This requires you to thoroughly understand about what perceptions, usability issues, behaviours and habits your users have about the product.

By doing generative research you are ensuring that you are fixing the right issues or adding the right features. You might not personally like how a page looks but in reality, how many people really visit it and how much effect does it have on the conversion rate? You could add functionality which nobody ends up using, in turn, slowing down the overall experience. This is known as “Feature creep”.

Whilst you are gathering research, it is important to keep an open mind, you do not yet know what issue you are trying to solve.

Here are a few good testing activities you can carry out to help you get the information you need:

User Interviews

By having a face to face with your user, you can more accurately monitor their behaviour and reactions. Ask questions like “how do you feel about” or “what do you think of” to see the product through their eyes.

User Testing

One of the most visually telling ways that something is not working as expected is to conduct user testing. This can be done in house or using an online tool. When creating testing scripts, keep them broad to allow the user to find their own way and naturally encounter issues.

Note: You can also save any journeys that are working particularly well. Show these off internally! It can give the people working on it that extra confidence boost as well as shareholders in the final work that is being produced.


Delve into your analytics and have a look at where your people are dropping off along your user journey. Are there any patterns emerging? Take into account the speed of your pages, heat-maps and most clicked elements.

Behavioural Recording

If your product is physical then you can use video to understand how people are looking at your branding, what information is missed? What is appealing to them?

As is with most forms of data gathering, once you have completed your research, you should prioritize it. To keep the requirements consistently written, we can use User Stories to describe what the user would like to do. We put our findings into groups for the customer types, then we write our user stories under each one like this:

As a… I would like to … So that I can…

As a User I would like to access my app profile offline so that I can use my loyalty points when i have little or no internet at a bar.

If you are simply trying to focus on one fix, try to find the most commonly unment user need which you can write out like a hypothesis:

“Our users would like to be able to use use their loyalty points when they have no internet connection”

This is the problem that you should be paying attention to. Once you have found this out, you can begin to look into how you are actually going to solve the problem. See the transition between “what problem should we be solving?” to “how do we solve this problem?”.

Bring in people from different teams to have their say on how they would go about fixing the problem. Conduct further research to underpin the final decision – ask users how they would like to see the issue fixed.

Here are some example ideas which could be used to achieve the hypothesis above:

  • Create a lightweight area of the app which stores the latest data known and can be displayed offline.
  • Accessibility via alternative connection methods (Bluetooth, QR codes)
  • Get them to login to a Wi-Fi hotspot or Intranet
  • Get the venue to send the data instead via their connection

From this point you would proceed through different testing methods such as A/B testing and user testing to find out which is the best solution to the problem.

The take-away

The companies that create the best experiences for the user are the ones that take the time to research their user needs before making change. You shouldn’t invest into a your product until you have proof that change is wanted or needed. Do the research and you can be sure to find patterns you didn’t know existed. You may find new positive opportunities too.

Has this article taken your interest? Give us a call and we would be happy to discuss any ideas or future projects you have. Don’t forget to subscribe to keep up with the latest posts and to also share this content!

Mobile web design

In the next few months we plan to overhaul a large solution that’s been mobile friendly for a number of years – but we want to make it even better! We now have data, analytics and even more experience to improve the UI and therefore increase conversions. So now feels like it’s a good time to write a blog post on mobile web design.

Approaching a mobile web design project

In fact, this would be our approach on any UX project.

  • Research
  • Strategy
  • Design (wireframing / prototyping / final visual design)
  • Test / Validate
  • Implementation
  • Measurement


As always, research and planning will set you up for an easier ride. Don’t be tempted to jump straight into designing the interfaces without really understand why you are doing this in the first place!

  • Currently how are people finding the experience?
  • What are the pain points?
  • User testing – consider user testing the existing web solution if you are unsure of either of the above.

Mobile – a few things to consider

Let’s jump in to looking at some of the key differences between mobile and desktop:-

  • Restricted viewport size and a range of screen sizes
  • Create Fluid Layouts. Responsiveness is key for designing a mobile experience.
  • Navigation
  • Swipeable – if used then make it clear that the element is swipeable
  • No hover states
  • GPS
  • Environment / Connection speeds
  • Landscape v portrait
  • No right click

Time to Prioritise

It’s important that we review the analytics and data given to us by the current website. We want to understand what’s working well (or not). We also want to prioritise to decide what’s really important. Screen space is precious and we need to remove any distracting content. There’s a need to be as concise as possible. Less is more on mobile. A few things to consider:

  • Content First Layouts – where the content is the hero. A light interface for mobile?
  • Have clear, focused content
  • Make your content easy to read
  • Keep pages short & sweet

Usability on mobile devices

Our mobile web design needs to be attractive AND easy to use. Extensive wireframing and prototyping is really important. Quick prototypes allow you to send the initial concepts for User Testing, exposing the bits you got wrong and refining until the solution is working as required.

Design for Touch

In almost all cases, mobile applications are going to be used while in someone’s hand. Therefore, designing your mobile website around touch and ergonomics is very important. Think about how you hold your phone in your hand.

Follow Existing UI Conventions

In web design it’s always important to think about your target market. Consider other apps and websites they will probably use. Are they consistent UI design patterns that they follow and that are therefore intuitive to them? Remember, they use their phone all the time skipping for application to application.

Speed v engaging content

Also consider the environment / context in which the user might be browsing your solution.

  • Carefully balance an engaging experience with speed and fast loading times
  • Connection speeds on mobile device may be slower.
  • It’s extremely important to understand compression and optimise images, minify scripts and css.
  • Feeds or communicating with third parties from an external source can slow things down.

The User Interface – Elements in detail


  • Menus and Navigation: Keep It Simple
  • Off canvas options are a good option if you need several tiers of navigation. Full screen options work well if the navigation is very simple.
  • Sticky headers. If you intend to use these then they need to be super slim.

Calls to action

Buttons – Consider primary and secondary buttons early in the process. All too often it’s difficult to understand what element is ‘the hero’ on the page.


  • Consider forms and moving people through these quickly
  • Consider slow and error prone typing
  • Validation and what’s mandatory

Ecommerce on mobile device

  • Register, login, view account
  • One page checkout, how do we make this as short as possible.
  • Shortest route to find what they want to buying what they want.

Things that don’t work too well on mobile

There’s a number of elements that work perfectly fine on desktop, however you can run into issues if you render these on mobile:-

  • Pop ups and modals
  • Some javascript / animations

And so we start our research in earnest for our new mobile web design project. Our experience tells us that as long as we following the process below we’ll not go too far wrong:-

Research > Prototype > User Testing > Refine > Implement > Measure

We very much look forward to sharing the final result and we’re confident that the user experience on mobile device will be greatly improved.