2018 Our year in review

December 19, 2018 11:12 am

2018 Our year in review

The end of the year is a natural time for reflection and before our contemplative mood goes into overdrive – fuelled by fine food, fine wine and cocktail making at the SimpleUsability Christmas party – we thought we’d share our 2018 highlights.

We’re a behavioural research agency borne from a usability testing background.  Usability testing is still a huge part of our work but understanding behaviours and identifying how experiences can be optimised in line with those behaviours is as important offline as online.

What have we been working on?

This year, our research has informed a better onboarding experience for credit management services provider Arrow Global across direct mail, consumer site, account management portal and IVR systems. 

We’ve worked closely with Vet AI whose innovative veterinary med-tech app is set to revolutionise the UK and global vet market. Testing regularly (in Vet AI’s case from concept to brand to MPV) has been another feature of 2018 with client projects on a larger scale and typically aligned to a bigger goal or commercial objective, rather than an individual test.

What have we been researching?

Websites, apps, kiosks, intranets, packaging, store layouts, training systems, ad concepts, direct mail ….the list goes on!

We’ve been testing and optimising IVR systems for a number of years, and our experience in developing Wizard of Oz testing solutions gave us a huge advantage when we conducted our first smart speaker research project with Asda. Voice can frustrate and assist in equal measure but as it’s the most natural interface available to us, we’re expecting to be conducting a lot more research as brands and retailers develop skills and puzzle over how to drive voice commerce. We’ll be issuing a whitepaper on this very topic in the new year.


We’ve widened our client base in our established sectors of financial services, travel and leisure and eCommerce. We’ve also broadened our sector experience, winning more clients from the public sector, education and gaming. With over eight years’ experience working with Asda, and more recently Morrisons, our grocery ecommerce understanding is second to none and we’ve been applying this knowledge to help brands better optimise their product descriptions, images and content on third-party retailer sites.

Our Founder and MD, Guy is a member of the GS1 Steering Committee charged with developing a guideline for brands’ mobile ready hero imagery and has spoken at PepsiCo’s Shopper University.  We’re renowned for conducting natural research so rather than present alternate images as A/B tests, we place optimised images in mocked up online retail environments, ask participants to shop as they typically would and then explore what works and what doesn’t. In the summer, we worked with a number of brands in the soft drinks category including Coca Cola, Britvic, Nestle, Danone and AG Barr, with our recommendations carried forward into the GS1 guideline.

When are we researching?

Understanding how your audience behaves in order to deliver a better user experience has enormous value at any stage in the product or service development life cycle. This year we’ve spotted two trends:

  1. More clients testing regularly, rather than investing in one ‘hit’. They’ve been moving forward quickly with deliverables including observation notes from the day, sprint reports and prioritisation workshops
  2. Testing too late and in isolation can cause problems so we’ve encouraged the use of testing to inform rather than validate

Evidence, evidence, evidence

Our belief in the power of evidence, not opinion, unifies all of our research, and differentiates us from other research agencies, is. Our eye tracking enabled methodology allows participants to complete tasks without interruption and the replay of the eyetracking footage acts as a prompt to the subconscious so participantsverbalise, rather than rationalise, their experience.

The power of evidence over opinion is one of the key tenets of the Government Digital Service (GDS) Standard and we know that it’s highly persuasive for stakeholders at all levels within an organisation to see evidence (usually in the form of live observation or highlight clips) and share with other audiences, for example, B2B customers.

You won’t be surprised to see that evidence is placed right at the heart of our values which have been formalised by the team this year:

Widening our proposition

We’ve spoken a lot about research and this year has seen us broaden the range of services we offer.  For us, aligning product and service development with user needs is pretty fundamental and something that we’ve been doing for over 15 years however we understand that organisational complexity, limited resources and limited budgets make this difficult.  We’ve delivered workshops this year on how to embed the UX process and get wider organisational support for investing in improving the user experience. 

We’ve also employed our first full-time designer, Joel Mercer, who’s been supporting clients with prototyping solutions for test and taking our research recommendations forward into complete design solutions.

The SimpleUsability team

We started the year as a team of 13 and close 2018 as a team of 19 with the notable additions of Layla in the Participant Recruitment team, Soraya, Jason and Kevin as UX Practitioners, our UX Designer Joel and Susie joining us from Asda Walmart where she led the UX team.

Proud to be in Leeds

We’ve been in Leeds for 13 years and have seen the phenomenal growth of the Leeds tech economy in that time.  During the fortnight-long Leeds Digital Festival, more tech events were hosted in Leeds than in San Francisco and we were proud to be involved, hosting two events on grocery ecommerce and exploring whether agile and usability research were compatible.

Our facilities at Marshall Mills are second to none, so we happily signed an extension of our lease, meaning we’ll be staying in the Holbeck Urban Village for a few more years.

2018 was also the year when we became involved in the Leeds Community Foundation, a phenomenal charity supporting the wider community of Leeds, with research to inform the future direction of their website.

So before we get too misty-eyed, a big thank you to the team, our partners and of course our clients. 2018 has been an awesome year and we can’t wait to see what 2019 has in store.