Behind the scenes: A day in the life of a researcher at SimpleUsability

August 16, 2019 12:46 pm

Behind the scenes: A day in the life of a researcher at SimpleUsability

Ever wondered what goes on behind closed doors at a research agency? Here’s your opportunity to find out.

As a behavioural research agency, the team here at SimpleUsability work across a range of user experience and user centred design projects. Our projects span across a variety of sectors, channels and can be at any point of a design cycle, all with the overarching aim of helping our clients better understand their customers.

But what does that involve?

In this article the UX team have come together to share what goes on behind the scenes here at SimpleUsability. We’ve interviewed members of the team who will walk you through the typical stages of the project and some of the key considerations and challenges we face as researchers.

Project preparation

So where does the project process start? Typically, the team is introduced to a new or existing client who requires assistance with a particular project or their overall UX strategy. Even at this early stage the extended team will get together and have some initial conversations to understand what the requirements are and get creative with potential services we can offer.

“It’s communication with the clients to understand exactly what they need to get out of the research and to understand how we can meet their needs. That can involve going back and forth via email or a more free flowing and collaborative discussion to clarify the research objectives.” Ross, UX Practitioner

Once the objectives are defined and a strategy is agreed, we’ll begin to consider the participants we need to speak to in order to complete the research. This involves collaboration between our recruitment team, the client, and our UX researchers to ensure the profile aligns with the customers concerned.

“We have an internal meeting with our recruitment team to discuss tactics going forward as we treat every client as a unique case and want to meet their needs. Our in-house recruitment team (Research Helper) will develop an initial survey and then filter through the applicants for a further round of telephone conversations to ensure that they are right fit for the research.” Ross, UX Practitioner

Whilst recruitment is ongoing, the research preparation is in full swing for the UX team as we familiarise ourselves with the stimulus for research and begin creating a bespoke session plan.

“We have the project brief next to us at all times to keep the objectives and what’s in scope front of mind. Before we even start planning the research session, we do an in-depth expert review of the website to identify potential pain points and issues. Based on this, and our moderation knowledge we develop a guide which covers the key points against objectives.” Ross, UX Practitioner

With the users recruited and the session plan in-place the final part of project preparation is to pilot the research session. This allows us to ensure the session guide is covering all objectives, the site or prototype is working as expected, and the recording equipment is set-up correctly.

“First we consider whether it is a live site or a prototype and make sure it is working. We then run a series of prep sessions where we work out if the tasks are right and check the wording of the questions.” Kevin, UX Practitioner

Research period

The research period itself is likely to vary on a project by project basis. We run a whole host of methodologies, in different settings, meaning what we need to consider on the day depends on the individual project requirements.

“Testing days are really tailored for different clients. We use various methodologies and techniques, including offsite mobile eye tracking, card sorting, remote research, guerilla research, and even using translators to conduct research in a different language.” Soraya, UX Practitioner

But despite what methodology we choose to use, the research period is a stage of continued collaboration between the client and the researcher. We ensure the insight we’re gathering is in-line with the objectives whilst also discussing and actioning any opportunities that crop up throughout.

“We take lots of notes throughout the day and have discussions with the clients and project team to pull out any killer findings and make sure these are collated and organised on a findings wall or in documents. This approach really helps to showcase what is coming out of the research, boosts client engagement and gets everyone talking about the sessions.” Soraya, UX Practitioner

Now we wouldn’t be completely honest if we didn’t mention the challenges we can face during research. Anyone who has run a research session will know, not everything always goes to plan.

“As a user researcher you may come across various hurdles during a session. This can be anything from users not showing up last-minute to technical issues in the heat of the moment. At SimpleUsability, the team are well versed in what to do in these situations, and we always have a plan B which is established pre-testing. In essence, when we walk into that lab to run a session, we are prepared for anything. For further insight into the challenges we face and how to how to deal with weird and wonderful situations, I would recommend ‘The Moderators Survival Guide’ by Tadesco & Tranquada.” Jason, UX Practitioner


Following the research period, the team will start by discussing how the research went, identifying key themes, and creating a strategy for analysis, but the exact process and outputs are bespoke based on project requirements.

“Every deliverable we provide is tailored to the project needs. By digging into client needs at kick off stage, and constantly referencing objectives throughout, we can ensure we deliver insight in the most valuable way. This could be in the form of a formal in-depth report, just the critical findings and recommendations, or a workshop to discuss findings and collaboratively ideate solutions.” Alana, UX Practitioner

At SimpleUsability we’re keen to make sure that project delivery doesn’t just involve a lengthy report that’ll leave you feeling overwhelmed. Although sometimes the detail is exactly what you need, we’ll help you prioritise the insight and create actions moving forward.

“We understand that completing research is not just a one-off task but something that needs to be integrated into your design programme. This is why we provide you with guidance to help turn those findings into actions. This could involve a quick solutions workshop or a more collaborative working approach where we act as the voice of the user in design thinking moving forward.” Alana, UX Practitioner

No matter what outputs are involved, the team here at SimpleUsabilty will always make sure we provide clients with everything they need to continue on their UX journey. We offer 6 months of support following a project and provide all outputs of the project on a secure server that can be accessed at any time. We’ll soon be offering a market leading project that will make this process even more efficient, so watch this space…

Round up

There really is no average day in the life of a researcher. Here we’ve touched on the great variety of projects SimpleUsability get involved in and the great deal of planning and preparation in place to ensure the service we offer is 100% suited to client’s needs.

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