User Research London 2018 - Programme

Have a sneak peak at our talks and workshops for User Research London 2018.

The agenda for day 1 is available to view online.

Talks - Thursday June 21st

9.00am - 6.00pm (Registration open from 8.30am)


Opening notes


Metaphor and Synthesis, Cyd Harrell

One of the most powerful, and neglected tools for analysis of qualitative user research is metaphor. It's set of language skills that complements our use of numbers/data and pictures/visualizations of various sorts. This talk will be about how and why it works, how to use it, and how to develop your abilities.


Design for Social Impact: Nurturing a Reflective Practice, Ayush Chauhan and Babitha George

Quicksand's design strategy and innovation practice has been built over the last 13 years with social impact as one of its foundations. Under this domain, Quicksand has connected the best practices of design and design research with development programs to address the pressing and complex issues of social equity, public health, education, fnancial inclusion and humanitarian aid, amongst other topical concerns. Quicksand has partnered with global organizations such as Unilever, World Bank, International Rescue Committee, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Nesta et al to design products and services that promote equity, dignity and quality of life for low-income and marginalised communities across geographies.

The need for an interdisciplinary, people-centered, iterative and flexible process for innovation is perhaps most acutely felt in the development sector. There are several reasons why this is necessary:

  • the inherent complexity of social issues - as it relates to disparate, often disconnected stakeholders and the temporal dimensions of interventions we desire to make - necessitates a far more participatory approach than commercial contexts are accustomed to
  • the scale and pace at which development interventions play out, often without the corrective mechanisms that market-based ventures have the benefit of, implies that poorly conceived solutions can be in effect for long durations of time before they are identified and remedied - most times at the expense of public exchequer
  • the programs designed to deliver services to the marginalised, often lack their participation and voice. Techno-centric solutions end up overwhelming people-centered ones. - the need for scalability and widespread adoption of innovation, is often at odds with the inherent need to understand deeply and design for the complexities and nuances of local, socio-cultural norms, behaviours and perceptions
  • the cultural gap between the designer and the user is often quite startling in these circumstances. Vocabulary and tools to decode and understand the lives and aspirations of low income communities are limited


Participants have needs, Ben Cubbon & Nic Price

What is it like to be a participant in our research? How does the the research participant’s journey affect the insights we gain? 
In 2017, we (Ben and Nic) ran a discovery asking “What’s it like to take part in user research?”
We discovered that participants have needs when they take part in research. For a participant the research journey usually starts long before the day of the research. 
We’ll share what we discovered and begin to discuss what this might mean for how we design our next round of research.


Making your research practice GDPR-proof, Kathleen Asjes

The main focus of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is related to tracking and storing personal data online. This makes it easy to forget that most of us also collect a lot of personal data through qualitative research. And even though it might not be top of mind, this data is also subject to GDPR. Which means that participants need to be informed of how you use, store and process their data. As well as allowing them to request a data take out.

Sounds difficult? It does not have to be at all. A few minor tweaks in your qualitative research practice will ensure full transparency and compliance in no time. Kathleen will share how her research team at Schibsted looked at this and what they did to safeguard the data they collected before and after May 25th.


The digital impact framework, Tim Dixon


Beyond Good Research, Paul Andre

The difference between good or great research often isn't the execution of the work itself, but what you do before and after it. We'll focus on a few strategies to elevate research and the product, from identifying the right problem and repositories of foundational work, to having strong opinions and broadening your scope. Learning from our mistakes, we'll explore how to deliver insights that drive product and strategy.


Adventures in UX research and data, Christina Li

Across different teams and organisations a common problem researchers often face is the ability to show the value and impacts of the designs delivered, and then confidently communicate those impacts to a wider audience, such as C-suite or within product teams. This gap can make it difficult for the wider audience to buy-in to the process or appreciate the value of user-centred design.

In this talk I will draw on examples in delivering digital services in the UK Government and from running lean research for start ups, to show how design teams can measure the impacts of the services and products delivered by using qualitative and quantitative data


When insights fade away… Creative ways to extend and amplify your research, Ana Roji

  • How can we create insights that have longer lasting impact?
  • How can we turn them into foundational assets for future products?

In our current work environment, product propositions and stakeholders can change throughout the life of a research study, making it hard for findings to stay relevant. Also, it becomes difficult for small research teams to be spread across different projects, being the only guardians of user’s needs.

When our methods fall short, we need to change our strategy to keep teams engaged.

In this talk we’ll look at creative ways to amplify the impact of our work with design and product teams. Let's turn ‘unknowns’ into tangible and memorable assets, using the Design Toolkit for Behavior Change as example to spark new product ideas. 


Is your research usable?, Laurissa Wolfram-Hvass

As Researchers, we spend countless hours listening to and observing the people who use our companies' products or services. We work hard to translate those findings into insights about what they need (and want) from our products. But what about the "end-users" of those research findings? How much deliberate thought do we put into what they need and want from our work? Do we communicate and share our findings with our companies and colleagues in a way that's usable and actionable? In this talk, Laurissa Wolfram-Hvass draws from her experience as Director of Research at MailChimp and describes ways to share research more effectively.


Deliverables for designers, Tom Ablewhite

You’ve done the research, you’ve written up your findings, but are they useful? In this talk I’ll give you some tips for creating research deliverables that will not only be useful for designers, but will inform stakeholders, marketing teams, customer service, and anyone interested in actually effecting change within your organisation.


What DJing taught me about usability, Lisa Halabi

Lisa will share some of the similarities she’s observed as a tech-house DJ and User Researcher and how she was able to cross-pollinate her learnings.


Finding Mojo and Magic, Nick Leon

This session shares a personal account of how a trained user centred designer and founder of an ethnographic research company finds mojo and magic in his work. He puts forward that most of these moments are where something new is tried out, or a new technique is uncovered by good fortune, chance or experimentation. It creates the ‘wow’ factor and supercharges personal growth and a deeper interest in the work we do.

The presentation also offers practical advice to anyone interested in using film and VR during ethnography and shares an extreme experiment the speaker recently put himself through to connect with participant’s experience.



User experience researchers are used to hearing some phrases repeatedly: “we haven’t the time or budget for qualitative research”, or “qualitative
research doesn’t really have an ROI, so why do it?” In our profession, we have operated for a long time with these (and other) statements, but it is
time to ask ourselves: what is holding us back? Why is positioning qualitative research such a challenge? We all know the benefits, and we all have
enough stories supporting those benefits. How can we make research something for everyone to really understand, connect with, and integrate
into their organization? To the non-researcher, what we do as researchers can be confusing, and not worth the time to try and understand. What
can we as researchers do to make research less of a black box?

Meena Kothandaraman of twig+fish research practice in Boston, USA will share an approach that successfully positions qualitative research as a
strategic process in organizations. twig+fish worked with the Boston Mayor’s Housing Innovation Lab (Housing iLab) in 2017. The Housing
iLab was tasked with creating meaningful and sustainable solutions to address an emerging problem in the city of Boston: a housing crisis for
middle income residents. Many cities often choose to make decisions based on quantitative and demographic-based data alone. The Housing
iLab recognized the importance of obtaining qualitative data to begin the conversation about lifestyles, and how a better understanding of the
Boston middle income lifestyle could subsequently impact housing options positively.

Using this case study, Meena will demonstrate how qualitative research with the Housing iLab was approached with a transparent lens, how it was
structured (with plenty of room for creativity), and what created an empathic connection with the study participants. This approach resulted in
credible and believable output that elevated the value of qualitative research.


Workshops - Friday June 22nd

9.00am - 5.00pm (Registration open from 8.30am)


Designing Project Teams to "Make Meaningful Work" together

Dan Szuc and Jo Wong

9.00am-5.00pm (full day)

People want to spend more time on meaningful work and with teams who are engaged in making that happen. Projects where people's skills and practice strengths are working well together to encourage people to learn, improve and thrive.

However, we all get lost in the noise, speed and deliverables of the day to day work that we forget about why we are working on a project in the first place.

This results in people feeling purposeless, stressed, unhealthy and in a state of what we call “sleepwalking”.

What if we all could…

  • Identify frustrations at work today that block great work?
  • Use the telling of project stories as a constant to help us harvest practices?
  • Create a project ecosystem that encouraged people to thrive?
  • Identify core practices to help people do the work that matters?
  • Define and practice "meaning" for self, team, project and organisation to support continuous learning and tactical and strategic clarity for all?

This workshop will take you on the following journey as we design great team cultures to "Make Meaningful Work" and look at the dimensions to do so:

  • A "Journal" to help you and team log project stories
  • A "Meaning Canvas" to demonstrate individual and team value
  • A "Learning Portfolio & Plan" to sustain individual and team practices to nurture meaning and a culture of continuous learning


Meena Kothandaraman & Zarla Ludin

9.00am - 5.00pm (full day) [FULLY BOOKED]

You’re ready to embark on a research study. Your team has the chance to investigate people’s behaviors, and you find yourself receiving questions
from all directions. The questions sometimes feel haphazard, opportunistic, and as though everyone has been waiting for a moment to get in front
of users. You know it is important to promote research within the organization, and you know there are factors to consider when running research,
but somehow there is a communication gap between stakeholder asks, and what research can do. Balancing constraints such as time, budget,
access to people and more becomes hard to manage.
Sound familiar?
In this workshop, Meena Kothandaraman and Zarla Ludin from twig+fish research practice (Boston, USA) will share a framework that establishes
research transparency. This workshop will reveal a demonstrable approach for permeable success of research as a strategic practice within an
organization. Sharing the research mindset and responsibility, and roadmapping questions to strategic organizational processes are just some of
the benefits attendees can immediately apply.

Design for Social Impact: Nurturing a Reflective Practice

Ayush Chauhan and Babitha George

9.00am - 12.30pm (half day)

Building on the themes in Ayush and Babitha' talk, the workshop will talk through various design research tools that the studio has developed over its 13 year practice to navigate the complexity of social change - often in extremely challenging situations and while dealing with issues that are social taboo. Designers and researchers often tend to fnd refuge in tools and methods. However the contexts of social impact and related complex problems are unforgiving to this naivety. If you are seeking to solve difcult problems, you quickly realise that there is no master key, no single set of tools that can make your life easy. Tools and methods need to be constantly revisited and adapted for each unique context and even then there is no guarantee for success. But this uniqueness is what we are after and what keeps us excited through so many engagements year after year. We want to understand a context by immersing ourselves deeply within it and in our experience, as may be expected, every context is unique - unwilling to ft into preset patterns.

Ayush and Babitha will cite examples from their work and critically evaluate the efficiancy of these tools in decoding people’s behaviour and understanding underlying motivations. The workshop will be a chance to evaluate some tried and tested design research tools, and some new ones - but all applied in novel conditions and often with users that have a different vocabulary and literacy than the designer’s world.

Welcome to the world of user recruitment;

Jess Lewes & Maria Santos

9.00am - 12.30pm (half day)

Let us guide you through the elusive path of finding the right participants to take part in research, and empowering people in and out of the design community to make a meaningful difference to our digital experiences.

This workshop aims to give attendees an introduction to the basics of user recruitment, as well as spark some in-depth thought around how to get more out of the recruitment process for anyone who has experience of running research and recruiting. 

During the workshop we will cover: writing a recruitment brief and how to digest a brief provided by a client or stakeholder, approaching the process of writing a screening  document to ensure you find the right people and considering how to be compliant with codes of conduct and the new data protection regulation (yes, sorry, we had to include at least one reference to GDPR), as well as covering how to communicate with a panel or group of users and actually getting people to come forward and participate in your research, even when the research is about sensitive topics that usually make people uncomfortable.

For the purpose of this research, we will focus on projects that are of a sensitive nature and share case studies that reflect our experience of recruiting for these projects in real life.

Making Research Count in Organizations

Cyd Harrell


In many companies, time and budget for user research are hard to come by. At more advanced stages, research work may be supported (at least as far as collecting data) but then not given the influence it should have.  What can teams (or solo researchers) do in these situations? 

We'll explore strategies both overt and covert for gaining a research toe-hold in an organization that's hostile or just uninterested. For groups that allow but hamstring user research (dogmatic agile teams, quantitative-data-only shops, or companies where surveys and focus groups predominate) we'll identify effective ways to convince and co-opt. We'll discuss how to do good research in an unsupported situation, and make it count. Then we'll work together to sketch out individual plans for moving research forward when you get back.

Improving how we describe research to  participants so we get better quality insight

Ben Cubbon and Nic Price


  • What’s it like to come across an opportunity to take part in research?
  • How well do potential participants understand a research opportunity?
  • What do people think will happen if they participate?

In 2017, we (Ben and Nic) ran a discovery asking “What’s it like to take part in user research?”

From this work we mapped out the ‘participant journey’ and identified areas where we as researchers can better meet participant needs.

One of our hypotheses is that if we can find better ways to describe what user research is to potential participants, we’ll get better quality insight from our research. [*1]

In this workshop we will:

  1. Walk through the user research participant journey

  2. Explore what potential participants do and don’t understand about user research [*2]

  3. Discuss what user research is and what user research is not [*3]

  4. Prototype and test some ideas for improvements for how we explain research opportunities

  5. Plan how we’ll use workshop findings when describing our next round of research