The Window Into Your Customers


Last November, I injured my knee playing rugby. Alright, it was touch rugby. And there was no physical contact as such.

I went to sidestep, my knee went pop, and I hit the ground in a heap.

As I wriggled around on the grass, screaming expletives, fellow players were looking at me with concern and bemusement.

I knew it was a severe injury. At first, my worry was, ‘what have I done?’ Then, ‘should I head straight to the hospital?

Then more practical questions presented themselves; ‘how do I get up off the grass?’ and ‘how do I get home?’ then ‘can I still work in the morning?’

After getting up off the grass, I realised there was no way I could drive. So thankfully, my pal Brian drove me to Poole A&E.

What followed was hospital visits, scans, and consultations. Then a diagnosis; a ruptured Patella Tendon on my right leg.

Bizarrely, I’d done the identical injury to the left bout 17 years ago. So at least now, I had a matching pair.

After surgical repair by a fantastic surgeon, Mr. Charles Willis-Owen and his team, I hobbled out of the hospital.

As November drew to a close, I got to grips with walking on crutches without putting weight on my right peg.

That meant no driving, no exercise, and limited walking. No travel into work. I’ll be honest, all pretty soul-destroying.

⚠️ Warning, a post-surgery image of stitches in a knee coming your way.

Patella tendon repaired and stitched-up

The everyday routine became a challenge.

Simple things like getting up and down the stairs needed a re-think. It turns out the best way is on your bottom.

Speaking of bottoms, going to the toilet needs careful planning — I’ll spare you the details.

Having a shower was too risky so baths became the norm but even they had a ritual too them.

I wore this over my knee to keep the wound dry. 👇🏻

Then I used this bench to get myself in and out of the bath 👇🏻

One good thing — I could still work, albeit from home.

And this was down to one reason — technology. My laptop became an excellent friend of mine.

Along with the support of colleagues and clients, I found out I could still do 95% of my work from home using tech tools.

So I turned a setback into a positive, which was timely because…

At the end of November, we (well, Insightful UX) were asked to run a significant research project for a big insurer.

I took it on because it was a really interesting challenge and it was time-sensitive.

The deadline — Christmas Eve.

The client needed to start building out a new website in January but needed the insights before the year was up.

So I had about 4 weeks to finish the project. Tight but doable.

Stool in foreground and table plus a lamp. What else does one need?

I set myself up in my front room.

I bought a little stool to rest my leg, the table next to the sofa was where my coffee, food, and water for the day would go. 👆🏻

On that table was a lamp that lit my face from the side so I didn’t look too dodgy on the video calls.

The plugs under the table helped me charge the laptop and mobile phone.

I had everything ready to start the research.

Rear Window. Credit:

When you observe, the world reveals its secrets.

For those few weeks in December when I did the research, I was like the character ‘Jeff’ in Hitchcock’s classic, ‘Rear Window,’

I was observing human behavior through a window. But mine was a 13-inch laptop screen.

And, just like Jeff, I had little else to do except watch the stories unfold in front of me.

As the video interviews progressed, I started to hear patterns in what people did and didn’t like.

I looked for similar characteristics in the personalities. I started to imagine different hypotheses as I talked with more candidates.

  • What would persuade them to go for that offer?
  • Do they even care enough about the product?
  • Are they influenced by their friends?

It was fascinating.

I talked to participants from all around the UK. From Cumbria to Dorset. Rural Wales to central London. I talked to each one for about an hour — sometimes more.

Me on the sofa chatting to a participant

To be honest, I really enjoyed it. Apart from the fact I was working and my brain was buzzing,

I was grateful for the social interaction.

I was blown away by what they told me. The experience was rewarding and nourishing! I’m eternally grateful to all those participants.

The amazing thing was that I did it all from a laptop on a sofa.

And these are the tools I used:

  • I wrote and shared the research objectives and questions using Google Docs
  • In the first week, I recruited nine participants remotely using a service called Testing Time
  • The following week, I interviewed all nine participants using Whereby
  • …transcribing each of those conversations using a product called Happy Scribe
  • I then reported the initial findings to the client through Webex
  • Based on the insights, my colleague Jamie and I worked-up a website prototype using Sketch
  • I tested the prototype with six more participants using Lookback
  • After the analysis, I debriefed the client again through Webex.

From start to finish; the research and prototype testing took 4 weeks.

The here and now.

I’m writing this against the context of a big public health crisis.

The benefits of remote working are coming to the fore as we battle to contain Coronavirus. There will be disruption and tough days ahead — personally and professionally.

I’m not profiteering from the crisis, I just want to say there are things we can STILL do to keep our businesses going.

Quicker to market

We run most of our research projects remotely anyway. Not because of the virus outbreak. It’s just quicker and more convenient.

Most clients I talk to want to know what they can do after the research. They don’t want to hang around — they need to act on it. And fast.

Research deserves to be acted on.

As we’ve seen, things change so quickly. What you find out today may have changed next month. All of a sudden, you look up and see your customers and competition have moved on. And you’re stood still

So once we all get a grip on the virus, there will be opportunities to rebuild and make-up for lost time. To unlock growth with new services, new customers, and new channels. Who knows, you won’t know until you ask.

Why do it now?

Why wait to talk to the people who matter to your business? From a commerce point of view, remote research will help you:

  • Steal a march on your competition.
  • Help guide your next marketing decision
  • Get closer to your audience.

It’s quick, convenient, and secure. It doesn’t cost the earth either. You can do it all yourself — the tech is there, you just need to clear the time.

You’ll learn a HUGE amount from research.

Picture yourself as the customer oracle. The font of all customer knowledge. You’ll get rich with insight and there’s another way you’ll benefit.

Consider what you SAVE using research:

  • Steers you away from those dangerous rabbit holes that burn valuable time.
  • Stops you wasting money building website features your customers don’t need.
  • Diverts resources to places where you really need it — like better content

“Most people use statistics like a drunk man uses a lamppost; more for support than illumination.”

— Andrew Lang

Think of that laptop screen as a window into the mind of your audience. Whatever happens over the next few weeks, understanding your audience is a valuable exercise that can’t be disrupted too much.

In just a few clicks, your audience is on your screen and ready to tell you what they think and feel. Remote research is the secret weapon in your locker.

What are you waiting for?



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
George Beverley

George Beverley

I write about UX and Research. Day job is with the Insightful UX folks. AKA The Audience Detective and part-time lecturer at Arts University Bournemouth.