At the start of this year I met with a long-standing People for Research client and the phrase that stuck out in my mind was “it’s never been a better time to be in user research”. Having been involved in the research industry for close on 30 years, I couldn’t agree more. Yet again, we have seen another year of solid growth and emerging trends in the sector.

It reminds me of the time when company websites first started to appear (yes, I am that old!): at the time, businesses knew they needed a site, but didn’t know what for. There was a sudden proliferation of company sites appearing on the internet with some dreadful designs. Fast forward to today – most companies are aware of or are now waking up to the power of user research and its principles are being applied to a whole host of products and services, not just websites anymore.

As a leading supplier of participants for user research, this past year we have seen a big growth in end clients setting up their own in-house user research teams and other existing teams growing rapidly. If you are a user researcher, you are in high demand!

These are the top five user research trends of 2018

👉 The PFR team worked on a huge range of projects through the last year and, looking back, we are able to identify certain trends. The later part of 2018 has definitely seen a move towards virtual and augmented reality and EEG studies combined with some really exciting projects on new tech/new research methodology; not just eye-tracking, but cognitive monitoring combined. The user and UX research fields are starting to explore the physical and the subconscious combined in terms of user behaviour – it’s cutting edge stuff!

👉 From technology to finance, the fintech industry remains very strong in terms of user research with long ongoing research programmes. This is not only true for established companies, but for the new start-ups out there.

👉 There has also been an increase in the use of targeted surveys and quantitative research, particularly for discovery phases of research, both domestic and international.

👉 A really interesting area of development in 2018 is big fashion brands engaging with social influencers and conducting more ethnographic studies. Consumers are becoming harder to define using traditional methods, so clients are looking to get upfront and personal with their target audience.

👉 The concept of user-centred (or human-centred) research, design, etc. became even more relevant this year thanks to the work done by Nic Price and Ben Cubbon into the participant’s journey in a research project. Their findings highlight that the research starts the moment a participant engages with a research opportunity and that research data can be generated both before, during and after the research session. Recruiting participants following a robust process will deliver the best participants, which surely will deliver better insights.

According to Ben and Nic:

“Participants have needs when they take part in research, if we meet these needs then we will get good quality insights, however those needs are not being met as well as they could so as result insights aren’t as good as they could be. If we discover what it’s like to be a research participant, then we will be able to identify how to better meet those needs.”

What about PFR?

Our clients are not the only ones working on projects to improve products and services. The People for Research team held their first away day in the summer: a two-day programme of workshops and social activities, focusing on improving what we do and developing our own set of social responsibilities as a team. There were some breakthrough ideas that we’re working on to introduce in 2019.

We are working towards becoming a greener office, and our corporate social responsibility strategy is also getting a revamp with commitments by the team to go ‘part-time vegetarian’ in 2019 and save acres of rain forest!

The PFR team are now looking forward to a well-earned Christmas break. We’re lucky to work in an industry that completely shuts down for the holiday period. We’ll be back in the New Year to hit the ground running, embracing what is to be expected as another busy year.



Paul Gooding, Chief Executive Officer

If you would like to find out more about our in-house participant recruitment service for user testing or market research get in touch on 0117 921 0008 or

At People for Research, we recruit participants for UX and usability testing and market research. We work with award winning UX agencies across the UK and partner up with a number of end clients who are leading the way with in-house user experience and insight.