UX London is a three-day event organised by Clearleft, a strategic design and innovation consultancy. The conference celebrated its 10th birthday last year, so I was not surprised to find a well thought-out experience with fun touches, like street food vendors at lunchtime providing a great choice of grub to refuel between the morning talks and afternoon workshops.

Designing products

Day one at UX London was centred around products, and there was a strong focus on internal processes or systems used as part of this design process. For example, Jane Austin of Babylon Health talked about the skills required to thrive when working in-house, as opposed to in an agency.

Emmet Connolly from Intercom talked about the tools we use and how tools can bring in bias based on the inherent bias. The example he gave to illustrate this was the evolution of web design and how it has been influenced by the tools available through the years.

This concept is one of the drivers behind the approach People for Research have to user recruitment: using just one method for recruitment has the potential to bring bias in to your research.

This is why we use a range of tools, both online and offline, to source and identify people. Plus, we are continuously searching for new ways to source people to reduce the potential bias that can be introduced from just using one source – to find out more about this, check out this blog.

Designing for people

Day two at UX London focussed more on service design, the maturity of the user experience industry and practice, and how to deliver value to the people using your product or service.

Friction is something that historically was seen as a bad thing in a user’s experience, but Steve Selzer from Bungalow argues that we should design for friction: we are surrounded by an ‘ecosystem of convenience’, but if things are too easy then there is intolerance when there is friction in the experience.

Steve used the depiction of humans in WALL-E, the 2008 Disney movie, to illustrate the vision of the frictionless future we may be heading towards if we don’t address some of these issues. Jamin Hegeman from Capital One introduced the Peak End Rule: a concept created by Daniel Kahneman which states that someone will only remember the peak – low or high – and the end of an experience.

Both of these theories are highly relevant to user recruitment. Although we are working on making it as easy as possible to participate in research (by, for example, streamlining our application process or providing really clear instructions to help people find the research venue), there still needs to be some friction in the process so people feel more committed and are less likely to drop out. This is why our telephone screening process is so essential: it allows us to build a relationship and engagement in the project at the same time as checking they are the right person to include.

The Peak End Rule underpins the view that participants are not always able to self-report and really shows the value of running use research to explore hypotheses or validate findings from quantitative research.

Designing for the future

UX London’s final day focussed on the future, which will be dominated by machine learning, artificial intelligence, and voice interactions. Emily Sappington, who previously worked on Cortana’s development, shared how her experience has shown that users look for evidence of competence when using technology. Therefore, it is essential to set expectations appropriately: for example, the call-to-action in Cortana no longer says ‘ask me anything’.

Sarah Doody of The UX Notebook talked about anticipatory design and the future of experience, her talk linked back to the idea of friction.

Automation may make our lives easier, but it may be eroding our critical thinking and ultimately our happiness; this is especially important because, every day, we are tasked with making an average of 35,000 decisions. With the right technology this can ease the load, but there must be transparency so we know how things work and are able to step in and make sure machines are making the right decisions for us.

New technology and research practices bring new challenges to user recruitment. To prepare for these challenges, PFR are consistently taking inspiration from the industry we support and iterating on the service we provide to find new and innovative ways to source people to take part in user research and usability testing.

This is really just a snapshot of the conference and I have not even mentioned the workshops, which were incredibly interesting and useful. For more information on what else went on, head to the UX London website or Twitter feed.



Jess Lewes, Business Development Director

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.