Did you know that only 50 out of 270 tube stations in London are fully accessible? Or that, in a car crash, women are 71% more likely to be injured and 17% more likely to die? And that less than 10% of all websites are accessible? These were some of the questions asked by Emma Howell, Research Director at cxpartners, during a recent Bristol Inclusive Design & Development meetup to illustrate the importance of inclusive design.

Emma shared her team’s user research and digital redesign journey for FRANK (a.k.a. Talk to FRANK), a public service that aims to give young people the skills and confidence needed to reject drugs and offer parents the information they need to have open conversations with their children. A project that People for Research worked on as well, between June and November 2018, recruiting 35 participants  –  some very young, and some with accessibility needs  –  for different rounds of research and testing.

Project set-up illustration – Emma Howell

The team kicked-off with research, highlighting the top five things to consider when sourcing the participants:

+ Context

+ Age and gender: target audience is 14 to 19, but also older people like parents. In terms of gender, it had to be neutral.

+ Cognitive impairments

+ Visual impairments

+ Location:  extremely relevant for the content design process! Substances have different (and very creative) names depending on the city you live.

The main challenge for PFR was to engage with and recruit suitable participants across different platforms and with diverse levels of engagement without scaring them with such a triggering topic like addiction. The location of these ideal participants was also not exactly straightforward, as some of them had to live outside of city centres.

After analysing the target audiences and the different platform options, the PFR marketing and comms team went through different iterations of the content used to promote the project and engage with potential participants. Alongside content development, our projects team took the time to tailor the recruitment process and screening methods to the target audiences. Our duty of care to the participants was paramount, so we discussed internally and agreed with the client the best approach and recruitment methods ahead of the project starting.

Lack of accessibility can be “heartbreaking”

With People for Research working on sourcing the users, Emma’s team started looking at the FRANK website to find areas that could be improved, including imagery, brand awareness, and accessibility.

The research and design team approached the project from an ‘inclusive by design’ viewpoint, helping to demonstrate the value of investing in accessibility when talking to the stakeholders.

User research and testing (including QA testing and accessibility reviews) with real users were an essential part of the process, allowing the designers and developers to work based on real feedback and not just best guesses.

This meant making sure that not only the functionality was accessible and assistive-technology-friendly, but also that the content design process was inclusive. The research team worked with a drugs and mental health researcher, Dr. Suzi Gage, to make sure they got the tone right: for example, avoiding phrases that reinforced negative stereotypes such as “addicts” and “getting clean”. The final result was youthful, approachable and supportive, straightforward, and experienced (but not preachy!) content across the redesigned platform.

And what about numbers? Here are some practical results:

+ 39% increase in site traffic due to search engine optimisation efforts

+ 200% increase in users seeing pages load in less than 3 seconds

+ Accelerated mobile pages

+ 80% reduction in monthly hosting and support costs

+ 171% increase in accessibility (measured by Google Lighthouse)

According to Emma, “technical architecture, development and UX working as a team was critical in enabling us to build an inclusive service. […] It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it must be better. We mustn’t further marginalise disadvantaged groups with privileged design.” But what can you do to make your UX projects more inclusive?

1. Be able to define inclusive design
2. Start planning early
3. Start recruiting early
4. Use mixed methodologies
5. Use an accessible venue
6. Accept the benefits of remote testing
7. Spend more time on set up
8. Establish relationships in your community
9. Work in cross functional teams
10. Keep an eye on each other

This recruitment project was the basis of People for Research’s nomination for the Market Research Society 2019 awards in the Best Support Services category. You can find out more about this here. The winner will be announced on 26th September, in London.


By Maria Santos, Head of Digital Ops & Data Protection

If you would like to find out more about our in-house participant recruitment service for user research or usability testing 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.