User Interface: Beginner’s Guide

A user interface is the most essential element of a computer-based system. 

If a user interface is poorly designed, users’ ability to leverage computational applications may be severely hindered. Actually, a weak interface can cause an otherwise well-designed and solidly executed application to fail altogether.

Photo by Sahand Babali on Unsplash

What is user interface design?

A user interface (UI) is an interactional point at which human users can communicate with a computer program, website, or application. 

The central goal of an effective UI is to fundamentally make a user’s experience more straightforward and intuitive, requiring minimum effort to receive the maximum desired outcome.

That being said, user interface design is a discipline where designers build interactive interfaces in software or computerised devices, with a principal focus on looks or style. 

In UI design, designers seek to create interfaces that users will find easy to use and pleasurable. It is commonly synonymous with User Experience (UX) design, which we shall expand on later.

Overall, UI design starts with identifying users, tasks, and environmental requirements. Once tasks have been extensively identified, user scenarios are then created and analysed to define a set of interface objects and actions. 

This provides a foundation for the creation of a screen layout that depicts:

  • Graphical design,¬†
  • Icon placement,¬†
  • Definition of descriptive screen text,¬†
  • Specification of major and minor menu items.¬†

As the design progresses, elements like response time, error handling, command and action structuring are handled as the design model is refined. 

user interface

Types of user interfaces

  • Graphical user interface: This UI takes input via a visual UI output (keyboard and monitor).
  • Form-based user interface: This type of UI is used to enter data into a software program or app by offering a limited selection of choices. For instance, a settings menu on a device is form-based.
  • Menu-driven user interface: This type of UI uses a list of choices to help users navigate a program or website. For instance, ATMs employ menu-driven UIs that are easy for everyone to use.
  • Touch user interface: This type of user interface operates through haptics or touch. Most tablets, smartphones and smart devices that operate using a touch screen employ a haptic input.
  • Voice user interface: This type of interface supports interactions between humans and machines via auditory commands. For example, virtual assistant devices like Apple Siri or Amazon Alexa, talk-to-text, GPS, etc.

User interface design principles

The three key principles for the effective design of user interfaces are: 

  • Place the user in control
  • Reduce the user‚Äôs memory load
  • Make the interface consistent.¬†

However, to achieve an interface that conforms to these principles, an organised design process is required that considers other supporting principles. 

So, let’s break it down, shall we?

  1. Define interaction elements in a way that doesn’t force a user into unnecessary or undesired actions: For example, there is no reason to force a user to remain in spell checking mode if the user desires to do a small text edit along the way. Ideally, a user should be able to enter and exit any mode they choose, with little to no effort.
  2. Reduce users‚Äô memory load: Remember, the more users have to remember, the more error-prone their interaction with the system will be. This is why it’s important to build a user interface that doesn’t tax the user‚Äôs memory.¬†
  3. Enable flexible interaction: Since different users have disparate interaction preferences, choices should always be provided. For instance, software can allow users to interact via keyboard commands, a digitiser pen, mouse movement, or voice recognition commands. 
  4. Allow user interactions to be interruptible and undoable: Whenever involved in a sequence of actions, users should be able to interrupt the sequences to do something else (without losing the work that has been done). Users should also be able to always undo‚ÄĖ any action.
  5. Always streamline user interactions as skill levels advance and allow the interaction to be customised: Users typically find that they execute the same sequence of interactions repeatedly. As such, it can be helpful to design a mechanism that enables an advanced user to customise the interface to facilitate their exact interactions.
  6. Establish meaningful defaults: Your initial set of defaults should always make sense for the average user. However, a user should also be able to specify individual preferences. Furthermore, a reset option should always be available to enable the redefinition of original default values.
  7. Define shortcuts that are intuitive. Whenever mnemonics are exploited to accomplish a system function (for instance, alt-P to trigger the print function), it should always be tied to the action in a manner that is easy to remember (for example, the first letter of the task to be invoked).
  8. Hide technical internals from the casual user. An effective user interface should always move users into the virtual world of the application. Users should not be aware of the operating system’s underworkings, file management functions, or other technical complexities.

    Ideally, the interface should never require users to interact at a complex level that is ‚Äēinside the machine. For example, users should never be required to type OS commands from within application software.
  9. Maintain a level of consistency across a family of applications: A set of apps (or products) should all execute the same design rules so that consistency is maintained for all interactions.
  10. Design for direct interaction with elements that appear on the screen: Users should always feel a sense of control to easily manipulate the objects that are necessary to execute a task in a manner similar to if the object were a physical item. 

Why is user interface important?

A user interface is imperative to meet user expectations and support the effective functioning of any website. 

A well-executed user interface facilitates effective interaction between users and a program, app, or machine via contrasting visuals, clean design, and responsiveness. 

So, when designing a UI, it’s imperative to always consider the user’s expectations in terms of visual aesthetic, accessibility, and ease of use.¬†

This is because an optimal mix of unique visuals and efficient responsiveness can improve a website’s conversion rates, since it anticipates users‚Äô needs, and then satisfies them.

What is the difference between user interface (UI) vs user experience (UX)? 

Often confused with user experience (UX) design, UI design mainly revolves around the surface and overall feel of an application or program. 

This means that UI design principally focuses on enabling designers to build an essential part of the user experience. UX design encompasses the entire spectrum of the user experience. 

Nonetheless, user experience and user interface are highly related and equally important, but their specifics differ. As we noted, UI focuses on the intended look and feel of the site. 

On the other hand, UX spans the entire process of conceptualisation, interface development and delivery. To contextualise this better, let’s breakdown the main differences between UX and UI:

  • UX focuses on the purpose and functionality of the product, while UI is focused on the quality of the user interaction with the product.
  • UX encompasses components like market research and identifying user needs, while UI focuses on artistic design components pertaining to the look and feel of the user’s experience.¬†
  • UX can be referenced in relation to almost any product, while UI mainly pertains to digital products.
  • UX focuses on the overall project management process, from ideation through development and delivery. On the other hand, UI specifically focuses on the design of the finished product.

Read more in our article on ‚ÄúUX Design and UI Design ‚Äď What Is the Difference?‚ÄĚ

Tips and techniques for creating a good user interface

Overall, an effective UI design should always support a positive  UX. Essentially, it should have an attractive appearance, a coherent structure, and be easy for users to understand. 

Furthermore, even after the UI design is perfected, there will be some debugging and fine-tuning required once it goes live. 

To get the best outcomes, ensure to follow these tips to create a compelling user interface:

  • Be mindful of contrast
  • Keep it consistent
  • Keep relevance in mind
  • Know your target user
  • Maintain branding
  • Make it easy on the eyes
  • Design for responsiveness
  • Experiment with design
  • Focus on usability
  • Make it easy overall
  • Always proofread
  • Provide logical next steps
  • Remain predictable


User interface design is like working on a blueprint for a house that is not complete without a representation of doors, windows, or utility connections for water and electricity. 

Remember, interface design primarily focuses on three areas of concern: 

  • The design of interfaces between software components
  • The design of interfaces between software and other non-human producers and consumers of information¬†
  • The design of the interface between a human (the user) and the computer.

While it’s true that user interface design has advanced, one still encounters user interfaces that are inherently difficult to learn, use, confusing, and in many cases, very frustrating. 

Yet, a designer spent time and resources building the interface, and it’s not likely that the designer created these problems purposely.

To avert such instances, user interface design should focus on the study of people as much as technology issues. 

For example, who is the user, and how does the user learn to interact with a new computer system? 

Or how does the user interpret data generated by the system? 

What will the user exactly expect of the system? 

These are some of the many questions that must be asked and answered during user interface design.

Reach us at Netizen Experience for UI/UX design services in Malaysia.

Why Personalisation Matters in User Experience?

User experience (UX) activities primarily revolve around enhancing user satisfaction by improving the usability and accessibility for users interacting with physical or digital products. 

These activities usually include user research, sketching, interaction design, wireframing, visual design, prototyping, user testing, and continuous iterating on designs.

UX design aims to examine every element that shapes this user’s experience. For instance, how the product makes them feel, or how easy it is for them to interact with the user interface and accomplish their desired tasks. 

Fundamentally, the central objective of UX design is to create efficient, easy, relevant, and all-around pleasant experiences for users. And a critical component of achieving this is personalisation.

Why personalise in UX?

The manner in which a user interacts with an app determines their overall impression of it. For instance, is the interaction clumsy and perplexing, or rather fluid and intuitive? Or better yet, does it feel random or logically structured when navigating the app? 

As digital products and services advance, so have the expectations by users for convenience, speed, and predictability. Now more than ever modern users expect products and services to be specifically tailored to them as many currently abandon products, or services that don’t provide any level of personalisation.

So, why is personalisation part and parcel of any UX initiative when building out the user experience of an application.

  • Convenience

Personalisation ensures applications fit seamlessly into a user’s lifestyle or routine in a manner where the user interface is almost an invisible part of the process. Through personalisation, applications become so frictionless that it doesn’t feel like work to the user to use them.

  • Loyalty

Personalised experiences heighten user loyalty and affinity towards a brand. Essentially, as users encounter more relevant content and interactions, they feel understood by the brand. In turn, by reinforcing a sense of identity and connectedness, these emotions help increase the customer lifetime value.

  • Conversion Rate

Personalisation delivers users more relevant and more individualised experiences. In turn, this ultimately translates into an increased conversion rate.

  • Reduce Cognitive Overload

Excessive information and options can act as a cognitive barrier and distract users. Fortunately, personalisation reduces the amount of information and the number of options for users as it guides users through a funnel expressly designed for them and their individual needs.

Types of personalisation

There are two main types of personalisation:

  • Role-based¬†personalisation: Here, users are grouped according to specific characteristics that are well-defined and known in advance.¬†
  • Individualised¬†personalisation: In contrast to role-based personalisation, individualised personalisation involves a computer creating a model of each individual user, then presenting different things to each person. For example, the computer program might infer that a user is pregnant based on her searches and recent purchase history.
Types of personalisation
Photo by fauxels from Pexels

Customisation vs Personalisation

The part of the human brain that focuses its attention is called Reticular Activating System (RAS). It fundamentally works as a filter and sorts out what is essential and what is not. Because this human brain element evolves really quickly, customisation and personalisation are necessary to maintain user attention. 

Despite being often confused; personalisation and customisation have a different impact on the final user output. 

Though they share similarities, their implementation styles demonstrate the considerable differences between them. Nonetheless, their objectives remain the same‚Äď to enhance a product‚Äôs features and content as per user requirements.¬†

So, what are the key differences between personalisation and customisation?

Personalisation is performed by the system being utilised. Here, a system is set up to identify users and deliver to them tailored content and functionality that matches their roles. 

Personalisation essentially delivers useful content after analysing users’ characteristics, behaviours and attributes, down to the individual level‚ÄĒfor example, Amazon‚Äôs suggestions based on past browsing and purchase history.

Customisation is performed by the user. Here, a system enables users to make preferred changes to an experience to meet their particular needs and priorities. For example, configuring layouts, content, or even system functionality. 

Fundamentally, customisation enables users to get precisely what they want while also giving them the sense of control to filter unattractive content. On the downside, many users don’t know what they need when customising, or aren’t interested in doing the work required to alter user interfaces to match their preferences.

UX personalisation tips

User touchpoints

Businesses need to understand how customers view them across all touchpoints to connect with the user on an emotional level consistently across different touchpoints. 

As more customer interaction points emerge across channels and devices, brands need to manage the entire customer journey, not only individual touchpoints. This is key to delivering a consistent experience across all channels.

Test and Repeat

Testing is critical to understanding whether your personalisation initiative is ready to drive sales and brand engagement. 

Testing helps to ensure that your app personalisation initiative feels seamless and frictionless on any user’s device of preference, as well as clear on what the objective is. If users are continually feeling confused, frustrated, or even consider another option, then the experience is ruined. 

User Research

User research helps you understand if your product actually needs personalisation. If yes, then where it should be applied, and how much is enough.

User research also allows business owners to understand what matters to users, what their limits are in terms of over-use. And if what they seek to do will be relevant to various audiences.

Remember, personalisation isn’t the silver bullet for every product, application, audience, or interaction. So, user research helps streamline where and how it can be applied most effectively.


Data lies at the heart of any personalisation initiative. Generally, it demands a deep understanding of users’ needs and a solid framework for tracking and measuring user behaviour. 

Typically, brands use approaches that combine qualitative research to understand the needs and motivations of users, while collecting objective data about their context and online behaviour.

Because users nowadays are constantly connected across a myriad of devices, it’s imperative for businesses to exploit data science techniques to provide coherent interactions and intuitive user experiences via every channel.¬†

For example, real-time responses and transactions with minimal effort, or even access to compelling experiences, personalised for them specifically. 

Essentially, the only way to achieve these seamless interactions is via data-driven strategies that target audiences with relevant, timely content to trigger conversions and interest. 

Creativity and Imagination

In theory, brands selling directly to consumers potentially have access to the same data as their competitors. So, businesses can see favourable outcomes with personalisation by creatively connecting the dots that user data provides with logic, imagination, and creativity.

Image by ElisaRiva from Pixabay


Personalisation is all about context. In essence, highly effective brands deliver the right content, at the right time, for the right users. Fundamentally, contextualised and personalised experiences mainly involve knowing why personalisation is important, and how it could help your users. 

Furthermore, personalisation is now more commonplace as most users are currently educated, informed, and more accepting of personalisation. Hence, why it’s more imperative for brands to gather contextual data and segment users into specific target areas.¬†

Remember, every user is unique, and what some users might find uncomfortable, others will find helpful or fun. 

Personalised User Experience examples and applications

Machine learning

Currently, machine learning has taken modern-day personalisation to a whole new level. Machine learning and natural language processing mechanisms intelligently understand the sentiment and story behind users’ interactions and behaviour while continuously adapting to contextual factors.

 Furthermore, machines can easily make sense of the chunks of user data. For example, they can draw actionable conclusions about each individual person, like identifying a user’s persona, attributes, intent, or stage in the customer journey. 

This allows companies to accomplish real-time, one-to-one personalisation (individualisation) while interacting with their customers.

Contextual Messaging

Contextual messaging is a personalisation approach that allows businesses to customise messages to suit different users based on characteristics like location, customer behaviour, or even device type. 

Essentially, contextual messaging allows brands to deliver content of much higher relevance to users, based on their exact location and behaviour at the moment of interaction.

Predictive Recommendation

Existing recommendation engines accurately predict products a person might find interesting by exploiting relevant purchase behaviour data from other users from the same target group. 

For example, if you‚Äôve ever browsed anything on an online retail store, you have probably come across phrases like ‚ÄúIf you liked this, you might also like..‚ÄĚ or ‚ÄúOther customers also purchased‚Ķ‚ÄĚ This is a clear example of predictive recommendation as a form of personalisation.


user experience design
Photo by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

All things considered, user experience design aims to create products that deliver meaningful and relevant experiences to users. Since personalisation is a subset of user experience design, it also includes aspects of branding, design, usability, and function.

To achieve effective personalisation, it is imperative to critically understand your target audience through research, prototyping, and conduct extensive usability testing. Remember, the central objective is to improve customer satisfaction, loyalty, ease of use, and usability when interacting with a product or service.

Personalisation does this by delivering content and functionality that matches particular user needs or interests‚Äď with no effort from the targeted users.¬†

Essentially, the system should be able to profile users, then adjust the user interface according to their profile.

A Complete Guide to Mobile Responsive Design

Web development has progressed by leaps and bounds since the beginning of the World Wide Web. In the early days, website designers did not need to worry much about how their sites appeared to different clients. 

This was because most users would access websites from standard desktop computers with similar screen resolution ranges.

However, today web technologies are upgrading exponentially as different devices are being used and developed to access the internet. 

As a result, websites currently being developed and designed by web programmers are viewed and accessed by a large number of devices with disparate screen resolutions, orientations and views.

For instance, modern users can access the same website from desktop computers, laptops, iPhones, iPads, Notebooks, feed readers, and even smart TVs. Essentially, each platform presents the same page, with a unique feel from the others, depending on its size and viewing capabilities.

What is mobile responsive design?

Mobile Responsive design is a set of techniques and technologies that enable website creators to design websites that provide a desirable viewing experience for different device types.

In principle, mobile responsive design ensures that websites can automatically reshape themselves depending on various screen sizes, orientations, and resolutions. From the largest devices like smart TVs to the smallest ones like mobile devices.

Furthermore, mobile responsive design ensures a seamless flow of content based on the amount of device display space available. This helps to maximise brand impact while not dictating the development of a completely different site, or set of sites to accommodate new device makers that may come up with in the future.

Benefits of a responsive site

SEO friendliness

For the longest time, Google has prioritised responsive websites as most of its traffic comes from multiple mobile devices with dissimilar screen sizes. The search engine took this prioritisation further when they introduced a “Mobile-Friendly” label for sites that are responsive.

Generally, websites that are responsive typically emerge on the top of smartphone’s search results queries. This means that mobile responsiveness is a critical ranking factor for Google as they actually penalise sites that aren’t mobile responsive.

SEO friendliness
Image by Diego Vel√°zquez from Pixabay

Reduced bounce rate

Bounce rate is a metric to represent the proportion of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the website after seeing only one page. In practice, the goal of a responsive website is to ensure that visitors with different devices stay longer on the website. 

A responsive website also makes it effortless for visitors to be more willing to click through and explore other pages on your website. This, in turn, decreases your bounce rate.

Better user experience

A responsive website results in a better overall quality of user experience. Whenever users find it challenging to navigate, or utilise your website because they’re forced to pinch and zoom-in continuously, they become frustrated. 

However, if your site scales and reacts to the changes in screen size adaptively, visitors won’t have issues accessing menus, links, buttons or forms. 

Increased mobile traffic

Statistics show that nearly 55% of all global web traffic emerged from mobile devices in 2021. With this statistic, it is clear that one cannot afford to compromise with responsive web design. 

To substantiate this claim, consider examining just how many of your visitors come from phones, and how much time they spend on your site. Then subsequently, implement responsive design and critically compare the two statistics. 

Afterwards, once your website adjusts to the viewport width, you will notice a significant amount of traffic increase from mobile devices.

More conversions

As we alluded to earlier, the more time users spend on your site, the lower the bounce rate. Responsive sites improve the user experience of your traffic, and thus help build good relationships and trust with users. 

This optimal user experience and confidence results in better conversion rates, for newsletter subscriptions, product purchases, or even bookings. 

Less loading time

Responsive websites load faster on all devices. However, for smartphones and tablets, they load fastest. Because of fluid grids and responsive images, responsive websites take a lot less time to load pages. And in turn, sites that load faster enjoy more conversions. For every second delay in mobile page load, conversions can fall by up to 20%.

loading time
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Easy maintenance

There was a time when programmers were required to maintain two separate websites: one for desktops and another for mobiles. Consequently, this dictated maintaining two sites, which necessitated more resources. 

With a responsive website, this effort is dramatically reduced as it takes less time to maintain and build a website. As such, companies can focus on more important tasks such as customers service, A/B testing, marketing, product, and content development. 

How to achieve a mobile responsive website design?

Responsive websites maintain adaptive design to respond accordingly to visitors’ devices or technology. However, en route to a functional responsive website, there are critical steps one must follow.


This step involves understanding user objectives on different devices. In the past, many assumed that most mobile users were task-driven, for example, desiring to order a meal, or book a restaurant table quickly.

However, nowadays, users on any mobile device are as likely to leisurely browse the Internet before completing a task quickly. Basically, once you carefully understand user objectives, you can easily define and prioritise content for your site, regardless of the device a visitor is employing.

Scoping can help you make technical considerations regarding functionality and content. For example, if a complicated functionality only works on particular devices. 

Though a responsive site only changes the CSS depending on the width, if it contains complex elements that rely heavily on JavaScript. Then they may not translate well on smaller devices, and it could be worth hiding these.

User Research

User research is a highly critical stage in the design process. This means that it’s worth a little extra consideration to research people who will be employing different devices. 

Exploratory research can help extrapolate your assumptions on how different users may want to use your website on various devices. This, in turn, will enable you to decide what the priorities are for your project.


A wireframe is fundamentally the skeleton of a web page assembled using basic shapes, lines, colours, and styles. The central objective of a wireframe is to guide the design of a layout conducive to the content placement. 

At the same time, wireframing helps developers to figure out functionality and navigation problems in an easily adjustable format. 

For years web designers wireframed to fit computer screens. However, times have changed where wireframing now takes a mobile-first approach. This approach enables webmasters to prioritise some elements on the site when it is shown on a smaller screen.

Wireframing has an advanced element that involves responsive wireframes. Responsive wireframes are simple web pages built with HTML and CSS, that employ responsive web design principles to illustrate the layouts. 

Responsive wireframes are very dynamic and require less effort to introduce changes. To introduce a change, all that’s required is a source code update of a page, then a page reloads in the browser.

Generally, wireframes are typically not in colour since they need to focus on the relationship of the various UI elements, not on the actual design. The web designer is the one to work on the colour and shapes once the wireframe has been fully established. 

In summary, building a wireframe isn’t an exact science, and requires extensive iterations and numerous revisions to be performed. Because of this, it’s imperative to pay attention to the logic behind the wireframe layout to be able to see the rationale of your responsive design.

Photo by Sahand Babali on Unsplash


Think about keeping your styles more straightforward for your mobile version. The great thing about using CSS3 is you don’t need many images to achieve great styled effects.¬†

However, these still take some time to load. Also, carefully think through your font sizes to ensure that they are readable on each device.

Building the site

Once you have scoped, researched and wireframed your design, it’s time to build your website. As you commence development, here are a few considerations:¬†

  • Constant communication: Website projects always go smoother when teammates speak to each other. This means that both the designer and developer need to have clear channels that enable them to discuss design problems and solutions as soon as they turn up.
  • Image size impact: Your responsive website will need to load full-size images even if the CSS scales them down. So, try to keep your image sizes as low as possible.
    On the positive side, you can employ some JavaScript scripts/workarounds to make the site run smoother. However, to avoid any degradation in performance, do ensure to load the smallest high-quality image size.
  • Use advanced CSS: It‚Äôs mission-critical to use advanced CSS styles as they allow site styles to degrade as the browser capability does. Furthermore, advanced CSS enables you to keep site loading times low.

User testing of the website

Test, test, and test more! User testing starts as soon as you create your first wireframe. Generally, wireframe testing should occur on the relevant devices straight away. This will allow you to know early on if your wireframe is really functional for your needs. 

Also, after building, user test early to identify any inherent issues, or elements of the wireframe that were not implemented appropriately. 

Features of a responsive design

Fluid grid

Previously most websites were laid out based on a metric called pixels. However, now modern designers employ a fluid grid. A fluid grid essentially sizes the elements of your website proportionally, instead of making them one specific size. 

This consequently makes it easy to size things for different screens as the elements respond to the size of the grid(screen), not the size set in pixels. 

A fluid grid ensures that the website design is flexible and scalable as elements will maintain consistent spacing and proportion‚Äď adjusting to specific screen widths based on percentages.

Flexible images & text

A responsive design isn’t limited to dynamically changing the page layouts only. Another critical element of responsiveness is the ability for images to automatically resize proportionally. 

Flexible text and images can adjust within a site layout width, according to the content hierarchy set with the CSS (stylesheet). Thus possessing the ability to scale, crop, or disappear depending on the content that is deemed essential to the mobile experience.

With a flexible design, text can be wrapped in the available space, and font size can be increased on smaller devices to make it more legible. However, flexible images can sometimes prove challenging due to load times on smaller device browsers. 

Responsive layouts

With responsive layouts, webpages are no longer left to their own devices. Responsive layouts attempt to adjust site layouts to a great variety of screen environments. 

Instead of working with the “most common” display dimensions and “average” users, a responsive¬†layout adapts to disparate viewing conditions and user requirements.¬†

In addition, by integrating alternate layouts tuned to each resolution range, developers can enhance the overall viewing experience.

Media queries

Media queries enable designers to build multiple layouts with just HTML documents. Media queries also allow designers to choose appropriate style sheets based on different criteria like the size of a browser, or screen resolution. 

So, rather than look at a device type, it considers its implemented capabilities. Generally, working with media queries allows designers to alter much more than the simple placement of an image. For instance, media queries enable designers to fine-tune as pages resize themselves. 

Furthermore, designers can flexibly increase the target area for links on smaller screens, or show or hide elements to ensure that navigation is more prominent. 

Better yet, media queries can be employed to even apply responsive typesetting to optimise the reading experience for the display providing it.

Responsive design examples 


GitHub’s unique website offers a coherent and consistent experience across every device with commendable attributes like:

  • Its signup form is a central focus, as it also presents only a call-to-action button on mobile. Furthermore, users must click the call to action to trigger the form.¬†
  • When transitioning from desktop to tablet devices, the field above the fold transforms from a two-column layout to a single-column layout. This occurs with the copy above the signup form rather than beside it.
  • GitHub hides its search bar and menu behind a hamburger icon on handheld devices. This practice helps reduce clutter on mobile devices, where space is typically limited.


Shopify offers a fluid user experience across all devices as it constitutes only a call-to-action button, and illustrations change between desktop to mobile devices. On PC and tablet, its call-to-action button is from the right of the form field. However, on mobile devices, it’s beneath.

Illustrations are to the right of the copy on PCs and tablets, whereas they are placed beneath the copy on mobile devices. Impressively, despite employing image carousels to show off their customers, Shopify has managed its page load speed below five seconds.

Shopify’s responsive mobile view. Image


The Slack website is well known for its intentionality and simplicity. This is demonstrated by its responsive design that consists of a flexible grid that easily adapts to viewports of all sizes and shapes. 

For instance, while customer logos are visually presented in 1 horizontal line on a desktop view. As 

Slack is using a flexible container whereby at certain screen breakpoints, the logos will automatically wrap and stack on top of each other to optimise for smaller screen views.

Slack’s responsive mobile view. Image Credit:


Because internet devices and technologies are changing fast, there is a great need to continue adapting responsive web designs. Responsive design ensures that websites work across a diverse range of device and monitor types, browser and pixel depth differences. 

The main advantage to this approach is simple: design once, deploy everywhere.

As such, companies don’t need multiple versions of one website for different devices. This consequently delivers a more unified and better experience for users while reducing redundancy, simplifying development and maintenance processes for web designers.

Reach out to us at Netizen Experience if you’re planning on a new responsive website or are in need to change your current one.

Different Types of Usability Testing Methods

Usability testing involves different techniques to ensure that users of a system can execute intended tasks efficiently, effectively, and satisfactorily. 

In usability testing, prospective users perform tasks typical of a user group in an ordinary environment with a website, system, or physical product.

Over time, it has evolved from experimental psychology methods to less controlled and more qualitative tests. 

Quantitative vs Qualitative Usability Testing

The main differences between quantitative and qualitative testing lie in how the data is collected. Generally, usability testing involves two types of data: qualitative and quantitative.

It is, therefore, vital to understand the distinctions between the two and how to employ each appropriately. The end goal is to gain valuable insights; however, their approach varies.

With qualitative testing, data about behaviours and attitudes are directly collected by critically observing what users do and how they react to a product. 

In comparison, quantitative testing accumulates data about users’ behaviours and attitudes indirectly. For instance, quantitative data is typically recorded automatically while participants complete the tasks.

Qualitative usability data examples range from product reviews, user comments, descriptions of the issues experienced, facial expressions, and preferences, etc.

On the other hand, quantitative data typically constitutes statistical data that is quantifiable in numerical terms. For example, how long it took for someone to complete a task, the percentage of a group that clicked a section of a design, etc.

Moderated vs Unmoderated Usability Testing

Moderated usability testing is administered in-person or remotely by a trained moderator. The moderator introduces the test to participants, responds to their queries, and asks follow-up questions. On the other hand, unmoderated usability testing is performed without direct supervision.

Moderated testing typically produces in-depth results because of the direct interaction between moderator and test participants. Moderator is able to probe and follow up with questions to further uncover the underlying motivation or reasons for the participant’s actions.

However, it can be considerably more expensive to organise and run. Conversely, unmoderated testing is cheaper. However, participant answers can provide superficial answers at times. 

Moderated usability testing
Photo by UX Indonesia on Unsplash

Explorative vs Comparative Usability Testing

Explorative usability testing is open-ended and involves participants being asked to brainstorm, give opinions, and freely express ideas and concepts. 

The information is usually collected in early product development to help researchers pinpoint market gaps, identify potential new features, and iterate new ideas.

Comparative usability testing involves asking users to choose between solutions they prefer to compare a website or app with its primary competitors.

Usability Testing Methods

1. Guerrilla testing 

Guerrilla testing is arguably the simplest usability testing method. Essentially, guerrilla testing is as simple as going to a public place like a café and asking people about their thoughts on a prototype. 

Basically, test participants are chosen randomly and asked to perform quick tasks, often in exchange for a small gift (like a free coffee). It’s a low-cost approach that works best in the early stages of product development.

guerrilla testing

2. Lab usability testing

Lab usability testing needs a trained moderator and a suitable place for testing.

This test approach is suitable when you need in-depth information on how real users interact with a product, and the issues they may face. 

This method enables you to collect comprehensive and qualitative information. However, it can be expensive to organise and execute since it requires a controlled environment, hiring of test participants and trained moderators. 

3. Contextual inquiry

This usability testing method helps a product team obtain information about the user experience from the real users. This method is perfect for attaining rich information about users‚ÄĒ for example, their workspace, personal preferences, and habits.

In this approach, users are first asked a specific set of questions about their experience with a product. Subsequently, they are then critically observed and questioned while working within their own environments. For example, a finance clerk is observed on how she use the new accounting software at her office where she usually works. 

4. Session recording

Session recording is a usability testing method that involves recording the actions anonymised users take while they interact with a website. 

Session recording data helps website owners to understand features that are the most interesting for the users through heatmap analysis. It even brings to light interaction problems users might face while they interact with the website.

Session recording
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5. Card Sorting

Card sorting is a usability testing process where participants demonstrate how they expect a website to look in terms of navigation. This testing method helps UX designers and UX researchers to discover whether their navigational structure matches what users expect. 

7. A/B Testing

This usability testing method typically involves critically comparing two versions of an application or website against each other to assess discrepancies. Usually, product managers use statistical analysis to fully determine which of the two versions works better.

AB Testing
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The article is a part of our comprehensive guide on ‚ÄúUsability testing‚ÄĚ.

10 Usability Testing Tools to Try in 2022

Choosing an appropriate usability testing tool is vital to executing an effective user experience. Typically, the choice of tool depends on the type of usability testing method you’ll employ.

It is true that you can run usability testing without a specialised tool, for example, when doing qualitative, in-person usability testing. However, if you are planning remote usability testing sessions, or seeking to collect quantitative data, then a dedicated tool is necessary.

What are usability testing tools?

Usability testing tools are dedicated solutions that essentially streamline usability testing activities. These solutions can be utilised to gather actionable insights into how prospective users might perceive and experience your product. 

For example, they can be used to put a prototype or website in front of real users. Thus, enabling website owners to analyse how users accomplish a given task or to identify possible frustration points. 

Read our article on ‚ÄúHow to conduct usability testing for websites?‚ÄĚ

Generally, usability testing tools smoothen the process of accessing and tracking users’ feedback. They also help with the analysis of that feedback to enable product owners to make data-informed decisions and deliver the best user experience.

Top 10 Usability Testing Tools 

1. Maze

Maze is a rapid user testing platform for collecting both qualitative and quantitative usability data. This platform seamlessly integrates directly with Adobe XD, Marvel, Sketch Figma, InVision. 

Furthermore, Maze allows users to create and run in-depth usability tests, then share those tests with testers via a link. Maze includes varied features like task analysis, guerrilla testing, multiple path analysis, heatmaps, A/B testing, and wireframe testing. 

Maze also generates an instant usability test report for each test that users can share with anyone via a link. 

This reporting functionality presents usability testing results like completion rates, misclick rates, and time spent. Additionally, Maze allows users to run research surveys and test their information architecture using Card Sorts and Tree Tests.

2. Lookback

This is a user experience (UX) screen recording tool for UX designers and product managers who seek to analyse how users interact with their applications. 

Lookback’s testing capabilities enable designers to view what users see and get their reactions in real-time. This is either recorded or in-person. 

For instance, if you set up a remote test, participants shall receive a link to download your app. Then they get started with a live session or self-test, and you can even communicate directly with them. Subsequently, user recordings automatically appear in a dashboard where one can organise them into groups and create highlights. 


3. Userlytics

As one of the most popular usability testing tools in the market, Userlytics a UX research service that offers picture-in-picture user recording (webcam view + screen and audio recording). 

It allows webmasters to go in-depth with the criteria and traits they seek from participants. Userlytics also enables users to create screening questions that disqualify users from the study. The platform goes deep into segmentation for the studies, thus rendering more accurate results.

Furthermore, Userlytics also offers advanced quantitative tools like card sorting and tree testing that can be integrated with one’s qualitative usability tests.

4. Crazy Egg

Crazyegg¬†is a click-based user experience tool with features like ‚ÄėHeatmap‚Äô logs that show where each visitor clicked on your webpage. Or even a ‘scroll map’ that shows how far down the page each visitor usually scrolls.¬†

It also offers an overlay feature that breaks down the number of clicks on each page element. It also presents detailed insights about visitor sources, search terms, and other components.

5. Optimizely

Optimizely is a popular A/B Testing platform that enables users to track visits and conversions. The tool boasts a range of features like mobile website testing, geotargeting, cross-browser testing, visitor segmentation and multivariate testing.


6. Qualaroo

The Qualaroo usability testing tool prompts users to answer targeted questions and surveys in real-time on test sites. This unique tool has the ability to integrate with other tools, like Salesforce and Marketo. 

It also has exit surveys that webmasters can utilise to discover why site visitors don‚Äôt convert. Additionally, it has a ‚ÄėSkip logic‚Äô capability to analyse visitors’ responses before targeting them with a custom follow-up question.

7. Feedback Army 

This user testing tool utilises Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service to solicit user responses. Its three-step process is quicker than setting up your own Mechanical Turk¬†test.¬†

It basically involves:

  • Uploading the URL of the page that you seek to¬†test.
  • Setting three to six questions about the page.
  • Waiting for your ten responses to arrive.

8. Userzoom Go

Userzoom Go is a comprehensive user research system that features a dedicated testing platform, recruiting services, and automated reporting capabilities. 

Essentially, it focuses on enabling study organisers to focus on the tasks and questions while it handles it recruits, sets up, and carries out the tests. 

userzoom go

9. Loop11

The Loop11  usability testing tool focuses on unmoderated remote tests. It offers a set of tools like A/B testing, testing of live websites or prototypes, heat maps and clickstream analysis. 

Because Loop11 doesn’t maintain an active participant database, users are required to bring their own participants.

10. HotJar

HotJar offers heatmaps as its key feature. Its data visualisation has earned it positive reviews with users as it presents data in an easy manner to draw actionable insights. 

Furthermore, its heatmaps, move maps and scroll maps can be easily downloaded with one click. It also offers a recording feature for users to see the exact behaviour of participants. Additionally, it provides an option to create surveys easily.

The article is a part of our comprehensive guide on ‚ÄúUsability testing‚ÄĚ.

How to Conduct Usability Testing for Mobile Apps?

During usability testing, the moderator typically collect qualitative data like behavioural observations and participant comments. UX Researchers would also sometimes collect quantitative data like task times and success rates. 

By critically analysing this data, the UX researcher seek to identify usability problems within a mobile application or website. 

In today’s blog post, we shall delve into usability testing for mobile applications and its underworkings.

What is mobile usability testing? 

Mobile usability testing is essentially usability testing performed on mobile products and applications running on mobile platforms. 

This usability testing exercise attempts to determine how end users might perceive a mobile app or product, either in a usability laboratory or in a field setting.

Is mobile app usability testing important? 

Mobile app usability tests seek to observe test-subject users while utilising a specific app. The core purpose is to measure the application’s user-friendliness to better support a brand’s key commercial objectives.

Mobile usability testing also ensures an app adds value to a business, thus meeting the expectations of the final users. 

Generally, ensuring good usability for mobile apps helps improve customer satisfaction, decrease time spent on customer support, and increase overall sales and revenue.

Furthermore, a well-tested and improved application attracts visitors’ attention and helps set up trust and cooperation between the app owner and the app‚Äôs potential users.

customer satisfaction
Image by Click on ūüĎćūüŹľūüĎćūüŹľ, consider ‚ėē Thank you! ūü§ó from Pixabay

How to run effective usability testing for mobile apps

Step 1: Define objectives

Before commencing any usability testing exercise, you should set your objectives and goals straight. In essence, you should clearly define the questions you want to answer with the usability test. Or even clarify the hypothesis you want to test with the usability test.

As you define the test’s objectives, ensure you explore these important areas:

  • The app‚Äôs roadmap (for example if something is important to be tested or it will already be removed in the next update)
  • The potential impact of the test
  • Existing users and markets for whom the app is targeted
  • The app‚Äôs existing competitors
  • Timing and scope

Step 2: Design the tasks

Once the test objectives have been defined, you then need to set the tasks of the usability test. Tasks should be one sentence long and consist of the interactions to be performed by the test users, for example:

  • Register an account
  • Upload a photo
  • Accept a friend request
  • Sign into an account

However, rather than directly asking the test user to execute a task, tasks should be converted into task scenarios. These provide more context to participants about why they are doing the task. And thus, facilitate more natural interactions similar to what an ordinary user will perform with your app.

Consequently, task scenarios that are defined should always be:

  • Realistic, actionable and without any obvious clues about how to perform the steps.
  • Sequentially ordered to ensure a smooth flow of the¬†test¬†session.
  • Tied to one or more objectives.

 Step 3:  Prepare the usability test documents

When conducting usability testing for mobile apps, there are several documents you typically require. For example: 

  • Consent forms (for minors and even adults)
  • Post-test¬†questionnaire¬†

Ensure these documents are well prepared to suit your user group and their nuances.

Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

Step 4: Prepare the test participants

Mobile usability testing typically involves real users undertaking realistic tasks that the mobile app is intended to achieve. 

As you prepare to test with real users, there are several considerations one can take when vetting participants: 

  • Choose users who are a fair representation of the target audience.¬†¬†
  • Users own a mobile device with the exact operating system (including the appropriate version/s) that is being targeted.
  • Participants must be available at the time, place, frequency of the intended¬†usability¬†tests.
  • Users must agree to the compensation terms that you‚Äôre offering (if any)
  • Participants must be ready to sign a¬†usability¬†test¬†participation consent form

Step 5: Choose a mobile application usability testing methodology

Principally, there are two main methods for conducting usability testing of mobile applications. These are:

  1. Laboratory-based usability testing
  2. Remote usability testing

In this step, weigh the pros and cons of each approach and then pick one that will fit your needs. 

Step 6: Reporting the results of the usability test

After collecting your usability test data, the next step is to compile, organise and analyse it to draw meaningful conclusions. 

The data can be split between quantitative and quantitative data. For instance, quantitative data encompass completion rates, task times, success rates, satisfaction ratings and error rates. 

Or qualitative data like problems experienced, answers provided in the questionnaire, post-test interviews and debriefing sessions.

This step basically involves careful analysing notes on recordings, transcripts, and other information you might have gathered. It then moves on to presenting it in a way that delivers actionable recommendations.


Usability testing is vital to the success of mobile apps. Mobile apps that users perceive as easy to learn, user-friendly and less time-consuming tend to be more profitable and popular. 

Furthermore, usability testing should occur on a regular and scheduled basis, especially when introducing new design features, or updates to improve functionality.

The article is a part of our comprehensive guide on ‚ÄúUsability testing‚ÄĚ.

Field Studies vs Usability Testing: Which Is Better?

Usability is essentially the measurement of a product’s usefulness from the users’ perspective. In principle, usability can be segmented into three fundamental elements: efficiency, effectiveness, and user satisfaction. 

As a research methodology, the lack of usability testing during the development of a product often leads to user dissatisfaction and rejection. Another research methodology that serves a similar purpose of ensuring product utility is a field study. 

What is the difference between field studies and usability testing?

Field study encompasses all studies of users in their natural environments (usually conducted in the user’s context and location as opposed to your office/lab). 

For example, homes, workplaces, neighbourhoods, parks, streets, and shops. Essentially, localities and areas in which one’s product might eventually be utilised are the best places to conduct these studies. 

On the other hand, usability testing evaluates a product by directly testing it with representative users. 

During a usability test, participants attempt to complete typical tasks while testers/observers watch, listen and take notes. 

Overall, the core goal of usability testing is to identify usability problems, collect qualitative and quantitative data to determine the participant’s satisfaction with the product.

Field testing
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

When to choose a field study? 

Field studies deliver a complete, unbiased picture of what prospective users actually do with a product. They provide context, especially if a product is designed to function in a particular context. 

In such instances, conventional lab testing might not give you accurate results. So, when your usability research cannot fit in a lab, you may need to carry these out. 

Furthermore, field study is well suited for practical products. For instance, if a device is engineered to function as a core component of the navigational system of an oil tanker. Then visiting the oil tanker for final testing makes sense. 

Some of the examples of field studies include user’s office/home visit, ethnographic research, and contextual inquiry. 

How to conduct a field study? 

1. Preliminary planning 

This period involves working with participants. You don’t necessarily require a specific set of research questions but defined study topics. Field studies are strictly observational, as researchers aim to be as unobtrusive as possible.¬†

2. Direct observation

This part of a field study involves watching users critically observe how they behave and why. Ideally, the test subjects do not care that you’re watching, and act exactly as if you are not there. 

3. Participant observation

Here, the researcher can join the group of people being studied and records data as field notes or diary entries, after finishing observations for the day.

Benefits of field studies in UX design

Field studies enable you to understand your users in-depth, under realistic conditions. Field studies also allow you to discover social defects and understand environmental factors before releasing products.

Generally, field study advantages can be summarised as:

  1. It yields highly detailed data.
  2. It emphasises the role and relevance of social context.
  3. It can help uncover social facts that may not be immediately obvious or that research participants may be unaware of.
Ux design
Image by Firmbee from Pixabay

Potential pitfalls of field studies in UX design 

The key disadvantage of field studies is their expense. Furthermore, most field studies can’t usually be automated or sped up with technology. This is because they typically rely on old-fashioned theories of patience and observation.¬†

Additionally, if your study design requires a large number of observers, then a field study might not be ideal. Similarly, if your product is to be used in rare, unpredictable circumstances (for example, first-responder mobilisation after an earthquake), then you can’t do a field study.

Further, if your study involves collecting sensitive, confidential information, you might require the more controllable circumstances of a user research lab.

When to choose usability testing?

Usability testing is ideal when: 

  • Seeking to uncover any issues within your design, workflow, or process.
  • Validating if a design works for participants ‚Äď especially if there is debate on a project team about how something is ‚Äėutilised by users‚Äô.
  • Seeking insights into both good and poor issues with an interface.
  • Seeking different perspectives and mental models on an interface.

You can choose to conduct usability testing:

  • Before significant design decisions are made.
  • In high-risk, low-certainty situations.
  • When it’s time to evaluate and iterate.
  • After product launch.

Benefits of usability testing in UX Design

  • Improved user experience and the product utility.
  • Discovery of hidden usability issues.
  • It ensures that the application‚Äôs functionality matches the requirements.
  • It identifies changes required to improve user performance and satisfaction.
  • Helps to analyse product performance to determine if it meets the defined usability objectives.

Disadvantages of usability testing in UX design

  • There is sometimes uncertainty about what to test
  • There can be testing fatigue
  • There is sometimes too much feedback gathered

Field Studies vs Usability Testing Cost

Field studies are expensive and can be highly time-consuming. This is so because of the need to travel, the number of hours researchers are required to commit, and the complex analysis that open-ended, unstructured research dictates.

On the other hand, usability tests are relatively inexpensive and easy to conduct. However, some of these can be conducted in a specially designed laboratory, enabling facilitators to interact with, and observe users. Such tests can involve some cost, but they will still be cheaper than field testing.


In summary, usability testing is an inexpensive means of gathering valuable feedback from representative users. 

In contrast, field studies allow user researchers to gain first-hand experience and knowledge about the users and the processes they study.

The article is a part of our comprehensive guide on ‚ÄúUsability testing‚ÄĚ.

6 Types of Survey Respondents to Be Cautious About

A survey is essentially a research methodology employed to collect data from a predefined group of respondents to gain insights into specific topics of interest.

For the most part, survey research aims to assess a specific market or user needs or determine whether or not particular business objectives have been met. This helps to establish baselines against which future comparisons can be made.

However, a vital ingredient that is central to the success of any survey research is appropriate respondents recruitment in order to get representative respondents for a target market. 

types of Survey Respondents

Who are survey respondents?

A survey respondent is essentially any individual who answers a survey distributed via email, mobile apps, websites, QR codes, or social media. 

Survey respondents are typically sought from samples of the population. However, it’s important to point out that surveys only provide estimates for the true population. Not exact measurements!

Why are survey respondents needed for user research?

Survey respondents can make or break a user research project. The data provided from respondents generate a number of variables that can be actionably studied. For example, the right sample size allows researchers to make fair generalisations. However, a small sample size limits their ability to identify patterns and spot trends.

As a result, finding the right survey respondents is mission-critical to the success of your survey. However, this is sometimes difficult to do. 

Survey respondents to watch out for

Generally speaking, survey respondents come in multiple forms, shapes, and sizes. This means that sometimes there are bad apples, good ones, and some in between. 

Consequently, since survey respondents aren’t one and the same, researchers have to be cautious of how their disparities might impact survey results. Here are some notable respondent types to look out for. 

Survey respondents to watch out
Image by Andreas Breitling from Pixabay

Speedy respondents

Speedsters move too fast through a survey to provide thoughtful and honest answers. In all honesty, speedsters aren’t really motivated and only aim to complete a survey to receive their incentive. 

Fortunately, parameters around the length of time a respondent is required to spend on a question typically discourage this type of respondent. 


Sometimes called straighteners, such respondents can go one of two ways. Overly positive flatliners frequently select top box answers like ‚Äústrongly agree‚ÄĚ.

On the other hand, negative flatliners typically choose bottom box answers like ‚Äústrongly disagree.‚ÄĚ All in all, flatliners respondents typically have some sort of unwanted acquiescence bias that makes them respond in such a way.¬†


Cheaters are typically both real respondents and fake ones. Fake ones come in the form of software bots that gain access to online surveys to redeem the rewards. This is without any human having to take the actual survey.

On the other hand, real cheater respondents create multiple accounts to take the same study more than once. Or attempt to take the same study as many times as they possibly can.

To address this, most panels and platforms typically deploy technology parameters to identify and remove bots. Or simply check that respondents aren’t coming from the same IP address in multiple instances. 

Additionally, thoroughly reading through open ends as well as double-checking contact information can help catch cheaters that may have fluked through.


Posers are the hardest low-quality respondents to identify. Poser respondents, unfortunately, don’t give honest feedback. In some instances, they choose to follow group discussions because of social desirability bias. 

This means they don’t provide their true thoughts or feelings for fear of being different from the crowd. Or even fear of being different from what they assume the survey provider wants to hear.


Professionals are survey respondents who are usually categorised as good. These survey takers frequently take different studies and treat them as a job. 

However, sometimes their consistent participation can at times lead to biased results. Especially if they are repeating studies on similar subjects. 

To avoid this, it is important to screen professionals by querying if they have recently taken a survey. Especially if it‚Äôs specific to the subject on which you’re conducting research. Then terminate them if they have.

Confused Rule Breakers

Such survey respondents have a difficult time following instructions. Some may intentionally break survey rules, while others could be misinterpreting questions. 

To avoid them, consider performing quality checks by using different screening questions. 

These would include questions that ensure that the respondents belong to the right category and also requires them to read the question before choosing the answer. 

Let us understand this with the following example:

Screening questions can be of two types: Behavioural and industry-specific. 

For the former, the questions include discussing certain behavioural aspects of the respondents (while also ensuring that they read the question and not just answer in yes/no).

Photo by kike vega on Unsplash

Say, for example, you’re selecting respondents for an exercising app and have multiple questions, some of which could look like these:

 How often do you exercise?

  • Once a week
  • Thrice a week
  • More than 45 minutes every day
  • Rarely

What is your preferred exercise type?

  • Aerobics
  • Swimming
  • Gym¬†
  • Yoga
  • Running/Jogging
  • None

Such questions naturally help you to eliminate the respondents who choose the answers ‚Äúrarely‚ÄĚ/ ‚Äúnone‚ÄĚ as those who would not be using your app. These are, therefore, not the best-qualified respondents to provide accuracy to your surveys.¬†

Similarly for industry-specific screening, questions ensure that the respondents who are selected fit the requirements of understanding the niche for which the survey is conducted. 

Example: Do you work in any one of the following industries?

  • Teaching
  • Educator
  • Special needs educator
  • Academic writing
  • None of these

Now, for a website/app that‚Äôs being tested within the educational niche, the respondents choosing ‚Äúnone of these‚ÄĚ are naturally not as qualified as those choosing the other options.¬†

Screening questions like these ensure that the chosen respondents are aware of your purpose, following the survey instructions and reading the questions before selecting the response. 


In successful surveys, choosing the right respondents is critical. This is important to avoid biased opinions that could negatively influence the outcome of the research/study. The nature and accuracy of responses matter.

Remember that even when a study is well written, analysed, and executed, the outcome is only as good as its respondents.

The article is a part of our series on ‚ÄúHow to recruit the right respondents for user research?‚ÄĚ