Reflecting on 10-years since the launch of UX24/7

Paul Blunden
8 min readJul 7, 2023

In July 2013, UX24/7 was launched with little fanfare. After 12 months of planning and agonizing we were finally ready and began the journey which led us to this anniversary — 10-years since our launch!

Amongst other things, the planning had involved reaching out nervously to people in my network for feedback on our proposition, branding and logo. Everyone was very generous with their time, if not with their comments 😊, but the honesty and candor were always appreciated. Within a week we had won our first project and I am forever grateful for the advice and support I received from Neal Preece and Sean Emmett.

At the same time as I launched the agency, I also launched out accredited practitioner programme. This is an approach we use to this day that ensures the researchers we work with, whether full time, part time or freelance, are senior consultants and possess the range of capabilities we need. As always there is a team involved when creating the detail behind a programme like this and my thanks go to Ian Pardoe, Hina Elton and Pauline Ginestie who were all deeply involved.

We have had to adapt a great deal over the past decade and it has been a transformative period for research. The pandemic alone has shifted the place research is conducted and now almost 90% of research is conducted remotely. As the industry goes through another transition, I thought I’d take the opportunity to look back at our achievements of the past decade.

Year 1 — Mobile and responsive

In 2013 there was very little focus on the mobile user experience and in mobile usability. That seems crazy now, but it just wasn’t registering and few were talking about it. Most websites and apps were designed by different teams for the platforms — one for desktop and one for web.

Responsive design was just becoming a thing, having been first mentioned in 2010. We had M-web, apps and this new responsive idea that no one was sure would take off. It was all very confusing and everyone was learning fast.

We were one of the first agencies to raise awareness of the challenges involved with mobile user experience. We published guides comparing M-web, with apps and responsive, one dedicated to responsive design and numerous blog posts with advice and guidance. Within 2-years it seemed everyone was talking about mobile user experience but I consider it quite an achievement for a small agency to be leading the way.

Year 2 — Our first international project

Our 3-year plan at launch involved building our network of accredited researchers internationally. This is our approach to bringing freelancers on to our roster and I’ll talk more about it later. I expected that by year 4 we would be in a position to deliver services internationally having built up the core team.

However, demand came sooner and in the October of 2014 we headed out to New Jersey to deliver our first international research project. The client was BetFair and we were carrying out research on the betting exchange ahead of launch in the US. The goal was to help guide changes to the interface to help US customers, unfamiliar with backing and laying online, to be able to use the exchange.

Remote research wasn’t a thing in 2014, so we packed up our test kit and flew out with everything, laptops, phones and cameras. Although international research is easier now, I really miss the in-person research sessions. They presented a wonderful opportunity to spend time with our client and to really get emersed in the customer experience with theirs.

Year 3 — launch of our newsletter — the UX Crucible

The UX Crucible was launched in our 3rd year and it’s still running now. It is a fairly niche UX and Design research newsletter that each month compiles stories from around the world in the past 30-days. This year we also launched it on LinkedIn and between the two distributions have almost 1,000 subscribers.

I put every issue together myself and really enjoy curating the articles. There are ten each month from various sources, plus 3 from our blog and 5 events that are research, design or product related. If you have never heard of it and want to join the circulation you can sign up here.

Year 4 — Delivered our 100th client project

Project 100, was a real milestone for us. We signed the statement of work in August 2016, just over 3 years since launch and just squeezing in to our 4th year. It was for Dixons Carphone Group (Currys Group now) and was part of a single page checkout project.

By this time we had over 30 clients and were delivering multiple projects for each of them. There was a big focus on evaluative research, particularly supporting prototype design through the product development process. But also in optimizing live websites and apps. That has changed quite a lot over the past 6 or so years.

Year 5 — delivered our first multi-market project

Our international capability had become very well established by 2017 and we were starting to run research for clients all over the world. We had already been to China, Germany and Australia for Boden, New Jersey and LA for BetFair and TVG, the USA for M&S, and even Mexico for a small agency in California. But all of these were single market studies where we had a brief for a market, went to it, generated the insights and the client to action on that product.

For Samsung we delivered our first multi-market research project. It involved delivering research in 12-European markets: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Spain, Sweden and UK. I list these countries because I am very proud of the fact that we had built our accredited network up to the point where we had senior researchers in all these markets (and more). Each had been interviewed and onboarded using our accreditation framework.

Glamorous lady holding an award and next to gold words that say celebrating 10-years. The UX24/7 logo is also visible.

Year 6 — we’re getting the band back together!

I have been very fortunate to work with some wonderful people over the course of my career and at UX24/7 that luck has continued. In the summer of 2019, John Dumas agreed to join the agency as Consultancy Director. He now leads our global team of researchers and research ops as well as working directly with some of our largest clients.

I had worked with John at my previous agency Foviance, and he was a perfect fit for the role. John is absolutely passionate about research and in particular doing it right. Everyone who works with him learns something and he is absolutely tireless. As I write he is in Stuttgart delivering a workshop to a client. I am grateful to everyone who has joined the agency, and many have left their mark, but no one has transformed what we do quite as much as John.

Year 7 — we survived the pandemic

I think the less said about the year of the pandemic the better. It was one of the most difficult in my working life and I am sure I have far more wrinkles and a lot less hair as a result of the experience. A number of our clients stopped doing any work with us at all for about 12-months so it was tricky times.

However, I am proud that we not only survived the pandemic, but managed to keep the team together and fully employed. The team was incredible, adapting to remote working, remaining positive and each playing a part in helping each other get through it. It was a unique experience.

Year 8 — we delivered our 300th project

Our 300th project was multi-market research. The markets were Brazil, China and Germany and it was also a B2B project for Videojet, a large format printer manufacturer. We also worked alongside the client, who ran their own research in their home market of the USA.

That is a good reflection on where the market had matured to by 2020/21. Remote research had taken off post-pandemic and client’s were increasingly looking for help in markets where they didn’t have capabilities. We increasingly found ourselves operating as part of the clients’ team.

Year 9 — we accredited our 100th senior researcher

As I write we have over 155 senior accredited researchers on our roster. We passed the 100 mark in the second half of 2021 and by then had coverage in over 25 markets. Just today we had an application from a senior researcher based in Nairobi.

I launched the accreditation programme in 2013 at the same time as launching the agency. In my previous agency I had experience working with freelancers and that wasn’t always good. We used to go through agencies who would hire us a freelancer and I had more than one experience where someone who claimed they could do research, had no idea what they were doing.

Quality is everything in research. If the research is run badly the insight will be unreliable and the decisions taken flawed. Our scheme addresses this setting out a range of minimum capabilities required to achieve accreditation and join our roster.

Everyone of our senior researchers has had their CV reviewed and attended at least one interview, often two. If they meet our criteria we accredited them and that is acknowledged through the open badge network. I have just had the pleasure of interviewing a number of my colleagues from the network and if you would like to meet them you can do that here.

Year 10 — we hired our first international colleagues

After the pandemic, we invited our colleagues to come back to the office, but not many of them wanted to. So, we closed the office and moved to a virtual model, with physical meet ups monthly and quarterly. This transition also helped us reimagine our agency.

Pre-pandemic, we had always thought we would need to open an office in another country if we wanted to expand internationally. But once we became a remote organization we could think differently. We decided to explore hiring colleagues based overseas. In our tenth year we hired three overseas colleagues, in each of India, Spain and Brazil.

We are still learning how to operate remotely but the experience has been transformative for the agency. We have always had a strong interest in international behavior and culture, but when your own small team embodies that, it really emphasizes that and has really helped our work.

Summary

As I look back on the past decade, I am very proud of what we achieved. But as the industry goes through another transformation we will have to adapt to survive if we are to last another ten-years. Our team is already working on that, and their passion and enthusiasm is an inspiration.

Ten years is a long time and is not the result of the efforts of any one individual. So I will end by sharing my gratitude to all my colleagues past and present, customers, friends and family for the support you have provided and the confidence you have given me to carry on.

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Paul Blunden

Paul is Founder and CEO of UX24/7 and has spent more than 20 years in UX and Design Research.