Freemium Customer Research

This is an nice example of how quick reactions and team work can make for better results.

One of my team members was working on a new product aimed at smaller companies (our clients usually start at 5000 employees). He discovered that his stakeholder had conducted a number of interviews with existing customers to get feedback on their needs and goals. While not as useful as user feedback, it was still a great opportunity to gather some insights.

We immediately got in contact with the stakeholder offering our services to see if there was any help we could bring. He was delighted, he'd conducted the interviews but was unsure how to synthesise the results. A perfect opportunity to put the UX team's skills to use.

Step 1 · The interviews

We spent the first few days listening to the interviews and taking notes. After that we primed our notes. This is a technique I learned from Cooper where you colour code your notes: Green for positive, red for negative and yellow for any suggestions from the interviewee.

Once this was done, it was time to start  putting the notes onto a wall.

 Our notes, primed with highlights.

Our notes, primed with highlights.

Step 2 · Synthesis

Normally this step is done on a big whiteboard. Unfortunately, we were split between two continents so that wasn't going to be possible. Step in Conceptboard. An online whiteboarding tool, Conceptboard is designed for exactly this.

The first stage is to simply add all your notes to the wall within a simple structure. I broke the notes down into three categories based on the structure of the interview, with each type of note bundled together. With everyone adding their own notes, the key is to avoid duplications.

 Stage 1: Grouping your notes

Stage 1: Grouping your notes

The second stage is to start the synthesis. As a group we take turns grouping notes into categories that make sense to us. The process is fun and iterative. The goal is to end up with groupings that capture the themes covered in the interviews and to find interesting patterns. Conceptboard works well for this as you can duplicate your board at any time allowing you to continually try different groupings until the group is happy that every note has been assigned correctly. 

As you can see from the image below, taking a step back and looking at the whole board means you can quickly see which areas have the most negativity and positivity. This makes it immediatley apparent what areas may need urgent work. 

 Stage 2: Grouping your notes.

Stage 2: Grouping your notes.

Step 3 · Persona

The final step for us was helping the stakeholder create a deliverable that would be useful during development. For us that's nearly always a Persona. Working together, we were able to use our groupings to identify needs and goals. Along with some profiling from the interviews we were able to create primary customer persona. The next step would be to go through the same process with users and create a thorough persona for them too.


One of the regular deliverables we produce at Globoforce are handover designs for our front-end developers. Most of them work in Belarus so it's essential they have detailed specifications to work from. Below you'll find an example I did recently for an award card I had designed. I use the specification style that Google use which I find very quick and intuitive.

Nowadays we've started to use Zeplin integration with our Sketch files which makes things even easier, but it's still an essential skill for any UI designer to have.

Profile pictures

Looking at data from our clients, we realised that a very small percentage of users were uploading their own profile pictures. Further investigation revealed that many aren't even able to get imagery on to their computers so there was little hope of them uploading something to our site. This meant that most of our users were just seeing dark silhouettes.

We researched a number of alternatives including using a library of images and combining multiple layer. Most of these were not practicable within the time allowed. In the end we settled on enabling users to choose their initials and the background colour.

What you see below is interface I designed for the user.