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Intellectual Property Office

2 rounds of iterative usability testing on some of the digital letters trade mark applicants could receive allowed the IPO to refine the wording and the structure of the messages to improve clarity and effectiveness of the communications.

  • Who: Intellectual Property Office
  • What: Iterative user testing of trademark application communications
  • How: Individual one-to-one user testing sessions
  • Result: Clear steer on structure, formatting and required content within each letter


The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is the official UK government body responsible for intellectual property rights including patents, designs, trade marks and copyright.

Among other things, they are responsible for granting UK trade marks. This is an involved process that involves a number of checks and searches by automated systems followed by a manual review by an IPO trade mark examiner.

The IPO wanted to investigate the effectiveness of some of the communications that applicants could receive during the trade mark application process, explaining various issues with their applications and what the applicant needed to do.

They therefore wanted to test these messages with target users to identify areas where they could be improved.

What we did

Two rounds of iterative testing on updated versions of each letter, with 5 testers per round. Testers were a mix of people who have previously applied for trade marks and some who had not applied, but had a clear concept and idea in mind that they would like to trade mark.

Testing was carried out in individual, 60-minute, one-to-one sessions, with a 10 minute gap between sessions to allow discussion with IPO observers and any tweaks to the facilitation approach or focus.

After the first round of testing, IPO implemented the findings and updated the letters, and then returned for another round of testing on the new versions.

Web Usability worked closely with the IPO team throughout both rounds of testing, including:

  • IPO stakeholders were able to observe all of the testing remotely
  • We used WhatsApp groups to act as a ‘virtual back room’ for observers to discuss the testing and feed back to the facilitator between and even during sessions.
  • A facilitated debrief following the research sessions to agree issues and recommendations in line with IPO constraints.


  • Clear structure and priority for the different elements of each letter
  • Guidance on the wording and level of detail required for users
  • A clear steer on the structure and CTAs on the response page for users to reply to the letters
  • Transferrable insights that can be applied to other IPO application communications as well


“Web Usability recruited 10 users across two sets of user feedback sessions. Some users had applied for multiple trade marks, others were considering applying for the first time. This allowed us to measure the effectiveness of our communications with users with varying levels of experience. We wanted to implement a consistent structure across our letters, so users would be familiar with how the information is presented and what they need to do next. Web Usability facilitated the sessions superbly and provided us with the evidence we needed to adopt this approach

Jamie Edwards – Customer Experience Improvement Lead

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