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Clients can be too close to their shiny new business idea: the urge to shout about the new concept makes them forget the internet is a pull, not push, medium. We work with agencies and clients to help them reach agreement on how to ensure their website will be effective before committing to costly development.

  • Who: RAND, a strategic design agency
  • What: Small scale, observed usability testing to change client mental models
  • How: 3 observed usability testing sessions with real users to highlight the importance of behaviours over anecdotal evidence
  • Result: A redirection of strategic priorities to focus more on key user goals


RAND, a London-based strategic design agency, had a client with a new approach to providing business loans to UK SMEs. They were confident it was going to blow the competition out of the water, as long as the website trumpeted what they felt was a key user benefit – the speed of securing a loan. RAND was less convinced that speed was the key message and needed more clarity about user needs directly from the horse’s mouth to build the website.

What we did

RAND wanted to understand user needs before they began site development. We had the client and agency watch 3 testers, all prospective loan applicants, navigate 3 competitors’ websites looking for business loans. (We had already completed 3 other test sessions and fed the findings from these into our client discussion). How the testers used the sites showed what really mattered to them when considering a loan. While the client had anecdotal feedback that users just wanted to secure finance quickly, tester behaviour demonstrated that they wouldn’t start an application until they had found and carefully read basic information. They were suspicious of finance companies and needed to check credibility, then get an idea of how much they could borrow and at what cost. Speed might be the clincher, but the hygiene questions needed answering first.


RAND got the user evidence they needed to harness their client’s creativity and get agreement that the website needed to tackle the ‘boring’ stuff, as well as showcasing the clever new angle the client was taking. The client loved seeing real users up close and personal. User testing gave them real insight into what users do, rather than what they say they do. Our process of getting them to observe testers and then discuss the issues they observed forced them to confront their strongly held views about users, their goals and how they behaved. As a result RAND booked another session to usability test the website they developed from these insights.

“The decision to work with Web Usability was a crucial learning in the development of our client’s product. Nothing compares to seeing real-world examples and that, combined with Web Usability’s expertise to aggregate and evaluate the data derived from those sessions, made all the difference.”

Jay Flaxman, Director of RAND

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