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The Times Puzzles

Online forums are a great way of reaching a larger number of respondents whilst still getting the qualitative ‘why do you think that?’ insight

  • Who: New UK & Times Puzzles
  • What: Quantitative research to inform migration of puzzles online
  • How: An online forum where 100 keen puzzlers rated and commented on new brainteasers made exclusively available to them
  • Result: Ranked puzzle preferences, qualitative feedback quotes from testers and a list key issues to address


The Times crossword has been taxing minds for over 80 years, but News UK was keen to bring its puzzles into the digital age. They wanted to understand how the Times puzzles might work online and what sort of games users would expect to find in a Times puzzles portfolio. Crucially, they needed a robust number of respondents to help direct their decisions on how to develop the digital versions of the games and select which ones would be included. The move to take puzzles online was a significant one for the organisation and it was important to be clear on how to proceed.

What we did

We recruited 100 respondents, all chosen for their love of newspaper based games and puzzles. The Times team wanted to test how well the puzzles worked on tablet devices, so all respondents recruited were tablet users. Over a week, the puzzlers were given links to different types of brain teasers to play. They polled their preferences and posted on the forum about the usability of the puzzles and how they felt about the different types of games – did they want traditional word and number teasers, or were they open to other more ‘arcade game’ type games?


The puzzlers loved testing out the brainteasers and were really engaged with the forum. They enjoyed giving feedback on how well the puzzles worked and there was some lively debate on the forum. Our clients were able to virtually observe the discussion forum and our moderators probed and explored interesting responses, to really understand what respondents thought about the puzzles and games.

Web Usability produced a presentation of the outcomes from the forum. This included the key issues identified, graphs showing the poll results and verbatim respondent quotes.

The Times Puzzles team were delighted with the results.

“I found the forum to be extremely valuable. It has added a level of insight we may not have captured otherwise. I’m very pleased indeed.”

Beverley Wedderburn, Senior Product Manager

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