We’re empowering researchers, designers and more to access MENA's first and only remote user testing and research platform in the region, enabling brands to access thousands of local and regional testers and run research studies in Arabic and English.
I remember arriving in Dubai in 2016 and feeling like I’d stepped into the future of what cities could be. So it was frustrating to feel like I was stepping back in time when I tried to do things online — from online retailers requesting payment over the phone, banking apps that made creating standing orders a nightmare and interfaces looking like they were from 1995.
I knew digital capability was ripe for transformation and a greater focus on user experience (UX) was needed.
I was working in UX for Emirates, where I met my co-founder, Brooke Cowling. We both came from markets where UX expertise and specialised UX research companies were common. We saw a gap for a dedicated user experience agency and together created Digital of Things (DOT), the aim - transforming UX in the region and bringing customers into the heart of the design process.
Initially, we had to educate customers on the importance of research, facing the same objections: “We don’t have time for research”, “We know what to build”, “Just copy the international brand ”. But today, four years on, our clients (big and small) all value providing customers with exceptional experiences, based on actual user needs.
This is now a more vibrant, digitally mature market and expectations of local residents are much higher.
Covid obviously accelerated the region’s appetite for better online experiences. The Government’s expert handling of the pandemic also attracted a new wave of new expats - bringing higher expectations of UX they are used to abroad. Now brands must understand this ‘new customer’ behaviour.
International clients eyeing the region
We’ve seen a lot more international companies wanting to enter the region, whether it’s electric car companies, social media companies, fintechs or fashion brands. But first, they want a deep understanding of the ‘regional’ customer to tailor experiences accordingly.
Regional clients are getting more savvy
Over the past 4 years our clients grew to understand the importance of research. RFPs are now based purely on UX and Research. Clients now come to us for recommendations on research - not the other way around.
Cross border research is a priority
Our focus is not just UAE anymore. We have many requests from across the region, KSA in particular. Nearly every research study we conduct has a KSA element to it - even if the client is based elsewhere in the world.
When I came to the UAE, there were few UX roles, now it's a HOT industry. More companies are building internal UX teams and want to integrate user research into their design process.
While our in-person qualitative research services continue to help local, and international businesses grow, our clients also want to conduct their own cross-border research, looking for a quick and cost efficient way to tap into the diverse mix of customers living in MENA.
Remote research tools don’t serve MENA
Globally, there are many remote research tools out there but they aren’t designed for this region.
Cannot conduct tests in Arabic
Arabic is very much prevalent, especially in KSA (around 70% search the web in Arabic). Bi-lingual research is important in this region.
Access to MENA participants
The current tools have limited MENA participants on their database. One global tool provider told me they only had 50 participants in MENA!
I don’t know about you, but I am getting tired of monthly subscriptions. Research needs the flexibility to run and pay for studies as required.
As MENA based researchers and UXers ourselves, who better to launch a user research platform? Our goal was simple:
1. Enable brands to understand their customers wants, needs and behaviours by giving them a cost efficient, easy to use centralised platform, with various methodologies to test and validate their design decisions.
2. Make Arabic research accessible to brands. With more companies providing dual language digital products, it was crucial to provide this capability.
3. Provide brands with access to real users in one of the most culturally diverse regions in the world.
UserQ perfectly complements our existing in-person qualitative user research service, which has helped brands across various industries improve their user experience during the last 4 years. After months of hard work and late nights by the Digital of Things team, developers, contractors, clients, and testers who volunteered their time and feedback, I’m extremely proud to introduce UserQ, MENA’s first fully remote, dual-language, user research platform.
After launching the platform only a few weeks ago, we’ve seen great traction. We have over 7,000 MENA based participants, across 100 nationalities and various demographics. Please check it out. But just before you go, on a personal note, I want to acknowledge everyone involved in bringing UserQ to life, those who worked tirelessly on the platform, and our friends and family who put their trust in us. Thank you.
Founder & CEO
We sat down with Elvina Shagvaleyeva to learn about her career background in Kazakhstan and the cultural differences she’s experienced since moving to Dubai.
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The hot topic right now is ChatGPT, but it comes with a few drawbacks. We compared its capabilities to a human by asking it to write a usability testing discussion guide. Who will come out better?