Poor quality products and services are frustrating for everyone but a pair of Dundonians are taking action to raise the bar.
When Stephanie Crowe met Kevin Sinclair they quickly bonded – over a shared hatred of bad products and user experiences.
Poorly designed products, confusing services… the pair felt there was a desperate need to pay more attention to customers.
Stephanie, a psychology graduate, was providing user experience research to firms, while Kevin was designing physical product prototypes.
After meeting at Abertay University’s enterprise support unit, Bell Street Ventures, they decided to join forces.
Design and research business Muckle Studios was set up at the beginning of 2020.
Muckle Studios wins NHS and UNESCO work
It help companies to better understand their customers’ experiences – anything from a digital app to someone entering and ordering food in a café.
It has thrived during the pandemic as businesses and organisations have increasingly looked to strengthen online offerings through the use of apps.
The company’s client list now includes the NHS and UNESCO.
Kevin recalls: “There was quite a lot of overlap in what we were doing. We were both really user focused and both quite design-led. It made sense to put our heads together.
“We both started pitching work at the start of 2020. In March Covid happened and lockdowns began and we started picking up business as companies were forced to restructure.”
Bad choices cost money and harms reputation
Companies launching poor products and services can be costly financially and to reputation.
But the user experience experts still find businesses making major changes without consulting customers.
Stephanie said investing on research early can save companies money in the long run.
“Getting the right information and feedback is a skill – you can’t go and ask your pals,” she said.
“You need someone who can go out and ask the right questions without bias or a prompt for the answers you want to hear.
“We filter design ideas down to what really matters.
“If five out of five people say it’s a problem, we tell you. If one in five think it’s an issue, maybe that’s not where your money needs to go.”
Kevin adds: “It’s taking information that can be quite dense and presenting it back to the company.
“It can help them understand where to go next in designing their product or service and where to spend their money.
“We can say, ‘I know you were thinking about option A but have you considered a higher percentage of people are thinking about options B and C’.”
What firms often get wrong
The pair have worked on giving feedback for digital apps and services with real life experiences.
A project that combined both was a NHS contract to look at how people could get home from hospital quicker using volunteers.
It involved spending hours talking to volunteers and observing the process in hospital.
So what’s the number one thing that businesses get wrong?
Without hesitation, Stephanie gives her answer: “They think they’re their own customer.”
Kevin adds: “They also decide to take on projects on a whim without speaking to users.
“Their lifeblood is the people they are trying to serve, their customers. If they don’t speak to them that presents problems.”
Muckle Studios committed to Dundee
The pair hope other large projects will follow and work from a Hawkhill studio.
They said a lack of flexible working space made it hard to set up here, but they are determined to stay.
Kevin adds: “We find there’s not many companies like us. It’s been quite difficult to stay here – in terms of finding a studio and space to create.
“We found a real lack of flexibility. A young company doesn’t want to take a 24 month lease.
“But we are passionate about staying here and there are a lot of good opportunities.”
Bell Street Ventures provides recent graduates and start-ups with a place to work.
It also provides advice on accounting, business law, branding and best business practice.
It was key in helping Muckle Studios secure funding to hire an intern last year through Santander Universities.