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User Research: Selected stories

How do we learn?
This is one of the most relevant questions ever. The curious thing is that this question is still valid for ourselves, our teammates, the company where we work, and the products we make:
How will the product learn?


We don't research to find numbers or justify our design. We do the research to learn.

As a design leader, Users are naturally at the center of each product, and Research is the access key to a fundamental knowledge: how to make our users happy.
It was a long path, and it's unfinished learning: from UI usability to service design and design thinking approaches and tests that shapes products and influence entire organizations.

Heuristics / Interviews
Cognitive walkthrough

During early 2000 everything was about
heuristics: qualitative tests mostly focusing on the UI.

Structured interviews were early in the digital field. Cognitive Walkthrough had its shining moment.

Task analysis

Facts over everything else.
The company CEO was a psychologist + academic researcher.
Our approach was very oriented to the human vision.
Eye Tracking is all about science and numbers. We co-develop some of the approaches together with Tobii technologies.

A/B Testing
Mood analysis

Razorfish Healthware
While in RH the company culture was very visual and marketing-driven:
A/B tests ruled.

The M&A context and the strong existing culture was hard to navigate.
While in RH I learned how focus Client and customer satisfaction.

Field Research

Zero imaginary friends.
To identify the stake holders, write down the service map, define the processes, this time we went
to the field.

Everything Digital was tested with eye-tracking.

Once upon a time, in Iceland


BLUE LAGOON: It is one of the most beautiful place on Earth (National Geographic), an incredible business story, one of the best SPA in the world, and the perfect balance between a man-made (from terraforming to the last tiny detail) and the brute force of Nature. (read about it on wikipedia)

RESEARCH OBJECTIVES:  We went to Iceland to build their next generation digital services, starting from the website.


As Digital Design Director in DGI, I managed a series of key tasks, before, during and after a full week in Iceland:

  • Desktop research / Spa website best practice and common habits

  • Blue Lagoon Content Analysis (+400 pages)

  • Website and ecommerce logs analysis (Travel / ticketing)

  • Desktop “Voice of Customer” according TripAdvisor, etc.

  • Discussing website pain points and Blue Lagoon goals

  • Identification Tool / fidelity card / other tools for returning visitors

  • Social / Online contact center

  • Skin care E-Commerce


The most exciting part of the Research definitely was the learning we had on-site from actual customers. We mirrored actual customers with our personas tools, consolidated the model, and followed them (shadowing) while interacting with the existing services: The output was a true floor-plan customer journey.

This activity was a game-changer in identifying gaps and imagining new value-added services.

We managed a relevant cultural shift and unleashed this company's digital potential, pushing BL to a data-driven approach. 


The view outside the window was unreal! A sort of Jurassic Park experience. I do not remember what I ate: Shark or smoked whale cubes. Let's call it: ethnography or maybe anthropologic shadowing. 


Sigurdur Thorsteinsson aka Siggi: An unfinished source of inspiration and fantastic guidance for our Icelandic adventures. Best boss ever. :)

Venice and the Lion





GENERALI: Founded in 1831, Generali Group is an Italian insurance company. It is the largest in Italy and among the world's top ten largest insurance companies by net premiums and assets.

Generali's goal is to induce and reward lifestyles that are positive for the health of its policyholders.
Can wearable have a role?
The research aims to identify valuable insights related to self-tracking devices.

As Digital Design Director and later Executive Design Director @DGI, I was entirely responsible for the GENERALI account. This role includes direct interaction with Generali Italia's CEO, various top stakeholders at Generali Holding, and daily conversations with Welion's top management.

Most of the time, I was involved in shaping the activity (in this case, research on wearables), starting from the strategic conversation that generated it and going down to the DGI's research and UX activity definition, roadmap, and supervision. 

Considering the growing complexity of DGI's research effort, I (co)hired a Director for Service Design and Research to manage the team of researchers that I had previously hired. 

At the end of the research, we offered the wearable device they tested to each user in our panel, and we had a series of essential learnings. 

  • Only about 33% took the wearable for themself. About 40% refused to take it. (useless / not an habit).

  • 33% that took the device was mainly motivated by an existing healthy habit (sport, etc.).
    The wearable wasn't pushing healthy habits to a new users.

  • Wearables have a short life cycle and insurances' margin struggle with the devices' cost. 

  • Wearables are strictly personal.


on the other hand:

  • B2B2C: Home IoT products have a longer lifecycle and might target a family/group. The activation cost for a home device is a better fit with home policy insurances.  

  • B2E: The workplace architecture can inspire healthy habits. 


Generali is still motivated to evolve from an insurance provider into a digital health companion, and it started to make it from IoT consumer devices and workplace transformation projects.  


During the three years I spent in SRLABS, we learned to test very different user experiences, including ATM, vending machines, cars' cokpits and more.


Inventing the techniques that make possible to test a given equipment is often more complex than running the test.




UBI Banca: It's one of Italy's largest banking groups, asked us to create a comprehensive mobile strategy.

Our goal was to simplify the complexity of the mobile experience, which at the time was made up of different separate apps, each with numerous distinct features and its own identity.

RESEARCH OBJECTIVES:  Collapsing six different applications and their users into a single new app creates potential barriers to adoption. This research wants to foresee the problems and test the UX solutions, starting with the innovative "swipe engine" that stands at the very core of this product.


As Digital Design Director and later Executive Design Director @DGI, I was entirely responsible for the UBI account.


This role includes direct interaction with UBI's top management.


I was involved in shaping the activity, hiring the internal team, defending our diverse service design team, defining the research and UX activity roadmap, and supervising the entire project.

However, nothing was complex like convincing to cooperate a series of UBI's managers that were completely aware of not being able to stay in place after the applications merged.


I also conceived the "swipe engine" and solved -through our research- the "BLU fight." 


"The swipe is an essential gesture. The swipe is cross-generational, and it is how grandfather and grandson look at the photos together. The swipe, due to its simplicity, is iconic and telegenic."

The "BLU fight" started an evolution of the entire brand and influenced UBI's "tone of voice" from digital to any physical retail.

Together with my team, I am proud of the change we ignited.


“In a world where the keyboard has disappeared, and even clicks are being reduced to extinction limits, the swipe represents both language's facebookization and a new and instantaneous way to activate (not just access) services”.

The "BLU fight" started an evolution on the entire brand and influenced UBI's "tone of voice" from the digital to any physical retail. Together with my team, I am proud of the change we ignited.

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