user experience research methods

The rise of the smart home – is it for you?

It’s so easy to automate daily tasks and chores nowadays. Using the latest technology, we are able to create smart and connected devices that are taking the meaning of modern living to a new level. What was once a thing of sci-fi movies is slowly becoming a reality – from communicating with robots to automating everyday chores, there are many ways our homes are evolving into something quite different. But is this way of living really for you?

One way companies get to understand their customers’ thoughts and feelings about particular pieces of technology is by conducting market research. Usability testing, or user experience testing, is a popular method for brands to see how their products work first hand. Whether it’s a particular app or brand new technological device, companies need to know how to best market their products in-line with their customers’ wants and needs. To get involved in user experience research methods, including to get the opportunity to test the newest technology on the market, sign up to our research community – you will receive invites to take part in studies that interest you. Plus, you also get paid an incentive for your time.

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What is a ‘smart home’?

Smart homes operate to the convenience of its residents. Want to turn your bedroom lights off from a different location? Adjust your thermostat without leaving the sofa? Check who’s at your door before you answer it? There are few limitations to what technology can do these days.

Using Bluetooth and wireless connections, smart home devices – such as the Amazon Echo – streamline everyday tasks that you can control, monitor and access remotely via smartphone or tablet.

Benefits of the smart home

Convenience – most people invest in smart devices for their homes as they want to save time doing basic tasks. Controlling things simply from a mobile device or tablet – from adjusting your thermometer to pre-heating your oven – provides a convenient alternative! This technology helps to streamline your everyday tasks, meaning that you can focus your time on the things you’d rather be doing.

Environmental – Controlling your energy levels all in one place means you’re can easily save on electricity and gas within your home, improving your energy efficiency. Smart meters are so beneficial, in fact, that all energy suppliers must aim to install them in every home in England, Wales and Scotland by the end of 2020.

Accessibility – from a mobility perspective, a smart home provides effective and accessible solutions for elderly or disabled residents. For example, voice control eliminates the need for people to move around unnecessarily.

Security – You can put your mind at ease when you’re away from your house by implementing security devices such as doorbell cameras. You’re also able to automate lighting within the house when you’re not at home, just by a click of a button on your phone.

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Is a smart home for you?

43% of Brits now own at least one smart product in their home. Many people enjoy the convenience of smart home appliances, but the initial cost can be expensive. As well as this, you may have to set aside some time to learn how to use this new technology effectively to decide what will be most beneficial to you and the way you live. Not only this, but the initial set-up of some devices can be fairly complex.

Broadband is faster than ever before, meaning it’s becoming easier to connect an entire home. However, security breaches are a cause for concern. For example, your smart home devices could be at risk of hacking. Therefore, it is important that your smart devices are connected to a secure internet system.

Interested in testing out new technology? With Angelfish Opinions, you can get your thoughts and opinions heard by the brands you know and love by taking part in user experience research methods. Your valued feedback will influence the way a product is launched, branded, packaged, marketed or priced. So – a great way to make a real difference while earning some extra cash!

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Technology today

New and dynamic products are coming to the market all the time, like the ones mentioned earlier. Market research provides the opportunity for brands to really get to know their customers’ thoughts and feelings about these new products. Plus, consumers can get their voices heard, while getting paid to do so.

If you’d like to get involved in user experience research methods, where you’d be testing some of the latest technology, you can sign up to our market research community here.

Sign Up Here.

best european cities to visit in summer

Backpacking on a budget: Top 4 European cities to visit

A trip of a lifetime awaits you in Europe – as one of the best adventures any aspiring traveller can experience, the European continent has such a lot to offer! So, don’t let Brexit put you off and get your backpack at the ready!

For many people, taking a gap year is the best way to fully immerse themselves in the traveller lifestyle. And why not? You’d return home with so many stories to tell, so many photographs to show off, so many memories to cherish.

The cost of travelling, however, is definitely something to think about. But with a bit of crafty spending, clever budgeting, and careful saving, you can make it work. Plus, with our paid market research studies, you can always make yourself a bit of extra cash to spend on your travels.

To help you decide where to go, we’ve picked our favourite cities for backpacking on a budget and reveal our top tips for saving that extra little bit of cash so that you can really make the most of your time away.

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1. Barcelona

First up on our list is Barcelona – a must-see city for those who want to experience its cool architecture, great nightlife, and tasty food! People who’ve visited Barcelona rarely speak ill of this vibrant city, especially when visited on those warm summer days.

In a city that doesn’t sleep, it’s unlikely that you’ll want to, either! From 24-hour beach parties to open-all-hour bars, Barcelona is young at heart, despite being surrounded by numerous historic buildings and cathedrals.

Set aside enough time to soak up every corner of this amazing city – each neighbourhood is unique to the last, but the most popular are Las Ramblas and La Ribera. Don’t just visit these areas, though; make sure you visit as many as you can!

Spending

You’re going to want to get thrifty in this city; it’s known for its high prices! However, as long as you plan ahead, Barcelona doesn’t have to eat into your travel budget as much as you think it might.

The average daily budget will be around £45-£55. However, some only spend around £20-£25 if staying at a cheaper hostel! So, entirely affordable, depending on the time of year you visit.

Don’t forget, you can save money simply by walking over taking the bus (which is around 2.20 euros each way), attending free festivals and activities such as walking tours rather than opting for the paid ones (they’re often just as good, and you’ll get to see so many examples of Gaudi’s architecture all over the city!)

Quick top tips

Park Güell is a public park with gardens and architectonic elements. Designed by Gaudi, it’s amazing to see, and definitely worth a visit. However, stick to the free parts of the park if you want to save some money – especially when you have so much more on your list to see.

The Sagrada Familia is probably the most iconic landmark of Barcelona, with its phenomenal architecture and stunning design! But if you don’t have 26 euros to spare for an entrance ticket – no matter! The real spectacle is the outside of the building, so you can still say you’ve visited, just without the price tag!

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2. Berlin

There are some hidden gems in Berlin, and it really is one to put on your travel checklist! Although perhaps not the most aesthetically pleasing on the surface, the vibe of the city is definitely one to experience.

Berlin is among the best European cities to visit in summer, where you can get the very best weather – which of course comes hand-in-hand with a great atmosphere! The city makes a great stop-off if you’re interrailing across Europe, and there are a range of affordable hostels to stay at. The East Seven Hostel is highly recommended, as is Circus Hostel and St. Christopher’s Berlin (if you’re looking for a party!).

To stay on budget, it’s worth sticking to the cheaper bars and restaurants, which can be tricky when the city has so many expensive options. Alternatively, you could choose to stay in a hostel that has a kitchen where you’re able to cook your own meals!

Getting around Berlin is pretty easy using their rail links. However, to get somewhere quick and, conveniently, Uber is a great option. The price is locked, meaning that you can’t get ripped off, plus it’s often cheaper than travelling by taxi anyway.

Quick top tips

Some highlights of Berlin include:

Checkpoint Charlie – The setting of many thrillers and spy novels, Checkpoint Charlie is a reminder of the former border crossing, the Cold War and the partition of Berlin.

East Side Gallery – Previously the Berlin Wall, the East Side Gallery is now the longest open-air gallery in the world.

New Synagogue – One of Berlin’s most beautiful buildings and a memorial important to Jewish life.

Reichstag – As one of the city’s most significant historical buildings, Reichstag is the Parliament and mirror of German history.

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3. Paris

We couldn’t write a post about the best European cities to visit in summer without giving Paris some of the limelight! This city is home to many great sights – from the iconic Eiffel Tower to the Arc de Triomphe, to the Sacre-Coeur, there’s always something to do here. With such a great vibe running through the city, there are many beautiful areas to visit, not forgetting the abundance of museums and art galleries to peruse.

To really get the most out of this city, you may have to accept that it may cost you a little more than other locations. Because who doesn’t want to gorge on wine, cheese, and pastries? That said, it is possible to save money on things such as travel costs (they say you see more of a place on-foot!) and avoiding eating out every day.

The hostels in Paris do tend to cost more than other cities in Europe – coming in at around £20-£35 per night, but is entirely worth a visit, even if you only stay for a few nights.

Quick top tips

Stick to Sundays: museums and galleries are often open for the public for free on Sundays!

Buy your metro tickets in bulk, not one at a time: plan your trip carefully and ensure you save yourself money on travel costs.

Take a picnic to the Eiffel Tower: if you don’t want to pay to go to the top of the tower, just sit and admire!

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4. Amsterdam

With its idyllic canals winding through the city’s streets, every new turn in Amsterdam presents a new photo opportunity for Instagram! One of the best European cities to visit in summer, there’s plenty to see and do – from art galleries to canal boat trips, museums to their more ‘interesting’ exhibitions, there’s certainly plenty to do here.

If you’re planning to visit Amsterdam on your year abroad, we’d highly recommend purchasing the I Amsterdam city card – it gives you access to discounted (and sometimes free) attractions, restaurants, and public transport. Having an I Amsterdam card also means you can skip the hassle of buying tickets at the city’s major attractions (the queues can get really quite long, especially at the Anne Frank house and the Van Gogh museum!) Also included in the I Amsterdam card is a free canal cruise! This is well worth doing if you want to learn more about the history of the city.

You can buy different versions of the I Amsterdam card – from a 24-hour card to a 120-hour card, depending on how long your stay is.

Things to do

A’dam lookout: get panoramic views of the city at the top of the A’dam tower, while enjoying a cocktail or two! For the daredevils out there, the ‘Over the Edge’ swing is Europe’s highest swing, where you literally dangle over the edge of the sky deck! Make sure you book tickets online as you will save some extra pennies this way.

Anne Frank house: Discover the story of Anne Frank as you walk through the house she was hiding in during the war. Although emotional, this is definitely worth a visit.

Delft: Just a short train journey away from Amsterdam is Delft. Away from the hustle and bustle of the main city, this beautiful town is absolutely stunning and full of history! Wander down the streets, along the canals, and around the churches before sitting outside in the courtyard lit by twinkling fairy lights.

Quick tips

Aside from the I Amsterdam card, there are other ways you can save money when visiting this city.

As travel is so reasonable, we’d recommend staying outside of the city itself, where the hotels and hostels are often cheaper.

Take a packed lunch – instead of eating out for all meals, why not make your own? There are plenty of benches overlooking canals where you can sit and eat!

Bulk-buy your train tickets: Plan your trip wisely by pre-booking your train tickets

Budgeting

These are just a few of the many amazing cities you could visit on your year abroad. Of course, to really make the most of your travels, it’s going to be hugely beneficial to ensure you have enough spending money while you’re out there. So, in preparation, you could take part in one of our paid market research studies. From online focus groups to at-home interviews, user testing to accompanied shops, there are lots of different ways for you to get involved. Interested? Just click here to sign up.

Sign Up Here.