The Usable Image project provides usability and user-centred design support to a scientific software development project. OMERO is a complex software application aimed at supporting the management, analysis and processing of microscopy images and associated data. In order to gather a richer understanding of the diversity and similarities of scientific practice and the role technology plays in supporting the work of scientists using images and image-related data, a range of user-research techniques have been applied, including design ethnography and surveys. This work has provided insights that have informed the development team, increasing knowledge and understanding of what is a complex usage environment, and helping in the process of creating a more usable and useful scientific tool. This paper discusses the insights gained from the ethnographic work and from user surveys, in terms of attitudes to and usage patterns of technology amongst life science researchers, and considers the implications of these insights on the user-centred design and development of OMERO.