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User needs workshops: testing and trialling

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Transition, User insights

We held our first few user needs workshops with agencies at the end of September, in order to test the format of the sessions.

Thanks to feedback from both agency and GDS colleagues following these trials, we’ve iterated different versions of the workshop and are close to finalising the format.

The main objective of the user needs workshop is to determine the top user needs of each agency and to produce user need statements. A user need statement, or user story, is a simple way of exploring:

  • who visits an agency’s website
  • what they need to do
  • why they are doing it


In one session, colleagues from the Treasury Solicitor's DepartmentBona Vacantia and Government Actuary's Department attended a joint user needs workshop. They worked together to clarify and understand the user needs of each agency. Here is an example of one of Bona Vacantia’s top user needs:

As a relative of someone who has recently passed away without a will,
I need to find out if I’m eligible to inherit an estate,
So that I can claim the estate.

Mike Gerli, from the Government Actuary's Department, (pictured standing on the right), said:

User needs workshop

“I found that it was more interactive and engaging than expected and made me think about the outcome and reason for each user need.”

Each agency wrote user needs on post-its and we worked together to categorise them. We then grouped them, de-duplicated them and identified priorities from high-level to granular. We also noticed some common categories such as ‘about us’ and ‘news’.


Before the workshop, both GDS and the agencies had done some data analysis. We compiled and analysed the top site URLs (in terms of page views and unique visitors), the top external search terms (from search engines such as Google) and the top internal search terms (from each organisation’s own site search). This helped to provide evidence for the needs, beyond our assumptions. The data and metrics we looked at helped us identify the top user needs and prioritise them.

Find out more about how to gather useful evidence to identify your organisation's user needs in the GDS service manual.


We’ve also been trialling a template for collecting the user needs. Following the workshops, agencies compiled their complete list of user needs into the "Maslow" template (named after "Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs") before beginning the content analysis phase. Maslow is part of the GOV.UK user needs and performance management project. This will create an open record of the UK public's user needs of GOV.UK, show how GOV.UK is meeting those needs, and report on how well those needs are fulfilled. We're building a public form to capture user needs, and the evidence which underpins them, which will be used in transition user needs workshops.


Everyone comes away from the user needs workshop with the understanding that all content on GOV.UK will meet a valid and justifiable user need.

We’d like to thank all of the agencies for their helpful input and feedback on these workshops and we’re looking forward to working with more of you soon. Please contact your transition manager if you have any specific questions.

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