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A tool to capture user needs (and measure performance)

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

A small team at GDS is working on the User Needs project. The first thing we’re doing is building Maslow - a tool to capture user needs. In the next few weeks, agencies that are transitioning to GOV.UK will be able to record their proposed user needs in Maslow. We’re at a very early stage right now.

What needs does GOV.UK meet, and why?

GOV.UK gives people solutions to the needs they have of government. Only user needs that should be met by government (via GOV.UK), should be on GOV.UK.

Getting a list of what user needs GOV.UK meets, and how we meet them, is not easy right now. In the early days, we built Needotron, which captured user needs and evidence for them, and linked to the GOV.UK item that fulfilled the need.

Needotron became moribund in May 2012 during the march to the release of GOV.UK. We still focussed on user needs - we just didn’t capture them consistently, in one place.

Meet Maslow

Out of the ashes of Needotron has risen Maslow - the first step to a ‘user needs performance management’ tool for GOV.UK. Maslow will:

  • create an open record of the UK public’s needs of GOV.UK
  • show how GOV.UK is meeting those needs
  • report on how well those needs are being met
  • allow us to iterate and improve the way GOV.UK meets those needs

What is the user need?

Design principle #1: Start with user needs. First, identify and prove a user need exists, and that GOV.UK is the best place to meet it.

Once a user need is accepted, we need to work out what’s the best solution to fulfil that need. A user story will help here. This will help the product team generate one or more items on GOV.UK that serve to meet that need.

Nothing should get published without a user need.

How right are we getting it?

Underpinning every item on GOV.UK with the user need(s) it serves to meet allows us to measure performance at a need level.

Right now, we have several items on GOV.UK that meet one user need. It’s likely that we could do this better. It’s likely that there is duplicated or unneccessary material on GOV.UK. It’s likely that there are items on GOV.UK that don’t meet a user need at all.

Eventually, Maslow will help us weed GOV.UK.


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  1. Comment by Sebastian posted on

    Excellent. When will the tool be available on Github?

  2. Comment by Andrew Jenkins posted on

    Google Analytics - Inside Government All - Standard reports - Audience - Behaviour - Engagement - 19 Oct to 18 Nov 2013 (for example).

    70% of visits last no more than 30 seconds and go no deeper than 2 pages. This suggests that visitors to the site are not using it, because how can you find what you want, read it and understand the information on a page in less than 30 seconds?

    My research into understanding web analytics backs this up.

    Or am I missing something?