Introducing user research to transition

GDS places a lot of emphasis on user needs, and with good reason. Without knowing what our users’ needs are, how can we provide them with the right information and services?

During transition we ask you to gather data from analytics to get an overview of what content users are most often looking at and for. While this gives you an idea of what your users’ needs are, they are outlined in broad brushstrokes. The data can tell you a lot about what but it won’t tell you much about why.

Qualitative insight helps you to fill in the detail in the picture. Talking to people allows you to explore why people are behaving the way they do, how they feel about their experiences with your site and what you can improve to meet their needs better.

With a tight transition timeline, it may be tempting to feel that there isn’t enough time to do user research, but this is based on a false assumption that research takes ages to do.

There are a number of simple approaches you can use to make research much more lightweight. For example, if you get into the habit of speaking to 3 users every week, over 3 months you’ll have spoken to 36 people. Over time you will build up a deep and nuanced picture of your users’ needs. Gathering this kind of insight regularly is useful long after transition.

Part of my role on the transition team is to help agencies do quick, effective research. I can support you to think about what to do, how to do it and how to make sense of it afterwards.

There’ll be more blog posts coming soon to share some of these tips. I’m also working on the project to understand the needs of specialist users, which Ben Andrews blogged about recently. We’ll be sharing more about that project, including the research techniques we’re using, on this blog in the new year.