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User research at dxw

At dxw, we believe in starting with people and their needs. User researchers help multidisciplinary teams learn about the different people who will use, and be affected by, a service. What we aim to learn may vary greatly across different projects, but we usually look to uncover users’ needs, motivations and barriers.

We also seek to understand users’ behaviours, attitudes within their circumstances, and contexts of service use. We work openly to gather evidence and build knowledge, which helps to inform the vision, design and delivery of services so that they’re usable, accessible and fit seamlessly into users’ lives. This is a core part of our mission.

dxw researchers involve our team members in defining research plans by:

As much as possible, we collaborate on research sessions, analysis and synthesis and sharing findings.

This guidance applies to all dxw staff, dxw friends, and partner and client staff doing research activities, like interviews, visits, surveys and tests. Please familiarise yourself with the guidance on:

User research principles #

Our principles are not rules. They guide our work, keep us improving as a team, and working with, not for our clients.

  1. Help teams understand and value people

    Researchers at dxw help our teams to build a deep understanding of the people who use our services, and to value and act on that understanding. We know that’s the best way we can help teams make good decisions and create public services that work well for the people who need them.

    We are facilitators, not gatekeepers. We actively involve our colleagues and clients in research. And openly share what we do, how we do it and why it’s important.

  2. Find the truth. Tell the truth

    Researchers at dxw create strong evidence and reliable answers so our teams can act with confidence. We are bold and focus on what’s most important.

    We know we can learn things that are unexpected and challenging. So we communicate clearly and sensitively to help everyone make the best decision.

    (Credit to the great Dana Chisnell and the United States Digital Service for this one)

  3. Take ethics seriously

    Researchers at dxw know that the safety and trust of participants is our responsibility. We think about the ethics of our research at every step. From how we recruit participants and get their informed consent, through how we store and use the data we collect, to how we share our findings.

  4. Be methodical, but not rigid

    Researchers at dxw know that the quality of our findings depends on the quality of our methods. We use tried and tested methods, and take time to reflect and continually improve our practice.

    But we also understand that context is important. So we use the best approach for the question at hand and adapt our ways of working to fit the client and the project.

  5. Learn, share and adapt

    Researchers at dxw work in an agile way. We do research and analysis in small batches so we can continuously share and adapt to what we learn.

  6. Make research inclusive

    Researchers at dxw know how important it is that public services work for all the people who need to use them. We help teams understand the needs of all their users, and do research activities that everyone can participate in.

  7. Build on existing evidence

    Researchers at dxw help our clients build on the knowledge and data they already have.

    We know how much we strengthen our findings when we properly use and acknowledge previous work. So we combine existing knowledge, poorly understood data and our new research into a coherent picture.

  8. Accept and admit constraints

    Researchers at dxw do the best research we can within the constraints we have. We acknowledge and share the limits of our research and our findings. And we advocate for more research when it‘s needed to achieve the project outcomes.

We have a version of these user research principles as a printable poster.

User research guidance, tools and resources #

Guidance #

The Playbook includes detailed guidance on how we do user research at dxw.

These guides start with the user research workflow, which describes the things that user researchers usually do on projects, and then provides further guidance and links to resources for specific topics.

Messaging #

The dxw Slack has an open dxw-user-research channel for general discussion of user research activities and practice. And a private dxw-user-research-chat channel.

We also have a @user-researchers group in Slack, so you can mention or notify all the user researchers.

Applications #

Along with other dxw colleagues, our default applications are those in Google Workspace.

We often use Miro and sometimes Trello. dxw has a Survey Monkey plan that we sometimes use.

When working with some government organisations we will use the applications in Microsoft 365.

We go to the #help-tools-and-subscriptions Slack channel for help with access to these applications.

Storage #

We have a User research folder in the dxw Google Drive. We use it to keep shared materials like templates, examples of previous work, and working documents like discussions about our practice.

We also have a user.researchers group in Google so you can send team invites and set collective folder permissions.

We currently keep research data in the appropriate project folder under the Client work folder of the dxw Google Drive. We have detailed guidance on how we take care of research data.

Professional development #

We have a set of worksheets to help researchers with professional reflection and to inform learning and development plans. They cover overall design skills, our principles and workflow, and our most common research methods.

Last updated: 20 March 2024 (history)