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How we do user research

We have a set of guides that explain how we do user research at dxw.

The guidance builds on our user research principles. It also builds on the guidance for user research in the GOV.UK Service Manual so we can help teams meet the Government Service Standard.

Note that this guidance applies to all dxw staff, dxw friends, and partner and client staff doing research activities, like interviews, visits, surveys and tests. And particularly the guidance on Doing research safely, Getting informed consent, Protecting participant privacy and Taking care of research data.

The guidance explains how to do research that is effective, ethical and legal. If your situation isn’t covered, and you’re not sure what to do, ask Steph Troeth (Head of User Research) or Coca Rivas (Director of Design).

User research workflow #

These are the things that user researchers usually do on projects, and the relevant guides.

  1. Take part in project inception

    Researchers take part in project inception. We work with our team to clarify project goals and outcomes, review and make sense of existing evidence, understand what we need to learn through our research, and consider who will need to participate.

    This helps teams to start with people and their needs.

    Setting up a project
    Creating and using research plans

  2. Create and share research plans

    Researchers create and share research plans that show what we’re aiming to learn, which groups we’ll be researching with, and what activities we will do. We involve our teams in creating these plans, and share them widely, so our colleagues can understand and support the research we will be doing.

    We choose research activities that provide strong evidence and reliable answers, for the least time, effort and cost. And we choose activities that help our teams and different kinds of users to fully participate. We make sure the research is ethical and safe. And that the plan is achievable and allows us to do research at a sustainable pace.

    This helps us to produce the clearest and most valuable findings we can, with the people, time and other resources we have.

    Creating and using research plans
    Choosing and using research methods
    Doing research safely

  3. Recruit people for research

    Researchers recruit appropriate participants for research activities. Finding the right participants at the right time is always challenging, so we start recruiting as soon as we can and use a variety of approaches to reach everyone we need. We keep track of who participates in our research, so we can be confident that we’re including the right people. And we work hard to protect their privacy and wellbeing.

    This helps teams to learn about all the people who might use or be affected by a service.

    Recruiting research participants and protecting their privacy
    Getting informed consent for user research
    When and how to give incentives to research participants

  4. Do research activities

    This is the most obvious and visible part of our work. We carefully prepare, schedule and carry out effective research activities. We give all our colleagues regular opportunities to take part in research. And we record what we do and how we do it, for each other, and for those who come after us.

    This helps teams to embed regular research into their agile practices.

    Choosing and using research methods
    Writing and using discussion guides
    Doing research safely
    Taking notes and recording research sessions

  5. Analyse research and produce findings

    Researchers carefully analyse the different kinds of data we collect, whether from new research or from existing sources. We analyse data in batches and record our findings from sprint to sprint. And we involve our colleagues and clients in analysis to make sure our findings are clear and relevant.

    Based on our findings, we get actively involved in identifying opportunities, making recommendations, creating design ideas and setting priorities.

    This helps teams understand and believe in our findings. So they can make good decisions and respond quickly to what we learn together.

    Taking notes and recording research sessions
    Choosing and using analysis and synthesis methods

  6. Create and share outputs

    Researchers create and share formal outputs like plans, presentations, reports and diagrams. These record and communicate the important things we learn. We create finished outputs from sprint to sprint, not just at the end of a project. We think carefully about how, where and with whom we present and share these outputs to produce the most impact. And we take care to protect our participant’s privacy in everything we share.

    This helps our clients and other stakeholders use and benefit from what we learned both during the project and long after we’ve gone.

    Sharing research activities and findings

  7. Take care of research data

    Researchers know it’s important to manage research data carefully. We follow our privacy policy and ISO27001 certification when we collect, process and store research data to make sure we comply with the General Data Protection Regulation.

    This helps teams to get the most from the research data they collect, while protecting the privacy of the people taking part.

    Taking notes and recording research sessions
    Taking care of research data

We have a version of this user research workflow as a printable poster.

Last updated: 18 March 2024 (history)