We created this website for two main reasons:

  • To collect together all the information and guidance that DfE user researchers (civil servants and contractors) need in order to deliver their best work
  • To work in the open, and share our best practice with other user research communnities

This is an important part of our goal of making DfE the best place in government to be a user researcher.

What user needs does this website meet?

For DfE user researchers, it is intended to meet two primary user needs:

  • I need to understand how we approach delivering user research at DfE
  • I need an answer right now to [a specific technical question about delivering user research in DfE].

It should also meet the following needs:

  • I need to find support and advice from colleagues, particularly if there are few other user researchers in my programme or portfolio
  • I need to find existing research insight about my users, from outside of my own programme or portfolio
  • I need to find out how to learn and develop in my career
  • I need to educate and upskill my non-UR team colleagues and stakeholders about user research.

History of the UR manual

Version 1 (December 2022)

We knew from usability testing, user feedback, and web analytics, that there were two main problems with the website:

  • the content wasn't actionable enough. I.e. it didn't meet user need 2
  • it was hard to navigate and content was hard to find - i.e. it didn't meet user need 1

Version 2 (November 2023)

In mid-2023 we decided to fully redesign the website, rather than iterate the existing design.

This decision was driven by constraints in the old templates making it difficult to meet user need 2 (limitations of the menu component meaning we didn't have enough flexibility in the information architecture). It also gave us the opportunity to create a consistent user experience between the UR manual and other DfE user-centred design profession manuals.

We also had a new business requirement to meet: to publish a set of professional standards for user research, in order to meet DfE's Digital, Design and technology strategy.

We knew that the existing data management guidance in particular was not meeting user needs, and so we re-wrote this from the ground up. We worked closely with DfE colleagues in our Office of the Data Protection Officer, and the Knowledge and Information Management team, as well as content designers. We usability tested and iterated this content, to make it as understandable and actionable as possible. We will continue to iterate this content as we learn more about how it is used.

To improve the information architecture, we researched with DfE and other user researchers with a card sort study, followed by a tree test study. The navigation went through a number of iterations.

The new user research standards were developed as a standalone project in the UR community. Each standard has been usability tested with DfE user researchers throughout the definition and design.

Since mid 2022, we've been running a research study about DfE user researchers, and their needs. This has informed the new website, and will continue to inform its development through 2024.

We've had a lot of help and support throughout from DfE's design and content design commnunities, in addition to involvement from all across our user research community.