Getting support for user research

The better you understand your users, the more likely you are to design and build a service that works for them.

User research is most effective when it's funded from Discovery and continues for the life of the service. 

It’s especially important to talk to real users at the start of the process. This helps you understand your users and build empathy.   

User research is everyone’s job 

The user experience is everyone in the team’s responsibility. Participation in user research helps your team develop empathy for the users and understand their contribution to improving the user experience. This will help them make decisions and use evidence to communicate the benefit of change.  

They will learn:  

  • what real users need 
  • how real people experience the service 
  • the language people use when talking about the service 
  • how users perceive technology 
  • how users overcome issues with the service. 

Team members who observe research should take part in analysis sessions to help agree on the findings and any resulting actions. User researchers should also work closely with the rest of the team on design decisions and prototypes.

How to get buy-in for user research 

Even if you understand the value of user research you may need to convince others. Getting support to stand up a proper multidisciplinary team with a full-time user researcher can be hard. 

Create a pitch

Research underpins the whole service design and delivery process. To start work on a new service, or improve an existing one, you may need to explain the value of user research. By doing user research we reduce risks and increase the certainty of success. 

Work out the cost of the need 

Design decisions must be based on user need. Existing research can provide evidence for a new or improved service. Use this to draft problem statements. 

Quantitative sources like website analytics can help you discover the need for building or improving a service. They can also help you work out a cost to government for not improving a service.

There are resources you can use to calculate the return on investment and prove the value of a good user experience

Get support  

You can ask champions and digital subject experts in your agency to help you. You can find champions by talking to other teams who follow the service design and delivery process. They may help you gain support from influential leaders in your agency.  

You can use case studies to show how user research can improve service outcomes. 

A core principle of the Australian Public Service is a commitment to improve efficiency and performance.

Show your commitment with a team contract 

It can be useful to formalise your commitment to user research at the start of the process. You can do this with a 1-page team contract. Use the contract to explain, in simple terms, what your team will build and how you'll apply user research. 

Ask the digital leader responsible for the service to sign the contract before the team starts. This will give the team confidence to do the user research to check they’re building the right thing. 

Continious research

To work in an agile way, service teams must update their understanding of users and their needs throughout the service design and delivery process.

You will need to do research in every iteration of the development stage, starting in Discovery and continuing through to Live. Make sure your user research plan shows this. 

This will help you: 

  • save time by building only what your users need
  • reduce risk by learning quickly what works for users
  • understand the problems users have and how they can be resolved
  • respond to changing user behaviour and feedback to continuously improve the service.

Make time for user research  

You'll develop a user research plan after your team kick off meeting. In the meantime, talk to your team about how you will schedule the user research. 

Build research activities and analysis into the team’s regular schedule. This will make sure your whole team knows what's happening so they can take part. It can take a long time to recruit users for research, so it’s important to start early. 

Qualitative and quantitative research 

Seek support for both qualitative and quantitative research. Quantitative research gives you a limited view of who the users are and what they need. 

Start the Discovery stage with qualitative research, such as in-depth interviews with users. Use quantitative research to help you work out which user groups you should talk to. 

Get started with a user researcher

User researchers should be a core part of your team throughout each stage of service design and delivery. They'll do user research at least every 2 weeks. 

It’s always better to work with a full-time user researcher. If you don't have these skills on the team, make it a priority to secure an expert as soon as you can. In the meantime, you can still do some user research activities like pop-up research

GOV.UK has a useful blog on getting started with user research

Don’t outsource user research 

Your team needs to build empathy with the users to understand what to build, this is especially important in Discovery. 

It's best to do the research in-house. This will help you team understand the relationship between the users' questions and the research findings.

Get help from other teams 

Your agency may have teams who can support your research. They may recruit users on your behalf or support you to meet users accessibility and inclusivity needs.

Remember everyone on your team needs to engage with users. Don't rely on other teams alone.