Planning user research

Plan how you will do research throughout the service design and delivery process.

Work with your team to develop a research plan. This will help you build a service that meets user needs.


Meeting the Digital Service Standard

Planning your research will help you meet the following criteria:

The Digital Service Standard guides teams to build services that are simpler, clearer and faster.

Think about each stage

At the beginning of each stage of the service design and delivery process, work as a team to:

  • write your research questions (or ‘unknowns’) and group them by theme
  • agree on the groups of users you want to research
  • decide how to recruit participants for each activity
  • review and share the findings of any existing research
  • find any challenges or deadlines that may influence your research plan
  • decide what user research activities will help you answer your questions — the 18F method cards are quick guides to activities

You will need a wall to attach sticky notes to. Use this space to share information about your research goals and findings.

Plan ahead

Once you’ve decided on your research questions and methods, work out:

  • your research schedule, including lead times for booking facilities or recruiting participants
  • how much funding is available and what you need to do to access it
  • any procurement processes you need to follow when appointing suppliers

Start booking resources and sending out briefs to suppliers as soon procurement is finalised. Procurement can take longer than you think. Don’t wait until you know exactly what you’ll need or it may be too late to make arrangements.

Allow the research plan to evolve in response to what you learn in each round. 

Share your findings

Your research plan needs to fit into your team’s overall development approach.

This means you have to agree how to feed user research findings into story backlogs, prioritisation meetings, sprint planning and any other ways the team makes decisions about how to build your service.

If you don’t work this out, you may do huge amounts of research that the team can’t respond to. It’s also difficult to react to a team that’s moving ahead of you.

Where to do user research

When you plan what kind of research you want to do, choose an appropriate location.

You can run research sessions in:

  • research studios or labs
  • meeting rooms
  • a participant’s home or workplace
  • your office (using a laptop or phone for remote research)
  • public spaces (more information is available about this in finding research participants)

Remember to consider issues about informed consent in your plan.