News story

Innovative lab helps government provide improved digital services

A new state-of-the-art research lab helps government to design digital services to better meet the needs of people using those services.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


The new Government Digital Service (GDS) user research lab provides innovative technical equipment to support simpler, clearer and faster government services that meet users’ needs.

Based at the GDS headquarters in Holborn, the state-of-the-art lab is becoming one of the UK’s top digital user research labs. Since it opened last month, teams across government have used it to test their important ‘exemplar’ digital services such as accessing online driving and road tax records. The lab is now booked for months in advance.

The lab’s controlled testing environment helps government departments to produce digital services that best meet the needs of people using these services. It allows researchers to closely monitor how people interact with a website and to empathise with the people that they’re producing services for.

Researchers gain insight that they can use to improve website design through:

  • recording facial expressions to see if someone is distressed or excited
  • tracking eye movements on the screen
  • monitoring where someone moves and clicks their mouse cursor
  • interviews and workshops to find out about habits, lifestyle and thought patterns

The lab design is based on the best in the digital sector and aims to help the government enable digital provision for everyone who can use it. The lab includes accessibility technology to enable testing with people who may be digitally excluded. It includes large screens for visually impaired people, an induction loop for those who are hard of hearing and a joystick and compact keyboard for mobility impaired people.

Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude said:

You can bank online at midnight and shop from your bedroom so people rightly expect high-quality digital services from government. That’s why we built the award-winning GOV.UK – a simpler, faster and cheaper set for government information and services – and we will continue to innovate with this new digital lab.

Our digital-by-default programme will save taxpayers, businesses and the public billions over the next decade and it’s all part of this government’s long-term economic plan.

Executive Director of Digital Mike Bracken said:

We’re building services which are so good, people prefer to use them. Thorough research with actual users is critical to that, and especially to our exemplars: 25 of government’s highest volume transactions, which are being transformed into digital-by-default services.

Several government research teams that have existing contracts with external rented labs will move their projects to the GDS lab. By providing these services in-house, it is estimated that the lab will be 25% cheaper for research teams than going out to external labs.

Published 29 August 2014