To create content or services for GOV.UK, you must start with the user need. It’s a simple concept, but is sometimes a bit harder to put into practice.
All GOV.UK user needs follow the same template.
As a… [who is the user?]
I need to… [what does the user want to do?]
So that… [why does the user want to do this?]
They’re written from the user’s perspective and in language that a user would recognise and use themselves.
As a carer
I need to get financial help
So that I can carry on looking after the person I care for
This is a valid user need because it does not suggest a specific solution. You might need to produce a combination of features and content to make sure the user need is met.
As a carer
I need to use a benefits calculator
So that I can find out if I can get Carer’s Allowance
This is not a valid user need because it creates a ‘need’ to justify existing content, and suggests a specific solution that may or may not be right.
Assumptions we make when designing a piece of content or service can often be wrong. We need to find the best solution to meet each user need.
Acceptance criteria can help define a user need. Write a list of what must be done for the need to be met.
For the above example this could be when the user:
- understands what carer’s allowance is
- understands if they are eligible
- can apply for carer’s allowance
- understands how much they are entitled to
Define the user
Do not begin the user need with ‘as a user.’ Most government policies and legislation are aimed at a clearly defined group. You should know who the user is, and define them in relationship to what they’re trying to do.
A user does not have to be just one person. It can mean a broad group of people, if their relationship to the need is the same.
For example, someone applying for a child’s passport could be a parent, or ‘someone with parental responsibility.’ This could be a grandparent, foster carer or legal guardian. You would not need to write a separate need for each one.
Other user groups can be more vague, but are still defined as more than just a ‘user’:
- a business
- a person who has reached state pension age
- an exporter
- a company
- a teacher
- someone who wants to work in the UK
- someone who wants to settle in the UK
- a vehicle owner
What the user wants to do
User needs and GOV.UK content must be based on actions or tasks.
Active user needs are things like:
- paying for
- sending a tax return
- changing an address
- be aware of
- using (as in a tool or service)
You should only use ‘understand,’ or ‘be aware of’ if the user needs to know it to fulfil a certain task, like comply with the law.
Why would a user need to ‘understand’ something? If they do not need it to take action, it’s not a valid user need. Complying with the law is still an action because it’s something users need to do to achieve something, like remain in business or avoid penalties.
As a teacher
I want to understand Amazing Policy affecting my students
So that I fulfil my statutory obligations
As a teacher
I need to understand Amazing Policy affecting my students
So that I am informed.