Digital and technology skills

User research

Investigating and understanding the needs of users, to inform product design and strategic direction.

User research is about understanding users and their needs. It can be categorised into two broad themes: product research and strategic research. Research continues throughout the design, build and operation of a service.

Some relevant roles: user researchers, business analysts, performance analysts

User-centred design

This involves understanding:

User research techniques

Knowing which techniques are appropriate to generating specific kinds of insights into user behaviour and needs, so that research activities are focused on giving maximum value to the end user.

User journey mapping

This involves:

  • conducting user journey mapping exercises
  • using them as a tool to support user-centred design decision-making

Critiquing design work

Working closely with designers and design teams to help form design responses to identified research findings. This ensures design remains focused on user needs.

Planning research

Planning out research activities, including the schedule of activities, methods and procurement of resources required.

Sourcing and recruitment

This involves:

  • sourcing and procuring participants and facilities in order to conduct user research
  • writing effective screeners to give to procured suppliers, in order to source participants

Persona creation

This involves:

  • creating data-driven user personas
  • using these as a tool to support user-centred design decision making

Representing the user

Using evidence drawn from data and research analysis to represent the user in product and design discussions.

Leading analysis sessions

Moderating and facilitating

This involves:

Interpreting findings

Helping the development team, service managers and product owners to:

  • work through interview and focus group findings
  • create actions based on these to address user needs

Research techniques

Using appropriate techniques

Confidently using a range of user techniques, both qualitative and quantitative. You should be able to set up and conduct research and experiments using methods such as:

  • eye tracking
  • card sorting
  • survey design
  • participatory design sessions
  • focus groups
  • unmoderated sessions
  • remote sessions
  • lab-based user testing
  • A/B testing

Recording results

Capturing research data throughout sessions to ensure the recorded outcome is an accurate reflection of the session’s content.


This involves understanding:

  • sampling and how it affects the research process
  • who to interview to get a representative view of users
  • how many people to speak to so that you can talk knowledgeably about user needs

Performance analysis

Using performance analysis data to:

  • better support product creation and enhancement
  • maintain high service standards


Identifying accessibility needs

This involves:

Advising design teams on accessibility

Providing advice to design teams on how to improve services so they’re accessible to all.

Privacy and ethics

This involves understanding:

  • the confidentiality considerations of interviewing, videoing and collecting user data in general
  • how data should be handled

Video editing

Using video editing software (eg to show developers and stakeholders how users interact with a product).

Learning resources:

The Service Design Manual includes:

GDS has created a hackpad (a ‘smart’ collaborative document) containing learning resources for user research.

The US government has an online guide to usability that covers basics, research techniques, virtual design and resources.

The Interaction Design Foundation is an online community providing online courses, literature and research publications on interaction design.

The Linkydink list of user research links is a community-based resource contributed to and used by user researchers working in the UK government.

The User Experience Professionals Association website lists resources, publications and events for UX professionals.