How to run a session at the GDS user research lab

Find out how to manage a user research session you've booked at the GDS lab, including dealing with participants and recording your session.

The Government Digital Service (GDS) user research lab is currently closed until further notice.

Recruiting participants

Teams using the lab must recruit their own research participants. You can find guidance on how to do this in the Service Manual:

Receiving participants

You need to provide a list of participant names and times at least a day before the research. Send the list of participant names and times to We’ll make sure building reception expects your participants.

We recommend that you appoint a host to meet participants on the day. This should not be the user researcher moderating the sessions. Include the host’s email address when you book in participants so they get notifications when people arrive.

When participants arrive, building reception in the lobby will give them a pass and direct them to GDS reception on the 6th floor. The host can collect them from there. Bring participants to the research rooms through the lift lobby rather than past the observation rooms and team areas.

Setting up

Make sure your research materials, prototype or service is ready and working before you come to the lab.

Make sure you leave enough time before the first session to set up and check that everything is working.

You can use the talkback function between the research and observation rooms during setup. You can also use it to fix problems during sessions.

Recording and streaming

On the day, the lab manager will show you how to use the control panel for the observation room, including how to record sessions and how to move the cameras.

At the end of your sessions, we can either:

  • email you a link to download your recordings
  • download your recordings to a USB drive with at least 16 GB of free space (please bring this with you)

If you’re using the Tobii eye tracker, the lab manager will provide support. Eye tracking heat maps take up to 4 days to produce.

Read the Service Manual guidance on recording research sessions.


We have posters in the observation rooms with basic guidance for observers. We also recommend sticking up a large sheet with research objectives, session timings and other specific guidance for your observers.

You’ll need to provide your own stationery for observers, like pens, paper and sticky notes.

Read the Service Manual guidance on note taking.

Clearing up

At the end of the day, it is the researcher’s responsibility to:

  • clear and tidy the research room
  • make sure their team clear and tidy the observation room
Published 16 August 2018