Guidance

User researcher

Find out what a user researcher does and the skills you need to do the job.

This describes the role of a user researcher and the skills required, including:

  • an introduction to the role, telling you what you would do in this role and the full list of skills
  • a description of the levels in this role, from associate user researcher to head of user research, specifying the skills you need and the corresponding skill levels (awareness, working, practitioner, expert)

This role is part of the Digital, Data and Technology Profession in the Civil Service.

Introduction to the role of user researcher

User researchers plan, design and carry out research activities with users that help teams get a deep understanding of the people that use government services. This research informs policy, proposition, service, content and interaction design so that services work well for users and achieve policy intent.

Skills needed to be a user researcher

You will need the following skills for this role, although the level of expertise for each will vary, depending on the role level.

  • Analysis and synthesis. You can turn research data into clear findings that inform decisions. You can effectively involve colleagues in analysis and synthesis to increase consensus and challenge assumptions.
  • Inclusive research. You can understand the diversity of users of government services. You can effectively include all kinds of users in appropriate research activities to help teams deliver accessible services.
  • Research. You can understand and demonstrate experience in a range of user research methods. You can choose appropriate methods for different situations and stages of the product life cycle. You can apply methods correctly.
  • Society and technology. You can show an understanding of the social and technological context of government services. You can help colleagues understand how digital technology is changing user behaviour, and the challenges and opportunities for government services.
  • Strategic insight. You can understand organisational strategy and objectives. You can align user research activities with objectives to create strategic insights that inform policy and proposition.
  • Technical understanding (user-centred design). You can demonstrate knowledge of the technologies used to build and operate digital services. You can understand the different technical roles in a multidisciplinary team.
  • User-centred and Agile practices. You can understand user-centred design practices and how to embed them into an Agile workflow to produce timely findings. You can work in an open, iterative and collaborative way in a multidisciplinary team.

Associate user researcher

As a trainee in an entry-level role, working with more experienced user researchers, you will need to have an understanding of the role and show potential, although you will need guidance and training to produce good work and develop your skills.

Skills needed for this role level

  • Analysis and synthesis. You can show an awareness of the need for careful analysis of research data to produce clear findings. (Skill level: awareness)
  • Inclusive research. You can demonstrate some awareness of the diversity of users of government services and the need to make government services usable and accessible for everyone. (Skill level: awareness)
  • Research. You can show some understanding of basic user research methods. (Skill level: awareness)
  • Society and technology. You can show an awareness of the social and technological context of government services. You can understand the importance of understanding the life and work of users to design and deliver effective services. (Skill level: awareness)
  • Strategic insight. You can show an awareness of the need to align user research with team goals to support decision making and action. (Skill level: awareness)
  • Technical understanding (user-centred design). You can demonstrate some knowledge of the technologies and roles within a digital team. (Skill level: awareness)
  • User-centred and Agile practices. You can show some understanding of user-centred service design and delivery practices. (Skill level: awareness)

Junior user researcher

A junior user researcher is embedded in a multidisciplinary team to carry out user research activities.

At this role level, you will:

  • have some practical experience but need regular guidance and training to produce your best work and develop your skills
  • work in combination with a more senior user researcher

Skills needed for this role level

  • Analysis and synthesis. You can understand how to apply basic techniques for the analysis of research data and synthesis of findings. You can effectively involve your team in analysis and synthesis. You can present clear findings that colleagues can understand and use. (Skill level: working)
  • Inclusive research. You can demonstrate some awareness of the diversity of users of government services and the need to make government services usable and accessible for everyone. (Skill level: awareness)
  • Research. You can understand and demonstrate experience in basic user research methods. You can understand when to use these methods and how to apply them correctly. You can effectively involve your team in research activities. (Skill level: working)
  • Society and technology. You can show an awareness of the social and technological context of government services. You can understand the importance of understanding the life and work of users to design and deliver effective services. (Skill level: awareness)
  • Strategic insight. You can show an awareness of the need to align user research with team goals to support decision making and action. (Skill level: awareness)
  • Technical understanding (user-centred design). You can demonstrate some knowledge of the technologies and roles within a digital team. (Skill level: awareness)
  • User-centred and Agile practices. You can show some understanding of user-centred service design and delivery practices. (Skill level: awareness)

User researcher

A user researcher is usually embedded in a multidisciplinary team and responsible for planning and carrying out user research activities. At this level, you will be expected to work independently on a team.

Skills needed for this role level

  • Analysis and synthesis. You can understand how to apply basic techniques for the analysis of research data and synthesis of findings. You can effectively involve your team in analysis and synthesis. You can present clear findings that colleagues can understand and use. (Skill level: working)
  • Inclusive research. You can understand the diversity of users of government services and the need to make services usable and accessible for everyone. You can work with colleagues to include many kinds of users in appropriate research activities. (Skill level: working)
  • Research. You can understand and demonstrate experience in basic user research methods. You can understand when to use these methods and how to apply them correctly. You can effectively involve your team in research activities. (Skill level: working)
  • Society and technology. You can understand the social and technological context of government services. You can align user research activities to help your team understand changing user behaviour. (Skill level: working)
  • Strategic insight. You can understand what problem the team is trying to solve. You can align user research activities to inform decision making and action. (Skill level: working)
  • Technical understanding (user-centred design). You can demonstrate some knowledge of the technologies used to build and operate digital services. You can understand the different technical roles in a digital team. (Skill level: working)
  • User-centred and Agile practices. You can understand and demonstrate experience in a range of user-centred practices. You can effectively work with colleagues to plan and do continuous user research in a multidisciplinary team. (Skill level: working)

Senior user researcher

A senior user researcher is an experienced practitioner who can plan and lead user research activities in larger teams and on more complex services.

At this role level, you will:

  • build user-centred practices in new teams
  • align user research activities with wider plans to inform a service proposition
  • supervise and develop other user researchers to assure and improve research practice

Skills needed for this role level

  • Analysis and synthesis. You can understand and help teams to apply a range of methods to analyse research data and synthesise findings. You can effectively engage sceptical colleagues in analysis and synthesis. You can advise on the choice and application of techniques, and can critique colleagues’ findings to assure best practice. (Skill level: practitioner)
  • Inclusive research. You can help teams understand the diversity of users of government services. You can effectively include all kinds of users in appropriate research activities. You can advocate inclusive practices and help teams design and deliver accessible services that work for all users. (Skill level: practitioner)
  • Research. You can demonstrate experience in a wide range of user research methods, and can help teams to adopt them. You can plan user research for services with challenging user needs and complex user journeys. You can advise colleagues on the choice and application of research methods to assure best practice. (Skill level: practitioner)
  • Society and technology. You can understand the social and technological context of government services. You can align user research activities to help your team understand changing user behaviour. (Skill level: working)
  • Strategic insight. You can understand what problem the team is trying to solve. You can align user research activities to inform decision making and action. (Skill level: working)
  • Technical understanding (user-centred design). You can demonstrate knowledge of the technologies used to build and operate digital services. You can collaborate closely with colleagues in different digital disciplines. (Skill level: practitioner)
  • User-centred and Agile practices. You can understand and demonstrate experience in a range of user-centred practices. You can help inexperienced teams adopt user-centred practices and embed them into their Agile workflow. You can advocate user research, and engage sceptical colleagues and stakeholders. (Skill level: practitioner)

Lead user researcher

A lead user researcher is an expert practitioner, leading and aligning user research activities across several teams.

At this role level, you will:

  • ensure that teams take a user-centred, evidence-based approach to service design and delivery
  • develop and assure good user research practice

Skills needed for this role level

  • Analysis and synthesis. You can help an organisation to adopt a wide range of analysis and synthesis techniques, and to continually assure, improve and innovate their practices to generate clear and valuable findings. (Skill level: expert)
  • Inclusive research. You can help teams understand the diversity of users of government services. You can effectively include all kinds of users in appropriate research activities. You can advocate inclusive practices and help teams design and deliver accessible services that work for all users. (Skill level: practitioner)
  • Research. You can help an organisation adopt a wide range of user research methods. You can lead a community of practice to help an organisation continually assure, improve and innovate their user research. (Skill level: expert)
  • Society and technology. You can help teams understand the ways that digital technology is changing user behaviour, and the challenges and opportunities for the design and delivery of government services. (Skill level: practitioner)
  • Strategic insight. You can understand organisational goals and challenges. You can align research activities across teams to inform policy and proposition. (Skill level: practitioner)
  • Technical understanding (user-centred design). You can demonstrate knowledge of the technologies used to build and operate digital services. You can collaborate closely with colleagues in different digital disciplines. (Skill level: practitioner)
  • User-centred and Agile practices. You can understand and demonstrate experience in a range of user-centred practices. You can help inexperienced teams adopt user-centred practices and embed them into their Agile workflow. You can advocate user research, and engage sceptical colleagues and stakeholders. (Skill level: practitioner)

Head of user research

A head of user research leads user researchers in an organisation and attracts and builds talent.

At this role level, you will:

  • be an expert practitioner who can define and assure best practice
  • influence organisational strategy and priorities
  • collaborate with colleagues across government

Skills needed for this role level

  • Analysis and synthesis. You can help an organisation to adopt a wide range of analysis and synthesis techniques, and to continually assure, improve and innovate their practices to generate clear and valuable findings. (Skill level: expert)
  • Inclusive research. You can help organisations understand the diversity of users of government services. You can guide organisations to adopt inclusive practices and apply what they learn to design and deliver accessible services that work for all users. (Skill level: expert)
  • Research. You can help an organisation adopt a wide range of user research methods. You can lead a community of practice to help an organisation continually assure, improve and innovate their user research. (Skill level: expert)
  • Society and technology. You can align user research activities to help the organisation understand changing user behaviour, and the challenges and opportunities for government policy and service proposition. (Skill level: expert)
  • Strategic insight. You can understand organisational strategy and objectives. You can align research activities across the organisation to create strategic insights. You can align wider research activities at a departmental and cross-government level. (Skill level: expert)
  • Technical understanding (user-centred design). You can demonstrate knowledge of the technologies used to build and operate digital services. You can collaborate closely with colleagues in different digital disciplines. (Skill level: practitioner)
  • User-centred and Agile practices. You can understand and demonstrate extensive experience in a range of user-centred and Agile approaches. You can help government organisations adopt user-centred practices and embed them into Agile service design and delivery. You can effectively advocate for user research across an organisation. (Skill level: expert)

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Published 7 January 2020