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  1. Service manual
  2. User research
  3. User research in discovery

The aim of user research in the discovery phase is to find out:

  • who your likely users are and what they’re trying to do
  • how they do it currently (for example, what services or channels they use)
  • the problems or frustrations they experience
  • what users need from your service to achieve their goal

You must do this before you start planning, designing or building your service. What you learn about your users in discovery will also help you to scope your service.

Meeting the Digital Service Standard

To pass point 1 (understand user needs) in your service assessments you must show that you’ve researched the needs of all your likely users, including those with support and access needs.

How to do user research in discovery

You need to think about your service from end to end and consider all the ways that users interact with it (including all tools, transactions, support and offline steps).

You must also do research with a broad range of users, including those with access needs and low digital skills.

Learn more about finding user research participants.

Typical user research activities

To learn more about your users and their needs, you can:

  • map the user journey of people who want to do the task your service provides
  • observe people to see how they do things now and what problems or barriers they face
  • use interviews and visits to explore relevant aspects of their lives and work
  • examine existing data (for example analytics, back-office workflow and support logs)
  • review previous user research

From these activities you’ll typically get:

  • a journey map that describes your users’ current experience
  • descriptions of different types of users (for example, personas)
  • sets of needs for different types of users

You’ll have done enough research when you understand the different kinds of people who use your service and what they need from it, including those with support and access needs.

Involve the team

Get the whole service team involved in your research during discovery.

Observing and talking to users from the beginning helps everyone understand the problems you’re trying to solve.

Examples and case studies

To find out more about researching a service, read these blog posts:

You may also find these guides useful:

Published by:
User research community
Last update:

Guidance first published