What I learnt from user research training

On 13 and 14 August 2015 I attended an introduction to user research. It was held at the offices of the Government Digital Service in London and run by John Waterworth.

I learnt that user research is:

  • not a dark art practised by a few magicians
  • a way to replay and capture user’s memories
  • crucial to (re)developing government services

At some point I’ll try and turn the following into a proper blog post, but for now, here are some quotes I noted down during the training:

  • Theres never anything you need to do before you start listening to people
  • We need to know what people think about things and where they’ll get stuck
  • Go and look in more detail where things are wrong
  • In government, we must care about [people who struggle with digital services]
  • Research is pointless if you don’t share it, eg “Heres what we learnt from users”
  • Blog a lot about what you find – talk openly
  • “Create insights that travel thru an organisation” – James Nel
  • User research doesn’t have to be expensive
    • Doing it will save your project time and money
  • If user research is difficult to watch, imagine what its like for your user
  • User’s ability changes over time, eg when they get older
  • Doing assisted digital research makes services as simple as possible
  • User research can change policy
  • Its not an I.T. system, its a service
  • The more people you speak to, the more you learn
  • The most important thing is to be human – start gently, start friendly
  • It can get emotional sometimes, as often you’re the 1st person thats ever listened to a user
  • Avoid talking about yourself
  • Avoid complex questions
  • When writing up your findings, do it from the user’s point of view

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