https://companieshouse.blog.gov.uk/2017/09/01/my-work-as-a-user-researcher/

My work as a user researcher

My name is Amanda Hooper and I am a user researcher here at Companies House.

What is a user researcher? Well, let me give you a little insight into my role.

Essentially, user research is centred around meeting customers’ needs and making our digital services accessible to all.

You may have heard of Government Digital Service (GDS). GDS sets the benchmark for all our new digital services that process 10,000 transactions or more.

In short, if we don’t meet GDS standards, we won’t be able to make our services publicly available on GOV.UK

I work closely with our user experience team, product manager and scrum team; and I play a key role in representing user research at GDS assessments.

I was a proud member of the team that met all 18 standards of an alpha assessment for an accounts project in February. You can read about how the alpha assessment works in this guidance.

Photo of Companies House usability lab with users and the team
Our usability lab

Not just tick boxes

Contrary to some views, user research is not a tick box exercise.

User research is focussed around support for users that need help, and ensuring services work for everyone.

Yes, we do have to meet assessment standards but those standards are centred around the user.

I undertake research with a wide variety of users, including those with accessibility needs  and low or no digital skills.

As a result, help calls are reduced, transactions take less time and users gain confidence and trust in government services.

Preparation is key

We don’t just assume what our users’ needs are.

A lot of preparation goes into gathering insights into our customer requirements via:

  • surveys
  • data analysis
  • reviewing current behaviours
  • facilitating lab sessions at various locations
  • attending events, going to libraries
  • speaking and observing people at their own place of work

We have an external company that recruit customers for lab testing in Bristol and London. We also recruit customers ourselves via our user panel, to participate in user sessions at our own lab in Cardiff.

An image of Amanda in a library on a Companies House stall with laptop
Amanda finding out user needs in a library

The value of user research

My role is to help different teams at Companies House recognise the value of user research, which can have the added pressure of meeting legislation dates.

When users’ needs aren’t met at the onset, it results in further development resource to fix problems: further expenditure, less trust in government services and loss of credibility. Not something we want.

Sharing knowledge with other government departments

I’m regularly involved in showing other government departments around our usability lab, giving them an insight into my role. I do this with enthusiasm, as I am proud to be a user researcher in Companies House.

If you’d like to get involved with helping shape our services join our user panel.

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