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A user research lab for all of government

Blog posted by: , 14 November 2017 – Categories:User research.

I manage the user research lab at GDS. We’ve had a dedicated user research lab for more than 3 years. We use it to carry out research into all the things we deliver, from guidance and standards to common components, such as GOV.UK Pay and GOV.UK Verify.

The lab is also open to the rest of government so that they can carry out research into their own projects and services.

GDS recently moved to a new office in Aldgate, east London. This move gave us the opportunity to redesign our user research lab. It gave us the opportunity to look at what user researchers from across government needed from the lab and to build something that would best meet those needs.

Researching the user research lab

I’ve observed close to 6,000 hours of user testing. During this time, I’ve watched user researchers and participants set up the labs, use the technology and interact with the space. Their behavioural patterns were the biggest influence on the new lab design. The user research labs aren’t built around technology – they are built around the people who will use them.

While developing the designs, I visited many user research labs around London, including Sutherland, Serco and Google, to understand how other organisations approached the design of user research spaces and to see people use them.

From visiting other labs, I learned a lot about technical set-ups, equipment and room designs. After every visit, I would go back and compare our lab’s system and the ease of use. Almost every time, I would find things that could be improved – things like:

  • brighter and more controllable lighting
  • more detailed control systems
  • higher-quality recording
  • more flexible AV system design
  • more flexible room layouts

Applying all the learnings and findings from the site visits with years of feedback from the old lab has meant we can create a new kind of user research studio that incorporates different technologies and has loads of flexibility for participants, researchers and controllers.

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