We have spent the past eight weeks researching our website users’ needs and their level of political engagement as part of a discovery phase using different research methods: face-to-face interviews, phone interviews, pop-up research, and an online survey.
We have also spent some time reviewing a big chunk of research that had been conducted over the past couple of years.
For discovery we focussed with Bunnyfoot on the general public as users of the website. We talked to those who had used the website before and also to individuals who had never engaged with the website to try and understand what they would expect to find on a parliamentary website and understand their perceptions of Parliament.
The findings, in a nutshell, are:
- People care about topics and issues that affect them, their family and/or friends or their area and look for information about those topics and issues
- People would like to become more engaged in politics but don’t necessarily know how and also tend to think ‘what’s the point?’
- The language of politics is a barrier to understanding and engagement
- People think Parliament is Government
- People think Parliament is London-centric and don’t know that they can come and visit the Houses of Parliament
These findings are very much in line with some of the findings of the Hansard Society's Audit of Political Engagement on disengagement and disempowerment that was published a couple of weeks ago: ‘Only 13% feel they have some influence over decision-making nationally although 41% would like to be involved in decision-making’. Our findings also show that respondents would like to be more engaged or be more involved but don’t necessarily know how to go about it:
"I feel like I should be more interested, more involved. But time is an issue, and I don’t know where to start, how to get involved." P78
Our February survey showed that out of 681 respondents who said they were not engaged or somewhat engaged, 24% said they were not sure how they can engage more, 22% said they don’t think they can make a difference to an issue they care about and 38% simply said they do not have the time to engage fully. This is insight that we should always bear in mind as people may not be engaged in politics but they do care about issues that affect them. We need to find that fine line between our users and our potential users to address their needs to obtain information and potentially engage as one of the findings of this piece of research also showed that engagement would increase if individuals can make a difference about an issue, can have a clear idea of arguments for and against a topic and an awareness of topics being discussed in Parliament.
One output of discovery was a set of updated personas that will inform, in the first instance, our work in Alpha.
These findings and updated personas have allowed us to start focusing on a number of ideas to prototype. We have now kicked off the first sprint of Alpha and we are exploring further one of the prototypes worked on by the Rapid Start team at Fluxx, Interact, in light of the key user need to find information about issues that affect them.
User research is an ongoing and continuous journey and undoubtedly, there are limitations to the work we have done in discovery:
- We have not covered specialist users in details yet (i.e. internal users – Members, their staff – external users such as journalists, lobbyists, academics, Government departments).
- We need to tackle the education persona in much more depth to also address the needs of students.
In the next weeks and months we are going to research the high level needs of those specialist users. The findings from discovery are only the tip of the iceberg and we must continuously review our personas as living documents so that they inform every step of our development journey to a new website.
Keep an eye on this blog for the latest Alpha developments...
And in case you have not yet witnessed the ongoing argument I am having with Jack Craig, our designer: what colour are the post-it notes in the foreground?
Feel free to email me your answer (or leave a comment below), and for those of you who know me well, you should know by now how much I hate/love post-its notes...