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Guerrilla research techniques for Parliament

In her warm, motherly hand she held a screen and said:

I wouldn't contact them on their parliament email address. That's for important stuff.

This is the quote I remember the most from a recent guerrilla research session where we asked people to think about contacting their MP. It sticks with me because I consider a constituent contacting their MP one of the most important things about Parliament. We’re working on improving this process.

In our previous discovery, user research and web analytics showed that a lot of people end up on the Parliament website looking for contact details for their MP. This takes them to the MP’s profile page on the Parliament website. MPs wear many hats in their job as they represent constituents, the nation and their party. People need to be able to contact MPs or Lords in all of these roles and find the appropriate means of contacting them.

Mobile first prototypes

Jack Craig, the design lead at PDS, created a mobile prototype with basic information and contact details about an MP and a Baroness using Marvel. As the user research team has expanded rapidly over the past month, many of us were eager to go out and do some testing.

The team took the prototype to the Supreme Court and the Royal Courts of Justice to test. We thought these locations would be a good place to meet engaged citizens. We asked people to put themselves in a situation where they would need to contact an MP/Lord. We wanted to understand what information people wanted and what they understood about contacting an MP/Lord.

The aim of working on the contact page is to improve the process, not to increase the number of emails to MPs and Lords. There are some issues that are MPs are not responsible for and it would be better to direct people to the right place.

Lessons learnt

There were lots of lessons learnt from running around and testing, including a few practical ones:

  • a lot of the people we spoke to would fit into only one of our personas
  • we need to get out of London
  • the weather plays a huge role in where people are
  • lunch times are a good time to do user research

The conversations we had gave us great feedback. Most people would have been able to contact their MP or a Lord but research also raised a few more questions to work on in the next iteration. People were confused about the difference between a Parliament and constituency email and people were unsure when to contact an MP/Lord.

Coming soon

There's a lot more user research coming up as we build contact details into a full service. We’re also looking at improving how we present biographies, speeches and statements on the website.

This is just one piece of work on getting Parliament to be more open, accessible and engaging to the public. We want the public to understand more about what's going on in Parliament and for you to feel represented. This comes at a time when perhaps it is needed more than ever with indications that trust is declining in politics and institutions. We’re doing all we can to improve the process so hopefully people will soon feel important enough to write that email.

Follow the user research team posts on this blog or follow Henry Lau on Twitter if you want pictures of baking.

We are always looking for people who would be interested in helping us test the work we do, not just for the new website. Drop us a line if you would like to be involved. We’re currently looking for people to help with user research on the archives.

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