Firstly I should point out that our team name doesn't tell the full story. We’re not just user researchers and designers, we’re also product managers and performance analysts. Our goal though is shared: to collaborate with colleagues across Parliament to put user needs at the centre of our products.
Start with user needs
The first principle of our digital strategy is to ‘start with user needs’ so why do we do this?
We don’t believe designers have all the answers. The days are gone of websites being an extension of print, as passive aesthetically pleasing things that sit in a browser. We’re not designing for ourselves. If we don't know who our users are or what their needs are, we won't build the right things.
Everyone has different opinions of what Parliament services should do, say and look like. We all make assumptions about who our users are and what they want. Sometimes those assumptions are wrong. By analysing user needs and testing with real users we can challenge our assumptions and check whether we’re on the right track.
Putting users at the heart of our approach to design and development is better for everyone. It means that more people can access our services, our users are more satisfied when they use them and it makes our services better value and lower risk to build.
Who the teams are and what we do
Product managers have the toughest job as their role is really broad. They’re working in teams with different areas of expertise and they need a deep understanding of the business, its technology, user research and design. It’s their responsibility to get the best value out of our products. They also help set the vision for the product.
The performance analysts look at how our products are performing using data. They look at the volume of traffic, bounce rates and user journeys. They also look at user behaviour with different types of content and how our users engage with that content across the site. This information helps us to decide on what user research and development we need to do. Patterns and irregularities can be identified and future iterations can be measured to improve functionality and usability.
User researchers help us to understand the needs of users. As well as running research with users they help the business, designers and developers work together so that everyone has a better understanding of what we need to build. User research isn’t about discovering what users want, it’s about finding out what they do. By understanding what users actually do, we can make informed design decisions on what they need.
Designer is a broad term that spans everything from service designers to interaction designers. Designers at PDS are also facilitators. They recognise that an idea can come from anywhere and they help to interpret and convert findings from user research to prototypes that we can test and build.
The new website is a big focus for us, but our services reach much further. So far we’ve supported 10 digital projects across Parliament, with over 100 people participating. We’ve set up a usability lab and analytics training along with personalised analytics dashboards for a number of teams across Parliament. We’ve also made good progress in consolidating our services and online presence but more on that later.
If you’d like to find out more about the user research and design team you can contact me directly.
Or if you’d like to help us with our user research please contact the research team.
We’re also recruiting for designers so if you're interested in working with us then take a look at our vacancies.