user research wall

I’m Zaffreen and I’m a User Researcher working on our new Digital Register service. As Paul mentioned in his last blog, our assessment at Government Digital Service is looming. If we pass against the digital by default service standards our service can appear on GOV.UK.

When we talk about the assessment thoughts of sitting an exam go through my head, however, it isn’t an exam. I’m confident that we will pass provided we give evidence to the assessors that we are developing a service based on user needs and not internal assumptions!

Will our service be based on user centred design?

As part of our alpha phase, we mapped out the user journey from start to end to understand the basic functions a user would need. We then took these features and turned them into small user stories. We tend to have a perspective from our experience with customers; however it’s important that we test with real users and these are validated or dismissed.

For example, a number of internal stakeholders felt we needed to reveal classes of title as part of a transaction result. So the team built a prototype and took it out and tested it with users. The user research quickly showed the ‘class of title’ meant very little to users and if anything was confusing. Research findings were presented back to the team so we knew not to reveal this information within the service.

How has the design of the service changed from user research findings?

Since the beginning of the beta, we’ve had 16 iterations of the prototype. Some might ask why? Well, a prototype enables you to quickly explore a range of different design concepts and gain a better understanding of what works best for our users.

For example, on version 7 of the prototype we tested the name of the service as ‘Find a title’. We quickly found that some users were associating this with a personal title (eg Mr, Miss, Ms, Mrs). So as a result of feedback we changed the name to ‘Search the Land and Property Register’.

Another design change we made as a result of user feedback was the position of the location map. We tested with users in a lab and in pop up research by asking questions such as “what do you make of the map on this page”. Feedback from the majority was that it showed the rough extent and location. However, there was a preference to see this before paying so they knew they were buying the right property information. As a result of this feedback, the map is now displayed after the user selects the property.

Who and how many people have we tested with?

To ensure the new service is easy to use and meets the needs of our users, we have continually researched with people who have a range of digital skills, as well as people that don’t go online. This includes assisted digital users both in the research lab and other locations such as libraries, coffee shops and customer contact centres.

We’ve done 14 rounds of usability testing with 84 users at the Government Digital Service lab. We did telephone interviews with 21 users who contacted Land Registry, and 24 users (offline) who lodged paper applications. We did 3 sessions of Guerrilla testing (which is very quick testing lasting about 10 minutes) with 12 users and pop up research in customer contact centres with 32 users. We also did an online survey completed by over 2,000 users and a telephone survey of 329 users who contacted our customer contact centre in Wales.

But that’s not the end of the research journey! We’ll continue after we launch our public beta in April and further updates to the service will be made based on user feedback and their needs.

Can people get through the service without help?

We focussed our user research on assisted digital users. If these types of users found the service easy to use and could complete their transaction without any support, we knew we were on the right lines to launch a service anyone could easily use.

Zaffreen Akhtar
By Zaffreen Akhtar,
User Researcher at HM Land Registry