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Find out more about users

Getting helpful insight about users can be complicated, so it’s important to think about how you can find more about them and take time to do that. You should choose activities that will provide strong evidence and reliable answers to your questions, for the least time, effort and cost. There are different people that can help you with these activities, so include them in your planning:

  • social and user researchers are experts in gathering evidence about people                               

  • data scientists or analysts may help to make sense of your evidence after you have collected it.

When to do it

You should have a plan from an early stage and keep revising it throughout the lifetime of the policy, product or service. Your choices about methods should change as your project evolves.

How to do it

You should:

  • set out the goals of your research

  • identify the users that you want to research and their characteristics

  • know what existing research you could re-use and where the gaps are

  • assess which methods of research will provide the best evidence

  • plan who will do the research and how you’ll recruit users

  • research in an ethical way with consent, privacy and anonymity

Try this activity

This activity will help you set realistic expectations about the time and effort needed to get good insight about your users. It will give you some ideas that you can talk to a researcher or analyst about.

Time, space and materials

  • 30 minutes

  • the activity cards – print them double-sided on A3 paper and then cut them up and shuffle

  • a table for a face-to-face event

  • or for a remote event use a video conference and online whiteboard that will take the place of the table

People to include

  • your team, plus a researcher or analyst if you have one

  • a small group (1 to 5 people)

  • a facilitator to give instructions


The purpose of this activity is to think about how we might find out more about our users. It will aid team discussion about how much time and effort you’ll need to set aside to understand your users.

  1. Make sure your cards have the picture side up. Group all cards that have the same description. The descriptions state the characteristics of each activity to find out more about users. You should have one pile for all the cards that say FAST, and so on. You should end up with 14 piles of cards. You have 1 minute.

  2. Order the piles of cards from 1 to 14. At the top, you should have the characteristics that you must have and at the bottom, you should have the characteristics that you want to avoid. Discuss the ordering with each other as you work. You have 5 minutes.

  3. Decide which characteristics are unacceptable for your project. Divide the piles into 2 groups: wanted and unwanted. You have 1 minute.

  4. Now turn over the cards. This side shows different activities to help you find out more about users. If there are any cards in both the wanted and unwanted groups, then remove the card from the wanted category and add it to the unwanted group. You have 2 minutes.

  5. The remaining cards in the wanted group show the types of activity that might be suitable for the project.

  6. Discuss what has emerged. Do you think activities are the right ones? What does this tell you about the characteristics that you selected at the start?

  7. You now have some activities that could be suitable for your project and you have discussed whether you are making sufficient space to undertake research on your users.


  • try re-running the activity with a different selection of characteristics

  • discuss how much time and effort you will need to set aside to understand your users

Next steps

  • talk to a researcher or an analyst for advice about writing a detailed research plan

Further reading

Find out more about this topic by searching the internet for:

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