GDS unveils user research lab

The Government Digital Service (GDS) has unveiled a new user research lab packed with cutting-edge technical equipment to help provide simpler, clearer and faster government services built around user needs.

Based at the GDS headquarters in Holborn, the state-of-the-art lab is becoming one of the top digital user research labs in the UK. It’s now booked out months in advance since it opened its doors to cross-government teams last month. Teams across various departments use it to test their digital exemplar services such as accessing their online driving and road tax records.

The lab’s controlled testing environment helps departments produce digital services that best meet user needs. It allows researchers to closely monitor how a user interacts with a website and, importantly, how to form empathy with the people they’re producing services for. Recording facial expressions to see if someone is distressed or excited, tracking someone’s eye movements on screen or recording where someone is moving and clicking their mouse cursor provide insight into the user experience. Research sessions also involve interviews or workshops to find out about habits, lifestyle and thought patternsso that insights can be used in improving website designs.

The lab design is based on the best in industry and is designed to fulfil the Government’s requirements of enabling digital provision for everyone who can use it. The research lab includes accessibility technology to enable testing with the digitally excluded, including an induction loop for the hard of hearing, large screens for the visually impaired and a joystick and compact keyboard for the mobility impaired.

Executive Director of Digital Mike Bracken said:

“We’re building services which are so good, people prefer to use them. Thorough research with actual users is critical to that, and especially to our exemplars; 25 of government’s highest volume transactions, which are being transformed into digital by default services.”

Several government research teams have existing contracts with external rented laboratories, but these teams will soon move their projects to the GDS lab. By providing these services in-house, it is estimated that the lab will be 25% cheaper for teams than going out to market.

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