Government launches digital testing lab

Councils will be given access to a new in-house government team aimed at cutting the cost of digital services testing by a quarter

The Government Digital Service has announced the creation of the user research lab, allowing government organisations to road test online services.

In an announcement, the government said that the lab is already booked out months in advance.

Cabinet Office executive director of digital Mike Bracken said: “We are 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.”

The lab, based in Holborn, London, includes accessibility technology to allow testing with the digitally excluded.

There is also an induction loop for the hard of hearing, large screens for the visually impaired and a joystick and compact keyboard for the mobility impaired.

Researchers will closely monitor how users interact with a website and “how to form empathy with the people they’re producing services for”, according to a Cabinet Office statement.

“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,” the statement said.

Research sessions also involve interviews or workshops to find out about habits, lifestyle and thought patterns so that insights can be used in improving website designs.

Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude said: “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.”

Colin Marrs

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