GDS brings together user research and analytics functions

Digital unit claims that differentiating between two types of research has ‘created an artificial divide’

The Government Digital Service has brought its user research and analytics functions under one umbrella. 

When GDS was set up in 2011, it established user research as a separate and distinct function from other forms of research, the organisation’s director of design and service standards Louise Downe explained in a blog post

“We did this because working with small numbers of users face-to-face to get an in-depth understanding of their needs was a new concept in government, which needed space to grow,” Downe said.

In the years since, the number of user researchers employed across the civil service has risen to 1,500. But the growth of user research as a separately defined function has “created an artificial divide between the different types of information service teams should know about users and their needs”, they added. 

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As GDS – and government more widely – moves towards end-to-end service design, rather than building discrete transactional tools, the digital unit wishes to change its approach and will be “bringing the disciplines of data and analytics and user research together as one super-community across government”.

“This does not mean we expect user researchers to be expert performance analysts or vice versa,” Downe said. “But, just as interaction design and service design sit together as one discipline of ‘design’, so too will the roles in government that provide teams with knowledge about what people need from us.”

As part of this change, GDS has created two new roles as head of user research and analysis. One of these will address GDS products, while the other will have a pan-government focus. 

Applications for both posts are open until 9 September, and each comes with a salary of up to £70,700.

The GDS design director added that the successful candidates “will focus on how GDS does user research and analytics and will manage our brilliant teams of user researchers and performance analysts”.

Sam Trendall

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