We make house calls!

We can bring this 5-day course to you and run it for a fixed all-inclusive fee no matter where you are. All you have to do is provide the delegates and the meeting room.

Next scheduled dates

We run this 5-day course for Government departments on demand.

If you do not work for Government and would like similar training, we recommend taking these two courses (each course is 2 days):

Overview: User Research Fundamentals

Field studies and usability tests are invaluable when you need to understand first-hand how users work or behave, the kinds of tasks users carry out and the variety of environments in which users operate. Real-world observation provides insights that user self reports or surveys can't provide — often because users can't explain what they are doing or because their behaviour is so practised that users can't articulate how they use a service.

But carrying out field studies and usability tests present a number of difficulties. How do you select the right users? When should you observe and when should you ask questions? How do you collect observational data and how do you analyse it to build and improve your service?

In this course, you'll discover how GDS do user research within government to meet the Digital by Default Service Standard. During each classroom session, delegates prepare the materials they will need to carry out user research on the very service their team is designing. On returning to the workshop, delegates get the opportunity to share their results.

“Honestly it was the most useful course I've ever done, although I now spend my spare time spotting really bad/really good user design!” – Tess Dekkers, Head of Market and User Research, UK Hydrographic Office.

Printable pdf course description for this seminar

About your trainer

David Travis

This seminar is led by Dr. David Travis. David has more than 20 years experience in the field of user centred design and has delivered over 100 seminars in usability for a range of private and public sector organisations. He spent 12 months coaching business analysts in HMRC to transition to a user research role and was commissioned by GDS to create this course and deliver it to user researchers throughout Government.

David Travis Dr. David Travis (@userfocus) This seminar is led by Dr. David Travis. David has more than 20 years experience in the field of user centred design and has delivered over 100 seminars in usability for a range of private and public sector organisations. He spent 12 months coaching business analysts in HMRC to transition to a user research role and was commissioned by GDS to create this course and deliver it to user researchers throughout Government.

This training seminar is aimed at:

  • People who are new to the role of user research in Government.
  • Teams who want to learn best practice in user research from GDS.

How will I benefit?

  • Justify the reasons for focusing on user needs.
  • Understand the fundamentals of field research.
  • Describe the user groups for your service.
  • Create a lightweight persona to describe the behaviours, needs and goals of the specific user type you will visit first.
  • Practice field study interviewing.
  • Use affinity diagramming to produce a customer journey map from user research data.
  • Recognise different methods of usability testing, such as lab-based, pop-up, remote moderated and remote unmoderated.
  • Learn how to write a test plan to engage the design team in user research.
  • Develop test tasks that are relevant to your service.
  • Turn key tasks into usability testing scenarios.
  • Use your test data to create insights and design ideas that can move your project forward.
  • Experience what's involved in moderating usability tests, making observations and analysing the data

Seminar content

Understanding user needs and designing services to support them

  • Syndicate activity: Defining usability.
  • The three elements of the context of use.
  • Researching all the people who need to use your service.

Why carry out contextual research?

  • Why you need to discover (not just validate) user needs.
  • Syndicate Activity: Understanding the big picture.
  • The first (and second) rule of finding out what people want.
  • The 6 phases of field research.

Set the project focus

  • Understanding the vision.

Decide who to visit

  • Creating a sketch persona to highlight assumptions.
  • Getting access to assisted digital users.
  • The four questions to test a user need.

Schedule the visits

  • How many users should you involve?
  • Briefing the recruitment agency.
  • How to ensure each team member gets their “exposure hours”.

Carry out the field visits

  • How to obtain consent.
  • The three basic questions we try to answer with field visits.
  • When to use open and closed questions.
  • How a topic map will help you elicit stories.
  • The role of investigator and note taker.
  • Syndicate activity: Run a practice interview.

Analyse the data

  • What is an “observation”?
  • The 5 steps in analysing qualitative data.
  • Introduction to affinity diagramming.

Share the results

  • The user journey map, from simple to complex.
  • Syndicate Activity: Create a user journey map.
  • The experience mapping technique and when to use it.
  • Syndicate Activity: Create a user experience map.

The GDS way of working

  • GDS resources for user researchers.
  • Your homework options.

Introduction to usability testing

  • Formative versus summative testing.
  • The landscape of usability testing methods.

Forming a test strategy

  • The Usability Test Plan Dashboard.
  • Syndicate activity: Turn these half-formed questions from the team into designs for a usability test.
  • Syndicate activity: Create a test plan dashboard.
  • Why 5 participants are (usually) enough.

Writing Test Tasks

  • Turning tasks into usability test scenarios.
  • A taxonomy of test tasks.
  • The 5 questions to ask of a usability test scenario.
  • Syndicate activity: What's wrong with these usability test scenarios?
  • Syndicate activity: Create test scenarios for a usability test.

How to moderate a “thinking aloud” usability test

  • The 3 hats you wear as a usability test moderator.
  • Syndicate activity: Observe videos of moderators welcoming a test participant.
  • Syndicate activity: Generate solutions to challenging test situations.
  • The 4 mistakes that test moderators make when using the thinking aloud protocol.
  • The Usability Test Moderator's Flowchart.
  • The 3 components of usability and how to measure each one.
  • Practical activity: Run a usability test.

Finding and fixing usability problems

  • Affinity diagramming as an analysis tool.
  • Sharing your results with screenshot forensics.
  • Identifying the smallest, simplest change to keep people from having the problem you observed.

Planning and executing a program of user research

  • Syndicate activity: Planning user research activities (Phase 1)
  • Syndicate activity: Using the Kanban to prioritise.
  • Syndicate activity: Report back on research activity.
  • Syndicate activity: Planning user research activities (Phase 2)
  • Syndicate activity: Report back on research activity.
  • Syndicate activity: Tricky user research scenarios.

Wrap up

  • Opportunity for final questions.

What delegates say about this course

  • “I feel as though I will be able to use everything I have learned to get my voice heard and validate my opinions.” — Digital Apprentice, DWP.
  • “I learnt that surveys are not the best place to start and that user research is about helping the team understand user needs, not just me.” — Spend Approvals, Department for Transport.
  • “I particularly enjoyed the exercises. It was good to practice what we'd done straight away and discuss why we'd do certain things and what we missed.” — User Researcher, Office for National Statistics.
  • “I learnt how to plan and structure user research and analyse the data.” — User Researcher Digital Services, Valuation Office Agency.
  • “I now know why user research is critical to delivering Government services and that the time dedicated to planning is essential.” — Change Manager, Home Office.
  • “I enjoyed the practical exercises, particular on the final day where we practised the skills learnt across the course.” — Senior Business Analyst, Legal Aid Agency.
  • “The Usability Test Plan Dashboard is an excellent way to plan a usability test and to involve the team in planning usability tests.” — Associate User Researcher, Ministry of Justice.
  • “An excellent course, I feel energised to put it into practice.” — User Research Agile Coach, Department for Transport.
  • “Thoroughly enjoyed the course and learnt a lot to incorporate in my role. Would highly recommend the course.” – User Researcher, Office for National Statistics.

What do I get when I book this course?

  • 5 day training course with a user experience expert.
  • An electronic copy of the slides.
  • A proper, air-conditioned learning environment.
  • Refreshments throughout the course.

More details on what you get.


This training course lasts 5 days. We can run it as a single, 5 day event or as two events (a 2-day course followed by a 3-day course) two to four weeks apart. When we run it as two events, delegates are encouraged to carry out user research on their service in between the two events.

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What should I do next?

If you're interested in attending this course, try these links.

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