A laptop and a phone with the research hub page open on the screen

Introducing the Research Hub

A tool to explore how we do user research

One of the Research Team’s main goals is to provide staff with the tools and resources needed to conduct great quality user research.

To achieve our goal, we developed a ‘Research Hub’ — a collection of user research resources, case studies and guides. The Hub encourages the re-use of materials and simplifies the research process to make it more accessible.

This idea came to light after interviews with staff revealed three key problems:

  • Staff struggle to find the results of past user research
  • Staff feel guidance is unfit for non-researchers
  • Not everyone is sure how the research team works

We realised that these issues were stifling our efforts to scale user research across the Digital service and wider council, and needed to be addressed.

The hypothesis

Based on our findings, we came up with a hypothesis:

By centralising research resources into a single platform, it will help our staff find materials and make better decisions when conducting user research.

To test the ideas validity, we put together a working prototype using Notion, a project management and note-capturing application.

The approach

Users responded positively to the initial concept and this encouraged us to continue with development. 

From then on we worked iteratively. We started with a low-fidelity prototype and gradually added functionality over time.

During each iteration, we tested with staff to learn if what we were putting together made sense, and was usable. We did this by running moderated usability tests with users such as researchers and service and content designers.

Eventually, we reached a point where we could launch the Research Hub into a beta state. Still a work in progress — but live to Kingston and Sutton staff.

As we published the tool into beta, we added an in-page feedback function to enable us to continue capturing issues.

The outcome

Throughout the development, we were conscious not to lose sight of ‘why’ we were doing this. The problems we identified in our early discovery became the key focus and we directed our efforts on solving them:

1. Staff struggle to find the results of past user research

Ipad screen with a Garden waste renewals project page

“I didn’t know there was a place that contained all of this information. This is really helpful”

Previously, staff complained that they didn’t know where to look to find research insights, as they were saved in separate project folders in Google Drive. The issue caused teams and individuals to miss out on valuable insight and to repeat work that had already been done.

To fix the problem, the Research Hub includes a library of past research projects. Each case study explains the goal of the research, how the research was conducted, and the insights the team uncovered.

In the future we expect the Research Hub to reduce the time it takes staff to find valuable research. We also think it will encourage staff to reuse insights in their work.

2. Staff feel guidance is unfit for non-researchers

Laptop and on the screen an "our approach to user research" web content page

“If we didn’t have a user researcher on our project, I think I could follow this to do some user research”

Before, staff felt that the research guidance was over-complicated by the language and jargon used. Some complained it was unclear how the organisations user research process worked, and that documentation explaining the general process was missing.

To address this, we designed the Research Hub to clearly show the approach we take, and the tools templates we use. Accompanying this are training packs and recommended reading so staff can develop their skills.

We expect the Research Hub to make staff more aware of the benefits of user research, and provide step-by-step skills to incorporate it into their projects.

3. Staff are unsure how the research team works

two mobile phones on one screen "how the research team works" and the other screen "team mission and objectives"

“This makes it clear how the team works and who they are. I can see what they are trying to work towards”

The Research team is a new entity and approaches work using an agile, user-centred design approach. For newcomers to the team, this mindset is unfamiliar and different to how they’ve worked before. Staff explained that it was unclear how the team functions and what it was trying to achieve.

To be more transparent on this, the Research Hub includes a dedicated section explaining the Research Teams’ goals and frameworks.

We anticipate the Research Hub will make the Research Team more transparent and open in the way it works.

Measuring success

The perceived benefits of the Research Hub are difficult to quantify using hard metrics alone. So to measure the qualitative benefits we will produce a survey at months 6 and 12 to measure:

  • What users think of the usefulness of the tool
  • The level of engagement
  • The level of impact its had on improving skills and awareness

Alongside the survey we will embed trackers into specific Notion pages. These will measure how frequently Notion is accessed and which pages receive the most traffic.

Final thoughts

The Research Hub is still in its infancy but the early signs are encouraging. We think it will be a useful tool to help us encourage the uptake of user research across the organisation. We recommend other teams consider centralising their resources and processes in the same way.

Luke Piper

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