Connected user research

Connecting research communities across government
Illustration of a person clambering over a computer full of paper files
People standing in front of a large piece of graffiti on a wall in Hackney

Human-centred design can be game-changing. It can create valuable insights that can transform services, products and experiences. It makes organisations smarter – it makes them more human.

Hackney Council are striving to be the most user-centered local authority in Britain. To meet their ambition they are investing in user research, either done in-house or with a helping hand from agencies. Their mission is exciting, but it comes with some challenges. With so much data being collected, how can Hackney make sure it’s connected, useful and, most importantly, effective?

“Making knowledge gained through user research findable, relevant, contextualised and understandable is complex. Building and managing a research library is a specialist and full-time job.”


Research on research

With this challenge in mind, Snook and Hactar were brought on board. Hackney wanted a way to identify patterns and gaps in their knowledge. Disconnected and siloed teams resulted in duplication of work, participant fatigue, and a lack of shared learning. To solve this they wanted to design a solution that connected the dots.

Responding to this challenge, we started by diving deeper into the problem. We sought out people who were connected to the research cycle – discovering what data was useful, where it lived, and how we could make it accessible and useful for others to design services in the future.

Illustration of person pushing boxes to represent data into a phone

We learnt that Hackney had been working with a diverse range of agencies. It had bolstered and supported the growth of its service design team, but it had also created a lack of trust between agencies. Different research teams run research in different ways, handovers are usually hurried, and inter-agency trust is hard to come by. How do we know another person’s work is quality or truthful?

A core issue is also that user research doesn’t exist as structured data. It lives as unstructured data inside files – like documents, PDFs, spreadsheets and slides. After prototyping and testing ways to turn documents into data, we learned that the underlying problem is – you don’t know what you can’t see.

Rather than pursue complexity, we took a step back and framed the project as a simple question: how might we get user research documents into one place – and make them easy to explore?

Laptop and iPhone displaying User Research Library

An evolving collection

This product is the result of a local council investing public money to explore a shared solution to a common problem. Since launching in 2018, the library has grown from 4 to 28 projects that are organised into 13 collections. The majority of the projects belong to Hackney, however it has been tested by other councils. It’s an exciting step and one that aligns closely with the Local digital declaration. By sharing valuable insights and collaborating across local authorities, we can start to design public services and products that are truly human-centred.

With global attention from over 10 countries, the platform has the potential to scale, reaching beyond government to work across sectors, organisations and themes – becoming an open- source platform that’s accessible to anyone doing design research.