New Digital Lab Opens To Help Government Develop User-Centric IT Services

Digital government, GDS

New state-of-the-art research lab aims to put users’ needs first when designing government digital services.

The Government Digital Service (GDS) has unveiled a new user research lab packed with cutting-edge technical equipment that should help provide simpler, clearer and faster government services built around user needs.

Based at the GDS headquarters in Holborn, London, the state-of-the-art lab is swiftly becoming one of the top digital user research labs in the UK.

Since it opened its doors to cross-government teams last month, it has been booked out months in advance as teams across various departments use it to test their digital exemplar services such as accessing their online driving and road tax records.

Government Digital Service

Government Digital Service unveils new user research lab.

The lab’s controlled testing environment is said to help departments produce digital services that best meet user needs. It allows researchers to closely monitor how a user interacts with a website and, importantly, how to form empathy with the people they’re producing services for.

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. 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.

The lab design is based on the best in industry and is designed to fulfil the Government’s requirements of enabling digital provision for everyone who can use it. The research lab includes accessibility technology to enable testing with the digitally excluded, including an induction loop for the hard of hearing, large screens for the visually impaired and a joystick and compact keyboard for the mobility impaired.

Goverment IT

Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude said: “You can bank online at midnight and shop from your bedroom so people rightly expect high-quality digital services from government. That’s why we built the award-winning GOV.UK – a simpler, faster and cheaper set for government information and services – and we will continue to innovate with this new digital lab. Our digital-by-default programme will save taxpayers, businesses and the public billions over the next decade and it’s all part of this Government’s long-term economic plan.”

Executive director of digital, Mike Bracken, said: “We’re 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.”

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 percent cheaper for teams than going out to market.

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