Weeknote 7th July 2023 – A week of valuable user testing

Another week on GOV.UK Forms, with a big focus this week on the members of the public who will be filling in the forms that our primary users build.

I spent a big chunk of the week running usability testing sessions asking people to complete various forms. We started by testing all the different question types that we’ve got in our product, and then tried some ‘document based’ PDF and .doc forms and compared them to the same forms created on our platform.

Lots of positive feedback, lots of thoughts on time saved and ease of use, which was nice. Some deeper, interesting insights too. Like the person who pointed out that document based forms often look very different to one another, but GOV.UK Forms all look the same. They had some interesting thoughts about the trust and information security side of this.

It was interesting to see how people use Autofill in the real world, understand their experiences of completing forms before and think about the implications of this for the product. We’re inherently at a slight distance from these users, focusing as we are on the people building and owning the forms. Always important to get feedback from everyone that interacts with a product though, at the end of the day it’s making these people’s experiences good that is one of the central purposes of the work.

It also made me reflect on user research as a team sport a bit. A good chunk of what we observed and heard was relatively expected, and points that are well captured in our previous discovery and alpha phases. And yet, discussions with my observer colleagues around these points were very rich. It was far from ticking off ‘what we already knew from discovery’ and we had some real sense making conversations as we considered and synthesised what we saw with our existing understandings.

This is partly down to the way I’ve switched things up to run more short debriefs right away after a research session, rather than waiting for a much longer analysis workshop. Although we’ve done those too and I’ve felt the debriefs fed into them in a way that made them more valuable.

Next week we’re doing a ‘firebreak’ sprint to catch up, look forward, and do some learning and development. But I’ll be doing another couple of these sessions due to people who couldn’t make it this week. I’m also going to make sure to capture some key moments on videos, which I also need to anonymise. I’m sure these are going to be really useful to share with some of our other colleagues to show some of the problems and solutions we are dealing with, and the enthusiasm lots of people have for what we are working on.






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