Transformation Directorate

Representation in research and service design

Involving people and communities in research and service design is an important step towards ensuring that products are designed with the user at the centre. The ways we engage people and communities will change as a product or service moves through its lifecycle, and this is something you’ll want to consider as you plan your involvement.

It’s important to think carefully about who a ‘user’ of a product or service is. They may be a patient, but they may also be a family member or carer. They may be clinicians, administrators, or other health and social care professionals. Often, they include a combination of different groups. Make sure that you include an appropriate diversity of users.

Representation throughout the project cycle

Discovery phase

The discovery phase is a time to do research to understand the contexts, motivations and needs of users, beneficiaries, and their representatives. This will uncover user needs and define the problems to be solved. You won't be building anything during discovery, so you can focus your involvement on listening to users and beneficiaries and learning about their needs in the context of their everyday lives.

Involve people in mapping actual and potential user journeys, and in creating realistic personas.

When writing user stories, use the words that people use. Even better, involve users, beneficiaries, and their representatives in writing user stories. If they don’t recognise the narrative or goal of a user story, it may be a sign that you need to do more research into user needs.

Starting from Discovery, include people in your team meetings, show and tells and planning.

The Government Digital Service’s ‘Government Service Manual’ has resources on how to run user research in small-group workshops.

Alpha phase

In the alpha phase, you generate multiple concepts for the product or service, and make prototypes to learn if, and how, they will work.

Involve people in co-creation workshops to generate different ways of solving the problem.

When you make prototypes of your solutions, get people to try them out as soon as possible. This avoids wasting time on things that people do not want or will not be able to use.

Beta phase

In the beta phase, you build working versions of the service, based on the strongest concepts, and improve them until they are good enough to go live. You should continue to do user research to refine and improve the product.

In addition, involve people and communities in making plans to roll out the service, for example as private Beta users. Representative groups can help with private Beta user recruitment and communications around the rollout.

When taking feedback, consider what stake the person giving feedback has: are they giving feedback as a user, a beneficiary, or a representative?


As long as a product or service is needed, you should continue to improve it based on insights from users. Track the realisation of benefits and make sure the intended beneficiaries are really seeing the difference.


When retiring a service, consider user needs in the same way you did when you built it.

Representative groups may help to:

  • anticipate any unintended consequences of retiring the service
  • plan a graceful withdrawal
  • migrate users to alternative services, if necessary

Representation in user research

Organisations may have dedicated user researchers who focus on involving people in research and service design. We recommend that you consult them on your plans and decision making.

Key questions to ask include:

  • Who are your potential users?
  • Who would be involved in delivering the service?
  • Who would use the service?
  • Who are the people in the system responsible for the service?
  • What are the best ways you can engage with these people?
  • How will you run your research?
  • What activities you will use?
  • Have you budgeted for user research sessions?