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The state of UX research in government: Navigating themes, challenges, and opportunities

August 18, 2023

Scott Pelham

Video Transcript
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As governments increasingly recognise the importance of user-centric approaches, User Experience (UX) research has gained prominence in helping shape effective digital services and applications.

Themes in UX research

A review of existing UX research reveals four prominent themes:

Literature reviews

A literature review is a systematic and comprehensive examination of existing published research and scholarly articles, aimed at summarising the current state of knowledge. In the context of UX, they seek to understand its historical application in both internal facing and external facing systems. While some of these reviews delve into specific areas such as service design or mobile design, they contribute to the broader understanding of UX principles and their application within government.[1][2][3][4]

UX methodologies

A UX methodology refers to an approach used to understand, design, and improve a product or service. Typically involving research, analysis, and iterative design process to meet project goals. It aims to enhance its theoretical and practical application.[5]

UX frameworks

A UX framework refers to a structured and organised system or set of guidelines that provide a holistic approach to UX design, incorporating principles, methods, and best practices to ensure consistent and effective projects. Like a methodology, it also aims to enhance the theoretical and practical application of UX.[6]

Exploratory studies

Exploratory studies refer to the research of the implications of the practical application of UX. They shed light on usability issues, offering valuable insights and recommendations[7][8][9]. However, the implementation of UX methodologies to drive meaningful change in government remains limited, with only a few smaller-scale studies where UI redesign efforts are documented. In contrast, the private sector has witnessed more extensive implementation, leveraging UX research to inform larger-scale projects and achieve tangible results[10].

Methods and approaches in UX research

In research, elements of UX can be explored through quantitative, qualitative, or mixed-method research designs. In practice, it is often explored through a design framework, such as Agile UX, Lean UX, or the Double Diamond Method, which may combine quantitative and qualitative elements. UI design and aesthetics are often also reviewed in conjunction with UX as part of these design frameworks however, methods for exploring these elements largely sit within the qualitative space. Despite attempts to understand the user’s experience with aesthetics using variables[11], its application has been inconclusive[12] due to its subjective nature. Other studies have also attempted to link objective design factors with aesthetics however the results were limited[13].

Challenges and opportunities

The state of UX research in government faces challenges such as limited implementation, resource constraints, and the need for more extensive studies comparable to those conducted in the private sector. However, these challenges present opportunities for growth and improvement. Governments can leverage existing frameworks and methodologies from the private sector, adapting and tailoring them to suit their unique requirements. Collaboration with UX professionals and researchers, along with investment in UX resources and expertise, can drive advancements in government UX research and foster the creation of user-centric digital services.

Furthermore, what seems to be universal in all of the literature explored is the positive value that has been placed on UX design and its ability to not only improve usability of applications and services, but for its ability for cost saving, better utilisation of resources and keeping users engaged.

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Scott Pelham

Digital Director

Scott is a user experience (UX) professional currently undertaking a research PhD on the use of UX in government.

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