Who are our users?

An important part of building a user-centred website is understanding who uses the site and what their needs are. To do that, we need to know who exactly our users are. We start this by defining our key user groups. These are groups of people who:

  • have similar needs and goals when they come to the website
  • use the website in a similar way

Finding out our key user groups

The web project has always applied a user centred approach, engaging with our users on a frequent basis. We started the project by undertaking research using the top tasks method.

Top tasks

Top tasks are the tasks that matter most to users. Identifying these early on helped the project team, focus first on what people need most from the website.

This methodology works best when applied to a complex site with a lot of information such as the Scottish Parliament website. There are many other large organisations who have taken the same approach including the NHS and European Union.

Finding our top tasks

A list of over 800 tasks were determined via:

  • internal workshops including staff across the Parliament
  • stakeholder interviews
  • reviewing the current site structure and site analytics.

Through further stakeholder workshops, the list was then brought down to 31 tasks users carry out on the website.

We then presented the shortlist to people who visited the site, using an online survey. Participants voted on the list of 31 tasks, picking the 5 tasks that were most important to them. We included optional demographic questions, to find out more about survey respondents. There was great feedback to the survey with over 1400 responses.

From these demographic questions, we learned more about the people who use our site. The majority of survey respondents fell within 10 key user groups:

  • civil servant or local authority employee
  • member of a community or interest group
  • Scottish Parliament staff
  • third sector employee
  • teacher, educator, student or pupil
  • visitor or tourist
  • academic or professional researcher
  • MSP or MSP staff
  • journalist
  • lobbyist

Who do we speak to when carrying out research?

Now that we know our key user groups, we can use their views to help inform the new site. Our survey respondents gave us a list of what tasks were most important to them on the Scottish Parliament website. This gives us an idea of who needs to do what and who we should talk to in our user research.

So, for example, when we looked at the Top Task for people interested in committee business, we know it’s the:

  • number one task for journalist and third sector employees
  • second most important task for Scottish Parliament staff, lobbyists and professional academics or researchers
  • third most important for Civil servants.

We then recruit participants for research from the relevant user groups. However, in order to talk to the widest range of users as possible, we also speak to other people who may not fall into one of the above categories but frequently use different areas of the site. 

Researching with users across Scotland and further a field

We engage with people who use the Scottish Parliament website on a regular basis, at a minimum every 3 weeks through discovery interviews or usability testing.

We want as many people to take part in our research as possible. We don’t want location to be a barrier or to bias our research, so we make sure we’re speaking to people from beyond Edinburgh and the central belt. All of our research can be conducted remotely over the phone or using screen share software. This has helped us speak to users based all over Scotland and in some cases, different parts of the UK.

How you can get involved

We are holding research sessions throughout 2020 and it would be great to have your feedback. To take part, please contact