4 minute read

Open SDG is always looking for ways to improve so that it offers the most useful and relevant platform for its users. We conduct user research to do this, making sure we consider the needs of every type of user.

User research

User research is an invaluable way to help teams learn about users and create services that meet their needs. This helps make sure that you know what problems you’re trying to solve, what to build, and that the service you create will work well for users.

Understand your users

To deliver a service that meets your users’ needs, you have to understand:

  • who your likely users are
  • what they’re trying to do
  • how they’re trying to do it now
  • how their life or work influences what they do and how
  • how they use and experience existing services

By better understanding your users, you are more likely to design and build a service that works well for them.

It is also important to make sure your research is inclusive, for example including disabled users and those who might need support to use your service.

To create an effective service, your user research must:

  • include all the different kinds of people who need your service
  • focus on how your service can help them get the right outcome
  • not just ask people what they like or prefer, or aim to find out what’s most popular
  • consider the users’ end-to-end journey and all the ways they may interact with your service
  • be shared with your team and stakeholders to show them what has been learnt

To make sure you maintain an effective service, your team must be able to quickly update their understanding of users and their needs, test new design ideas, understand problems users are having and offer solutions.

User research for Open SDG

Users are central to the eight design principles that we follow on Open SDG. This helps make sure that the platform is fit for purpose as a free reusable platform for managing and publishing data and statistics related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Therefore, users are at the centre of product design and development as we base all decisions about changes to the platform on user research and follow an iterative design process, allowing us to quickly design, evaluate and improve functionality.

We also encourage collaboration from the Open SDG community at all stages of the development cycle, i.e., from design to testing to implementation, so that anyone who wants to can be involved in the development of the platform.

Further, we have made it as easy as possible to customise platforms by adding configuration options to ensure that users can make the changes they need, even without developer expertise.

Open SDG user personas

To understand more about our users, we conducted research to find out who uses our website and what for.

We used the concept of ‘user personas’ to do this, which are descriptions of typical users which represent people who’ll use your service.

We identified four main user personas for the UK’s platform which we have applied to Open SDG:

  • Concerned citizens – who use the website out of personal interest

  • Connected influencers – who use the website as it adds credibility to what they are doing

  • Fact gatherers – who use the website because they need to check something

  • Involved analysts – who use the website because they need to analyse the data.

Each type of user persona has different needs for the website, some that are like other personas, but others that are more specific. To find out more about the user personas of the UK’s platform, please see here.

Open SDG user research example

An example of user research for Open SDG, was to address one of the main user needs we had identified – the need to view progress towards the SDGs on a country’s platform so that users can see how the country is progressing towards the goals.

Therefore, we conducted research to make sure that different types of users could see progress towards SDGs on Open SDG platforms as needed. This included conducting a range of user interviews and online usability testing, which together informed ideas for reporting SDG progress.

As a result of this research, an initial version of reporting progress functionality was developed into Open SDG. This included target lines on graphs and progress statuses on both the goals and indicator pages. 

We carried out multiple tests with users which aimed to validate this initial version. Results were inconclusive and therefore further research needed to be carried out.

Further research showed that some parts of the new functionality weren’t being observed and/or understood by participants.

As a result, the design has been iterated to improve the placement and visibility of the elements, and the terms have been refined to be more understandable.

This design is now in progress of being developed into Open SDG so users can take advantage of the improvements.