User research techniques government teams use most often

Date adopted: 
September 9, 2022
Last update: 
October 3, 2022

This page describes the user research techniques government project teams use most often. We use multiple techniques at various stages in the service delivery process.

Projects teams can use any of these methods. If you are interested in learning more about user research and techniques, we recommend these websites.


We use analytics to get insights into what people are doing when they use government services and websites. For example, you can find out:

  • where people clicked;
  • what features they interacted with;
  • if they completed a form;
  • where people came from;
  • what pages they visited; or
  • what documents they downloaded.

Type of research: Quantitative

When to use analytics: Use analytics any time from conception to sustainment. Analytics will allow you to:

  • measure the performance of content, user interfaces (UIs) and features; and 
  • identify issues, possible causes of issues and support qualitative research.

The outcome: You can create custom reports that you can use to track your service or website's performance. This will allow you to detect, prioritize and address problems.

How to get started 

  • For websites you can touch base with your department website manager to find out how to access analytics. 
  • For transactional services, eServices works with project teams to set up monthly reports. We can also help you interpret the data. Talk to your project's service delivery manager to find out about your options. 

Card sorting

Card sorting is a technique where users organize topics into groups that make sense to them. This helps teams understand how their users expect website content to be organized.

Type of research: Qualitative and quantitative

When to use a card sort: You can use this technique:

  • early on in a project in Discovery and Prototype development (Alpha); and 
  • to refine the information architecture on an existing website.

We recommend you follow your card sort with a tree test so you can evaluate the menu structure.

The outcome: Project teams will gain insight into the mental models of their users. They will know:

  • what words ressonate with users; and
  • how to group website content so people can find it.

How to get started: 

  • eServices can provide free advice or help design a card sort exercise during UX Office Hours.  Talk to the service delivery manager on your project to find out more.
  • You can also do your own research and run your own card sort exercise. Contact your department website manager to see if they can help you.

Field studies

Field studies are interesting because we study participants in their own environment. This could be at work, at home, or in a specific situation. We want their behaviour to be as close as possible to what it would be in their natural environment. Seeing how they access and use a service in the manner they normally would provides us with context that helps us learn more. 

We've studied people at visitor centres, trade shows and in their offices. 

Type of research: Qualitative

When to use field studies: You can use this technique throughout a project. We've used it:

  • to gather information in Discovery to inform the design process to avoid making costly mistakes; and
  • after a service is live as a way to see if there any issues. This helps teams decide if they need to make adjustments or if they need to build a new service. 

The outcome: You will:

  • be able to better describe your users. You can use the data you gather to produce Discovery artifacts that describe your users in depth.
  • discover ways to address user needs by seeing how people interact with the service. You will also learn why they go about it in the way they do.
  • identify any environmental factors you should consider by testing the service under real world conditions. 

How to get started

  • Talk to your department website manager to get advice on designing your study.
  • You can also get advice from the government's UX manager  during UX Office Hours. Talk to the Service delivery manager on your project to find out more.


In this method of user research we meet with participants 1-on-1. We have an in-depth discussion so we can learn what they think about the topic in question. Interview are more about learning about users’ perceptions of a design and not as much about a service's usability.

Type of research: Attitudinal

When to use interviews: You can use interviews throughout the service delivery process. 

  • In Discovery they can inform personas and journey maps.
  • In Prototype development and Beta testing you can do them after usability testing. You can collect verbal responses related to the behaviours you observed during testing. 

The outcome: Interviews give you insights into what users think about a website, service or process. You will learn:

  • what content is memorable;
  • what people feel is important; and
  • how they might would suggest improving the service.

How to get started:

  • eServices can provide advice on conducting interviews. We recommend you attend UX Office Hours to talk about your project. 

Surveys and questionnaires

Surveys and questionnaires are ways to collect information about your users' attitudes.


Surveys are quantitative and count results. For example, how many participants said they took a specific action. Use a survey in the following instances.

  • Your questions are close-ended and participants can answer with a checkbox or radio button.
  • The data applies to a large number of people.
  • Your study follows standard methods for randomly selecting a large number of participants from a target group.
  • You will use statistical analysis to ensure the results are statistically significant and represent the whole population.


These are essentially qualitative surveys. Use a questionnaire in the following instances.

  • You are asking open-ended questions.
  • You need to generate useful information via a conversation rather than a vote. For example if you're not sure what the right set of answers might include.
  • You are asking for comments, feedback or suggestions and the answers can't be easily classified and tallied
  • You don't need large numbers of participants to get rich data.

Using questionnaires can help teams discover which questions they need to ask and the best way to ask them, for a later quantitative survey. 

Type of research: Quantitative and qualitative.

When to use surveys and questionnaires: You can use surveys and questionnaires at any point in the service delivery process. 

The outcome: You can measure people's attitudes.

  • Surveys (quantitative) will give you a true reflection of the attitudes of your whole user population.
  • Questionnaires (qualitative) will give you the respondants' opinions. This can be good feedback, but it is not representative of the whole user population.

How to get started

  • Contact the Yukon Bureau of Statistics to find out about the process for designing and running a government survey.  
  • eServices can help create simple, online questionnaires. Talk to your service delivery manager to find out about this.

Tree testing

A tree test is a way to test information architecture. Participants complete tasks using only the category structure of your website. They do not see or interact with any other element of the user interface. This allows to you find out if the labels and way you have organized content work for your users.

Type of research: Quantitative

When to use tree tests: 

  • Discovery and Prototype development (Alpha). Use tree tests to ensure your information architecture, labelling and information placement meet people's expectations. The earlier you can do this work, the better and the more confidence the team can have moving forward.
  • Live websites. You can also use this technique to test an existing information architecture to create a benchmark. Then test it again after you've made some improvements with card sorting. 

The outcome: You will see if people were able to find the right path in the information hierrarchy. Then you can focus on areas where people selected the wrong path. Iterate and test again.

How to get started:

  • You can do this work yourself, hire a vendor or work with eServices.
  • eServices can provide free advice to you during UX Office Hours or we can help design a test. Talk to the Service delivery manager on your project to find out more.

Usability test

Usability testing is a technique where participants work through a set of scenarios or tasks. We usually follow a set script so all participants have the same set of instructions. 

We tend to use the following variations of usability tests.

Remote moderated testing

We use this type of testing most often because it makes it easier to engage with people from all over the Yukon. This also makes it easier to get members of the design team to attend as observers.

Testing at a government office

For this method we invite participants to our office for a 1-on-1 session with the researcher. In some cases there will be one or two observer/note-takers.

Type of research: Qualitative or quantitative

When to use usability testing: You can use this technique:

  • on live services to identify areas to work on; and
  • throughout Beta-testing to identify issues and address them before launch.

The outcome:

  • Qualitative: You will have insights about how people use the service ad discover issues in the user experience. 
  • Quantitative: You will have a collection of metrics that describe the user experience. For example, success rate or the time spent on a task. This will allow you to benchmark so you can iterate and measure the quality of a service over time. 

How to get started:

  • Contact your department website manager. They can provide you with advice on how to get started and support your use research.
  • You can also meet with an eServices UX manager during UX Office Hours to get advice.

User feedback

We collect user feedback on most of the government's websites and services through an online feedback form or email. We also collect it in person at service desks. This is the main way people share what they like or dislike about a service or website. They also use it to provide ideas for improvment.

Type of research: Qualitative and quantitative.

When to use user feedback: use user feedback at any point in a project. If you have an existing service you can use it to research any user needs that are not met. Use it once your service launches so you can identify issues and iterate. 

The outcome: You can determine what pages of your website or service have issues so you can address them. Or follow up with additional user research so you can observe people to learn more about the issue. 

How to get started

  • For you can reach out to your department website manager.
  • For transactional services you can talk to the service owner or eServices.