Research user experience (UX) - Digital Standards

How to find out what your users actually need and avoid assumptions.

Before you begin

This How-to guide for best practice UX research is for beginners. This guide is one of a set of How-to guides as part of the WoVG Digital Standards Framework.

The quickest way for you to learn how to research UX is to do it. This How-to guide has lots of templates to help you do that.

Carefully work through these and analyse your findings. Then apply your findings to your beta version, and then test it to see if you got it right. In the long run, this approach will save you time, because substantial reworking becomes unnecessary.

What user experience (UX) is

The term ‘user experience’ (also known as UX) describes the set of thoughts and feelings a person has while using a website, product or service online. To get a deeper understanding of what a person’s experience is (their thoughts and feelings about using a product online) we do UX research.

UX research simply looks for, and documents what users need, but preferably in the planning of a project so we can avoid waste and rework and build features that people need. This might apply to an entire website or just a single online transaction.

The following statement is central to capturing both the compelling and not so compelling statements about what your users need to do:

'As a ... I need to … so that I can ...'

Example 1: As a newcomer to UX, I need to find out what problems our users have so that I can prioritise useful, beneficial and satisfying features and functions we can implement.

Example 2: As a customer, I need to be able to select a payment method, so that I can pay using my preferred method.

Once you have some idea of your users’ needs, you can decide which needs are more important (also referred in UX as ‘compelling), and which are less important. Best practice for WoVG is to balance your users’ needs with what's achievable and what will deliver the most benefit.

When you test your Beta work (the version before public release), ask these 5 simple questions to record your user’s experiences. They will help you make sure your reporting is insightful, practical and clear.

  1. What happened? For example: I couldn’t complete the transaction.
  2. Why did it happen? For example: The transaction only allowed me to pay with a credit card.
  3. How important was it? For example: ’High, I had to cancel my transaction because I don’t have a credit card yet. I will have to ask my parents to complete the transaction for me.’ (Hermione, UX actual research participant)
  4. What should we do instead? For example: Allow me to select from a range of payment methods.
  5. How will this benefit the user? For example: Completing the transaction online would be quicker, smoother, less frustrating experience, less anxiety about an abandoned transaction.

Why do user experience research?

Many websites and online services (and not just those run by government) don’t know what their users actually need or want. This happens because they’re driven to deliver a service from their point of view, and use untested assumptions about what their users really want from their online experience. This gap is usually discovered after release, and someone takes a good look at the analytics, or speaks to users and finds they’re less than satisfied.

Create products and services that matter to people

UX research can engage Victorian citizens in the ideation, design and development of digital products and services. For example, get feedback on a new website by releasing a Beta version.

Gather important insights

UX research produces important insights unavailable any other way. For example, if the information provided is useful to them and how they feel when reading it.

Prioritise your effort

UX can help you sensibly prioritise what to build, that is, the features you can be confident users will value the most, something you can realistically achieve and is of lasting utility.

Cut development costs

Consulting with users early helps to avoid waste and rework. If a concept isn’t working effectively, you can find out early before investing time and energy in design and development.

Learn and continually improve

Gathering and sharing lessons learnt (based on the behaviours you’ve observed)is an effective way for government to find ways to improve.

What does the Victorian Government recommend?

All Victorian Government online services should aim to provide a high-quality of user experience. To achieve this, all new online products and services should undergo user experience research before and after release.

WoVG now recommends you apply the 12 Design Principles to all new and refreshed digital services - refer to page 20 of the Information Technology Strategy Victorian Government 2016–2020.

The outcomes of your UX research should produce an online experience that supports all 12 principles.

Service design toolkit for government

The Department of Premier and Cabinet created the following tools to help Government departments design customer-centric digital solutions.

Download the service design toolkit for government to find out how to use these tools.

Use the journey mapping tool, along with the need states cheat sheet, to identify problems to resolve. 

Use the ideation framework to brainstorm potential solutions to a key area of pain in the customer journey. 

Use the solution evaluation framework to compare possible solutions, decide which one is best, and think about your first steps. 

These design principles should be used to guide the design or innovation of your information and services.

Use this tool to understand the needs of customers during their journey and purposefully design for them.

What standards must be met?


Comply with the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014, and only collect information you’re legally entitled to collect. You’ll need to craft and publish a privacy ‘collection notice’ (refer to the How-to guide, How to manage privacy or the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner website).

If your digital presence collects personal information, then the physical location of the servers where it’s stored must have the same level of legal protection for private data as we offer citizens in Victoria.


To comply with the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Disability Discrimination Act, and the WoVG standard ‘Conform to Level AA of version 2.0 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0)’, your digital presence must comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Version 2.0 (WCAG) AA standard.

If your audience is primarily people with a disability (for example, National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) clients), your site must pass the test for the AAA standard. Refer to the How-to guide, How to make websites and content accessible.

Understanding UX research

The professional UX practitioner community follows the four stages we outline here and accepts them as best practice. Each stage involves considerable preparation.

You can also increase your understanding of UX with these excellent primers:


UX - user experience

WoVG - Whole of Victorian Government

SUS - System Usability Scale: a 10 item questionnaire to reliably measure the usability of your product. A score of above 68 is considered above average. SUS.

DPC - Department of Premier and Cabinet

DJR - Department of Justice and Regulation

Document control information. This How-to guide is also part of a set of internal documents for Department of Justice and Regulation: User Research How-to guide CD/16/412448, User Experience and Information Architecture Specialist.

Reviewed 19 August 2019

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