Find out what your users’ needs are

Defining user needs

To define your users’ needs, put yourself in the position of the user. Ask yourself who they are, what they need, and why they need it. This will improve your understanding of what they want or need to achieve when visiting your content.

Here is a template that can help you to define a user need: 

  • As a… [who is the user?] 
  • I want/need… [what does the user want or need to do?] 
  • So that I can… [what does the user want to achieve?] 

Here is an example we could use at the ONS: 

  • As a journalist 
  • I need to quickly find the latest data on weekly deaths 
  • So that I can write my news article before my 1pm deadline 

For each piece of content that you write, you might need to define a few different user needs to reflect the different types of users visiting your page. You may need to consider several needs when planning your content. 

Meeting user needs 

When writing and structuring your content, think about how a user need could be met. For example, the user need is met for the previous example when the user can access the weekly deaths data quickly and use the data in their article. 

This allows us to explore multiple ideas for how the user may get this information.  

Avoid solutions when defining a user need

Try not to include a solution when defining your user need. This is known as “solutionising” and can lead to assumptions about your audience. It can prevent you from finding a better way of meeting the user need.   

In our example, a solutionised outcome could be:   

“The user need is met when the user can download an Excel file quickly.”   

In this case, we have made assumptions about how users want to access the information. Excel may not be the best format for an inquiring citizen using a mobile device.