User Experience (UX) service

Research Data Service user research and system usability appraisal

We helped the Research Data Service better understand their target audiences’ priorities, attitudes and behaviours, and conducted usability testing to identify usability issues with their website that impeded users’ ability to complete their goals.

The client

Research Data Service:

  • Robin Rice
  • Martin Donnelly

The challenge

The Research Data Service wanted to gain an understanding of their target audiences, and what attitudes and behaviours influence how, when and why they engage – or don’t engage – with the service.

They also wanted to identify priority usability issues with their website, and highlight where the Service’s online provision could be evolved to better meet their audiences’ needs.

What we did

We collaborated with the Research Data Service to set priorities for the research. It was decided that we should focus our research on newly-joined academic researchers, who have joined the University within the past six months.

As we sought to gain this insight with a relatively short amount of time/cost, we developed a hybrid research approach, combining an open interview with usability testing of the website. The interview section investigated researchers’ attitudes towards research data management from an open perspective. The usability testing section was designed to identify usability issues that are impeding researchers’ ability to complete their goals.

We set up two workshops to analyse the outputs with the Research Data Service team. In the first workshop, we collaboratively assessed the interview transcripts, going through the highlights we had identified. Representatives from the Research Data Service team wrote down the insights that were most pertinent to them. These were then affinity mapped.

The second workshop was a usability testing review, where the Service team watched the usability testing videos, and collaboratively identified and prioritised the usability issues they saw. We then plotted the critical and serious usability issues onto an impact/effort matrix to identify which issues should be tackled first.

In parallel, we produced a report reviewing website analytics. This was to identify quantitative insights to complement the more qualitative research undertaken directly with users.

Following a digitisation and synthesisation of these outputs, we drew up a set of recommended next steps, which were presented in a wrap-up workshop with representatives of the Research Data Service.

Outcomes and benefits

The open interviews with potential users of the Research Data Service provided insights into researchers’ behaviours and attitudes around research data management, and who they turn to for support in this area. This insight will help the Research Data Service better understand how it can reach its target audiences.

By analysing the interview transcripts collaboratively, the team came to a common understanding of the key insights from the research.

The insights delivered through the usability testing have led to the creation of a prioritised list of usability issues. This prioritised list has been transferred to an impact/effort matrix, enabling the team to identify which issues should be tacked first. This has fed into a plan of next steps for the Research Data Service website.

UX techniques used


Usability testing



Client quote

It was great to have the UX Service help us take a fresh look at our website and its fitness for purpose. Their contribution to the effort provided discipline, methodology, facilitation – and that bit of objectivity that is hard to reach with your own website.

Robin RiceData Librarian & Head of Research Data Support Services