Skip to main content

The importance of user research during a live procurement

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Digital Marketplace, Digital Outcomes and Specialists, Suppliers

We carry out user research for the Digital Marketplace to help us build a service that meets user needs. Talking to people about the service we’re developing and showing them the prototypes we’re working on helps us understand what people need. We then use their feedback to iterate on all aspects of our service, particularly the content design and usability.

Observing users making a framework application

Although we hold user research sessions every fortnight in our usability lab, a better reflection of how people make an application to a framework is to see them doing it in a real life situation. We believe that doing user research in the right place matters because it takes into account other commitments or pressures as well as technological constraints that affect how people use our service. Carrying out the research around the user rather than in a lab setting is called ‘contextual research’.

Contextual research for Digital Outcomes and Specialists

Up until the closing date for Digital Outcomes and Specialists applications (19 January), we’ll be visiting selected applicants at their offices to watch them use our service to do their application. We’ll use our observations to iterate and improve usability for future applications.

Being fair and transparent

We’re committed to running a fair and transparent procurement procedure for the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework. Suppliers could ask questions about the framework during the clarification period (now closed) and we’ve been sharing every question and response with all applicants on the updates page in each applicant’s Digital Marketplace account. This means that nobody has an advantage.

In the interest of being fair and transparent, we can’t answer questions about, or offer any help with, the applications that we’ll be observing during our contextual research. We’ve created robust procedures to ensure that this research does not affect the fairness and transparency of the process, and allows us to observe how people behave in a real-life setting.

How we’ll do the research

We’re inviting suppliers to take part in our research below. During the sessions we’ll:

  • make sure that a minimum of 2 people from the Digital Marketplace team attend each session
  • explain that we’re there to watch the participants use the service and that we can’t give advice on the procurement or on the application
  • film the session, or where that’s not possible, audio record it
  • ask participants to sign consent forms to acknowledge these research principles and to make sure participants understand why we film or record the sessions

We’ll keep all recordings and output from the contextual research sessions confidential until the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework has been awarded. We’ll also make sure that anyone who attends a contextual research session will not be involved in evaluating supplier applications.

Be a participant

If you’re a supplier and you haven’t applied yet, we’d like to observe you doing your Digital Outcomes and Specialists application. We’re looking for suppliers to participate in our research which will take place between now and 18 January. We’ll select the first 3 suppliers who fill in the form who we can reasonably travel to, and who we can arrange a convenient time with. The list will be ordered by the time at which people apply and we'll move down the list until all 3 slots are filled.

If you’re not selected this time, we may contact you in the future to be involved in our ongoing user research. We're always keen to find new suppliers to speak to in the lab.

If you’re thinking of applying to the framework, the Digital Outcomes and Specialists suppliers’ guide will be helpful.

Sharing and comments

Share this page


  1. Comment by Ian Van Eetvelt posted on

    What is the process for giving feedback on the application process and experience?