How we create and manage content on our website

Understanding user needs

We only publish content that meets a clear user need.

When we write for the Buckinghamshire Council website, we must:

  • start by finding out what our users need
  • only publish what our users need to know, not what we want to tell them

We can do this by gathering as much evidence as we can about who our users are and what their needs are. Some techniques include:

User research helps understand the whole problem we are trying to solve for a user before we start writing. It also helps us check that we are solving the right problem rather than something we've assumed is the problem. It means we can meet user needs more quickly and in a way that is helpful to them.


'Discovery' is a name for the research and data gathering phase at the beginning of a design process. Discovery is when you try to find out as much as possible about your users and their needs. It will help you understand the barriers that some users face when accessing content.

Content discovery might include:

  • a review of how users interact with existing content (for example, using Google analytics)
  • a workshop with users and other stakeholders to identify challenges, priorities and map out the current user journey
  • researching keywords and search terms with Google trends or SEO software to find out what people search for online
  • observation of how users interact with the website, including where (location), how (devices and assistive technology) and when (situation)
  • a review of other relevant data, such as records of requests to a telephone support service (to find out what users ask for help with)

Start by working out who your users are. They might include:

  • members of the public who use our website
  • council employees who manage information on the website or use the website to communicate with users, for example, through a form
  • employees from other public agencies who refer to information on the website to help them do their job

Try to include representatives of all user groups in your Discovery.

Read about user research methods in the Government Digital Service design system

User stories

User stories are a way of capturing what a user wants to do. They are usually written like this:

As a [person in a particular role or situation]

I want to [perform an action or find something out]

So that [I can achieve my goal of...]

An example from the Buckinghamshire Council website might be:

As a parent of a primary school child

I want to find out if my child is eligible for free school transport

So that I can decide if I should apply for a seat for my child

User stories can help you map out user needs when you have multiple user groups with different needs. You can use these throughout your content design process to:

  • prioritise content based on need
  • check that you are meeting needs once you have drafted your content
  • explain what need you are trying to meet to other stakeholders (such as service areas)
  • design an information architecture (IA) that makes sense for users

Read the Government Digital Service guide to writing user stories

Who to involve in user research

At this stage, it's important to include as many different perspectives as you can. This includes people who can talk about their experience as a user as well as subject experts. Your Discovery might involve:

  • people who use council services (users)
  • service designers
  • content designers
  • content managers
  • service managers or heads
  • anyone who will make decisions about the content you're producing (product owners)
  • developers (the people who build and manage the website and its functions)
  • subject experts (such as people who provide the service you're writing about)
  • specialist researchers

Discovery can be a useful way of making sure people feel involved and engaged with the design process from an early stage. If you don't have the resources to carry out workshops, try to talk to as many people as you can to get a better understanding of the problem you are trying to solve.