A user is any person that a service is designed for use by. Find out about different user types — including end users and staff users.

A user is any person that a service is designed for use by.

Users not customers

Most often when people use public services they do not buy them or have a choice in what service they need to use. This is the difference between customers and users.

It’s important that we make this distinction. Language creates our culture and informs how we view those people. What is implied in the word ‘customer’ is a transactional relationship — someone who is paying for something. It moves us away from thinking about users as people that we’re trying to help.

Ultimately tax paying citizens will contribute to the development and delivery of public services but not all people who use public services are tax payers. We should avoid unconsciously considering these people as somehow less worthy.

Even with this terminology we still need to be careful to avoid depersonalising the people who use the services we’re creating. Remember that ‘user’ means ‘a person who is using our service’.

Types of users

There are 2 broad types of user to think about — end users and staff users.

An end user is a person who needs the service. This includes citizens who:

  • already use a service
  • are eligible for a service but are not yet using it
  • may not use the service directly but are still impacted by it

A staff user is the person who helps deliver the service to the end user. This includes organisational staff who:

  • work directly with the service and end users
  • use the service as part of their profession
  • support or advocate the service as part of their profession

For internal services end users and staff users could be members of staff. For example, a system for managing expenses.


Stakeholders are usually not users but provide significant input or make decisions about the development of the service.