Who is a user?

A user is any person who uses products and services.

Users are different from customers because the word ‘customer’ usually means a person who is buying something.

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.

Services should be designed and built for users, to help them with what they need to do.

If users are able to use services quickly, easily and securely, government has served its purpose well.

Why are users important?

It’s important to have a good understanding of who your users are, to provide services that work for them - and to help you make improvements over time.

Users can help the government design better services through:

  • the information or data they provide on the service
  • the feedback they give on the service
  • their involvement in the design of a new service through user research

The systems we design must suit not only citizens, but also the staff using those systems. This includes people responsible for managing internal systems and processes that support the service, like case workers or call centre staff.

The overall service might fail if the needs of all users are not considered.

Types of users

There are 2 broad types of user - end users and staff users.

An end user is a person who needs a service. For example, someone who goes online to apply for money.

End users include people who:

  • already use a service
  • might use a service in the future
  • might not use the service directly but are still impacted by it, for example, someone who is a carer for a person who needs the service

A staff user is the person who helps deliver the service to the end user. For example, a person who works in the passport office helps users with matters relating to their passport.

Staff users include internal users who:

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

You need to spend time with your team planning how you’ll identify user types, and find representative users.

Make sure you include people who have particular ways of using the service because they have distinct needs, including experts, and users with disabilities or specific support needs.