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The National Archives
Improving UX in the archives: a discovery phase project

The National Archives, the official archive and publisher for the UK government and guardian of over 1,000 years of iconic national documents, wanted to understand more about the needs of users of its web archive service. Without user research insights, how could it provide an optimal user experience?

User experience research and usability testing

The UK Government Web Archive is one of the largest and most heavily used web archives in the world, containing over four billion URLs and frequently receiving more than a million visitors each month. Run by The National Archives, the service is free to use and fully accessible via the web.

To help it understand how the existing service did or did not meet the requirements of existing and potential users, The National Archives asked SFW to carry out a discovery phase.

In total, 186 people took part in user research interviews, an online survey and usability testing. SFW engaged users among the general public, civil servants, public sector staff, legal professionals and academics, as well as analysing web data and examples of email enquiries.

All the qualitative and quantitative methodology used in the research followed Government Digital Service principles and user-centric design processes.

Redefining service design based on user insight

User research revealed a number of changes that could improve the user experience and broaden the use and appeal of the service to other groups. The main themes included compatibility with mobile and tablet devices, search functionality, video guidance, branding, signposting and establishing closer links with user groups.

In its report, SFW created prioritised user requirements and user stories based on its observations, with wireframe designs and personas of audience groups delivering a rich insight into its recommendations.

Valuable insights gained during the research will help The National Archives put user needs at the centre of future service design.

“This research has helped us understand more fully our users’ needs and how we can shape our service to meet them.”

Tom Storrar, Interim Head of Web Continuity, The National Archives

Improving UX in the archives: a discovery phase project
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