The term 'seldom-heard groups' refers to under-represented people who are less likely to be heard by professionals and decision-makers. They are often referred to as 'hard to reach' groups, though this term has been criticised for implying that there is something about these people that makes their engagement with services difficult. 'Seldom-heard' places more of the emphasis on agencies to engage these service users and potential service users.

Many factors can contribute to people who use services being seldom-heard, including:

•  Disability

•  Ethnicity

•  Sexuality

•  Communication impairments

•  Mental health problems

•  Homelessness

•  Geographical isolation

Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services on effectively engaging and involving seldom-heard groups:


Watch two short videos on accessibility, what it means, and the principles that we should apply.



In open user interviews note-taking is done in front of the interviewee with hand-written text and (optionally) visual notes.  This lets the interviewee see what is being written, and go back to things to add details.

It is useful to have questions prepared beforehand to help the interviewee “tell a story”. This is a useful method of structuring an interview - going back and forward in time, to explore what happened before and what happened after particular events. By co-creating a ‘big picture’ of the experience, there is an opportunity to clarify and explore motivations and feelings and avoid misunderstandings. By making the interviewee’s answers visible, the process is transparent, non-judgemental, collaborative and convivial, enabling interviewees to communicate in an open, effective and equitable way.


When interviewing:

Listen, don’t tell the interviewee what should have happened.

Smile, nod and ask open questions like “can you tell me more about that?”.


Be aware of biases. 



Vox pops capture authentic voices, simply using a smartphone.

Vox popping is a tool used to generate 'on the street' interviews in response to a particular question such as: "What brought you here today?" or "What do you do in your spare time?”.

Usually the interviewees are in public places, and give spontaneous unrehearsed responses to a set question. 

Each person is asked the same question, or set of questions; the aim is to get a variety of responses and opinions on a given subject. Unless you are targeting certain groups, the interviewees should be a mix of ages, genders and backgrounds so that the diverse views and reactions of the general public can be gathered. 

The results of vox pops are often unpredictable and the material will need edited afterwards.

You must get consent for capturing digital images of people.

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Tips for making one take video interviews:

•Hold phone horizontally and hold it steady
•Be in a quiet space or use a clip-on microphone
•Natural light is best - go outside or by a window
•Always get consent
•Respect people’s feelings
•Put them at their ease
•Tell them how it will be used
•Tell them the questions in advance


Observation involves focusing on people’s behaviour to gather information, make insights and understand the unique ways people do things.

Observation can be done discreetly from a distance in the environment.

Sit (or stand) and people watch with a purpose. Take notes and draw. If you take photographs, do it openly and capture general photographs of the environment - avoid capturing people’s faces.

If you think someone will be comfortable with being photographed, explain what you are doing, ask for permission and use a consent card.

Look at what people are doing and how they appear to feel. Observe where they are and how they interact with others. What else are they doing? As you observe people think about what appears easy or difficult for them.

Information to gather:
•Who you observe: eg. a mother with two children under school age. A couple over retirement age, one of whom is a wheel-chair user.

•What are they doing: ie. how long they spend on a task, whether they look frustrated, what else they are doing.

•Why they are doing it: are they trying to complete a task, get information etc.

It is important to document the information you gather with notes, images and videos. For example, observing how a customer looks when they read admission information might demonstrate that they find the information difficult to understand, or that it is clear, or they are not sure which category they fall into.

Once you have completed an observation it is important to translate findings into user needs and opportunities, as this can help refine briefs and develop new services.

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Prepare - Discuss what you want to find out or expect to see.

Do it - try to experience things from the customer’s point of view.

Feel it - be mindful of your own thoughts, questions, frustrations and other feelings.

Take sharpies and post-its with you and/or a small notebook to record what you see and experience.

Be aware of touchpoints - all the interactions between the service and the person using it - these include notices, forms, web information, etc. What do you think of them? Are they clear? What message do they give out?

Map the experience - Afterwards discuss the insights you each made in terms of patterns, issues, and opportunities.

If you think someone will be comfortable with being photographed, explain what you are doing, ask for permission and use a consent card.


What is it?

According to Sam Tilston, user researcher at the Scottish Government “Pop-ups are a quick and direct user research method. They allow us to take our questions to a wider range of potential users, taking us to where they are, rather than bringing them to the lab. It’s less formal than traditional usability testing and is a quick way of engaging with a relatively high number of people.”


Why should I use it?

•Better understand the needs of specific user groups

•Validate new service concepts and propositions

•Identify barriers and pain points for specific user groups

•Reach people in the boundaries between digital and assisted digital services

•Do research when you’re short of time

•Pop-ups are typically conducted at libraries, community centres, shopping centres, and cafes, or can be carried out at places where government agencies and organisations offer services or support.

Find out how to do a pop up research via the button below.



Using a vertical surface to put up post-its, personas, images, outcomes of surveys,  results, analysis, in fact anything related to our project that helps us make sense of the subject of our research. In service design we use walls in a similar way to detectives trying to crack a crime.

Why should I use it?

There are two key reasons for building a research wall. First it helps us to make sense of our data by clustering our research and identifying patterns. Second a wall works as a great focus for a team. As The Government Digital Service describes it: “They’re vertical ‘campfires’; places where teams connect, stakeholders gather quick insight, and passersby take inspiration and add to them.”


How does it work?

First find a large wall, then print out and prepare all your data. From interview transcripts you may pull out key quotes, and identify any relevant images and photographs. Using blueback, post its and tape, assemble the wall. Working with members of your team, cluster the research material in ways that are meaningful and relevant to you. This is similar to affinity mapping. Keep rearranging your data until your team is satisfied with the arrangement. Use visitors to the wall as an opportunity to ‘tell the story’ of the data. This can help you to refine the arrangement.



How you document and present your work and its findings plays a key role in delivery of a design project.