User Research

Learn how your constituents discover, think about, and use your services

Why user research?

Even the best-intended resources can fail when they are not built with an understanding of and empathy for the people they serve. The assumptions, perspectives, and biases that go into design decisions determine who benefits from and who is left out of or harmed by from what we create. The populations we serve come from a wide variety of backgrounds, life experiences, abilities, and more. Knowing their stories is a critical piece of effective service delivery, and U.S. Digital Response (USDR) employs agile, data-driven user research methodologies to gather and tell those stories.

User research at USDR is:

  • People-led. We meet people where they are. We honor people’s stories and personal narratives.
  • Equity-focused. We apply tenets of equity to shift the balance of power from observer/researcher to participant.
  • Trauma-informed. We acknowledge that we are invited into spaces and communities in crisis. We move through them with care, empathy, and humility.

If you’re ready to level up your service delivery with thoughtful, focused user research sprints, reach out to learn more.

Selected case studies

Strategies to build trust in COVID communications

In late 2020, USDR conducted nationwide, primary, qualitative research to explore how at-risk and vulnerable communities receive critical COVID-19 information and how community influencers can help amplify and extend the reach of government messaging.

USDR researchers interviewed 80+ individuals and surveyed 1,500+ more to help understand sentiments, habits, and gaps in how people may think through choices and information. The research revealed how governments and organizations can best support trusted community leaders (“translators”) who act as critical nodes of communication amidst the COVID-19 crisis. The goal of this research was to inform thinking and decision-making for creators of COVID-19 communications strategies, provide a framework for prioritizing key information, and share what people have to say about navigating health information.

Read the full case study »Read more about this project »
Team members
Amulya Aradhyula
UX Researcher
Courtney Pitman
Runaway Research
Kaela Gallo
UX Research Lead
Stephanie Nguyen
Research Scientist
Arizona Department of Health Services
Helping English- and Spanish-speaking residents sign up for vaccines

In the spring of 2021, the Arizona Department of Health Services was concerned by reports that its new vaccine portal required considerable tech-savvy to used. The department engaged USDR to conduct a qualitative research study to understand users’ experiences on the AZDHS vaccine patient portal.

USDR researchers conducted moderated and unmoderated usability testing sessions with 12 users in both English and Spanish. The team used the research insights to deliver design recommendations that enabled people to book COVID-19 vaccination appointments up to 16 minutes faster.

Read the full case study »Read more about this project »
Team members
Hannah Brechtel
Research Associate
Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation
Elham Ali
Former Health Technologist-In-Residence
U.S. Digital Response
Maria Chercoles
Senior Service Chercoles
Frog Design

Current offerings

Applying for Child Care Benefits in the United States: 27 Families' Experiences

We interviewed 27 families across the United States to explore the journey of applying for child care benefits and identify opportunities for action.

Access the research »
COVID-19 Communication Toolkit

This toolkit offers detailed, step-by-step guidance to help health communicators, content developers, educators, and health promotion leaders include health equity recommendations in COVID-19 communications.

Learn more about the toolkit »
Strategies to Build Trust in COVID Communications

We recently conducted nationwide primary, qualitative research to explore how at-risk and vulnerable communities receive critical COVID-19 information.

Access the research »
Don’t see what you need? Talk to us about a custom project.
We’re always looking to partner with governments on new solutions. Contact our team to discuss the problems you’re facing.
Contact us

Meet the team

Anna Hoffman
Anna is a Senior UX Researcher at Instagram, and previously worked at SiriusXM, Vox Media, and The Atlantic. In addition to conducting user research, Anna helps the governments team at USDR by scoping new projects with partners and program leads.
Kaela Gallo
Kaela is the UX Research Lead at Propel where she focuses her research and design efforts on Providers, a free mobile app for SNAP participants. She’s supported USDR on user research sprints.
Pilar Strutin-Belinoff
Pilar has led and built design and product teams at companies like Apple, Frog Design, and McKinsey.
Stig Parfrey
Stig is the User Research Operations Lead at USDR, where he is responsible for growing and strengthening the user research practice. His most recent role was Sr Research Operations Manager at Affirm.
Get the help you need, now.
USDR is fast, free, and nonpartisan.
We’ll get back to you within 48 hours.
Contact us