How to write and record a user need for our Bromley MyLife website

‘User needs’ are:

the needs that members of the public, businesses or customers have of our website

Every part of our website design and structure, and every piece of published content, should meet a valid user need.

People visit our website to help them fulfil a certain task, like find a local provider of services and support, to apply for an EHC plan or to request social care support from the Council.

Being able to write, understand and share good user needs means we can create content to help them do the things they need to. After all, that’s why we are here.

Defining user needs

How to write a user need

To create content or services for our website, you must start with the user need. It’s a simple concept, but is sometimes a bit harder to put into practice.

All our website user needs follow the same template:

As a… [who is the user?]

I need to… [what does the user want to do?]

So that… [why does the user want to do this?]

These should be captured on our template [download].

They’re written from the user’s perspective and in language that a user would recognise and use themselves.

Here’s a good example:

As a carer
I need to get financial help
So that I can carry on looking after the person I care for

This is a valid user need because it doesn’t suggest a specific solution. You might need to produce a combination of features and content to make sure the user need is met.

On the other hand, here’s a poor example:

As a carer
I need to use a benefits calculator
So that I can find out if I can get Carer’s Allowance

This isn’t a valid user need because it creates a ‘need’ to justify existing content, and suggests a specific solution that may or may not be right.

Assumptions we make when designing a piece of content or service can often be wrong. We need to find the best solution to meet each user need.

Acceptance criteria

Acceptance criteria can help define a user need. Write a list of what must be done for the need to be met.

For the above example this could be when the user:

  • understands what carer’s allowance is
  • understands if they are eligible
  • can apply for carer’s allowance
  • understands how much they are entitled to

Define the user

Don’t begin the user need with ‘as a user.’

Most services provided in Bromley are aimed at a clearly defined group. You should know who the user is, and define them in relationship to what they’re trying to do.

A user doesn’t have to be just one person. It can mean a broad group of people, if their relationship to the need is the same.

For example, someone applying for a child’s passport could be a parent, or ‘someone with parental responsibility.’ This could be a grandparent, foster carer or legal guardian. You wouldn’t need to write a separate need for each one.

Other user groups can be more vague, but are still defined as more than just a ‘user’ – such as a professional or school.

What the user wants to do

User needs and our content must be based on actions or tasks.

Active user needs are things like:

  • applying
  • paying for
  • submitting
  • requesting
  • challenging

Avoid using words such as:

  • understand
  • know
  • be aware of
  • using (as in a tool or service)

You should only use ‘understand,’ or ‘be aware of’ if the user needs to know it to fulfil a certain task, like comply with the law.

Why would a user need to ‘understand’ something? If they don’t need it to take action, it’s not a valid user need. Complying with the law is still an action because it’s something users need to do to achieve something, like remain in business or avoid penalties.

Good example:

As a teacher
I want to understand Amazing Policy affecting my students
So that I fulfil my statutory obligations

On the other hand, here’s a poor example:

As a teacher
I need to understand Amazing Policy affecting my students
So that I am informed.

We will be building up a bank of our user stories on this page shortly.