User research for the NHS Knowledge and Library Hub service
The NHS Knowledge and Library Hub connects NHS staff and learners to high quality knowledge and evidence resources in one place, using a single search. It has the potential to support a workforce of 1.3 million by providing seamless access to full text, immediately downloadable journal articles, e-books, guidelines and evidence summary tools.
The Hub was launched in October 2021 by NHS Knowledge and Library Services and there had been no further qualitative research since its inception. The service owners wanted to better understand how well the Hub had been adopted by its intended user base and how well it was meeting their needs. Additionally, the Hub was implemented with an off-the-shelf user interface and the service owners required user research evidence to inform conversations with the product vendor to steer improvements that would optimise the user experience.
The main goals for the project were for the client to understand:
- who is using the Hub and in what numbers?
- why are users motivated to use the Hub and how frequently?
- what is their experience of the Hub?
- how does the behaviour of users differ from expert level searchers?
- do users require training to effectively meet their needs?
To deliver the necessary work, the Lagom project team consisted of a dedicated User Researcher and Delivery Manager.
What we did
- conducted 10 semi-structured interviews and observations involving participants screen-sharing their live interactions with the Hub
- conducted 5 usability testing sessions
- analysed 48 responses to a user experience survey
- reviewed support tickets and analytics data available since the Hub’s launch
We engaged with a range of NHS staff in clinical and non-clinical roles. Additional attributes included those with service management responsibilities, clinical educators, those completing research or undertaking additional education or training and in need of high quality knowledge and evidence to support their tasks.
The interviews enabled us to draw insight into how NHS staff used the Hub to conduct searches and how well the incumbent service was performing for them and meeting their needs. Where possible during interviews, we asked participants to screen-share any live interactions with the Hub so that we could observe directly their experiences or whether they encountered issues.
The usability testing sessions involved asking participants to complete a series of relevant tasks with the current service while being observed by the user researcher. This activity helped the team to evaluate the Hub’s design interface, navigation and identify which aspects of the current service created pain-points, confusion or difficulty when searching. We invited both NHS staff who had previously used the Hub, as well as those who had not experienced it before to observe their initial impressions and instinct reactions on how to use the Hub for the first time.
The responses to the user experience survey provided us with a larger sample of NHS staff to discuss their searching experiences and add robustness to the qualitative data we had collected from interviews and usability testing. We asked respondents to provide feedback on how well their searching needs were met, where things could be improved for them, whether they had accessed training or support and their overall satisfaction with the Hub.
Additionally, we analysed past support tickets to both identify usability issues and the frequency/scale of these. The analytics data available was unfortunately quite limited, but helped to determine the volume of users accessing the Hub on a monthly basis.
From these research activities, we had developed a thorough understanding of the Hub’s users, their searching behaviours, current satisfaction, pain-points and could discuss these with the NHS Knowledge and Library Services team with evidence to support each insight.
We presented more than 20 findings on the Hub’s users and their current experience, as well as identified opportunities that would improve users’ search interactions in future.
Based on the survey responses, we also calculated the Hub’s current net promoter score which offers itself as a useful benchmark for the Knowledge & Library Services team to compare with when further iterations and improvements are made to the Hub.