ResCon 5.0: user research conference

Read our blog from Celia to learn more about our 5th annual user research conference, ResCon, held on 27 and 28 September 2022.

Advancing research

After 2 years of remote working, the 5th annual ResCon, took place face-to-face in London on 27 and 28 September. ResCon is attended by all user researchers working at HMRC, and the theme this year was ‘advancing research’. We wanted to get together to reflect on what lessons we have learned from our current ways of working and discuss innovative methods to engage with our users post-pandemic.  

You could feel in the air that everyone had been looking forward to this moment for a very long time. Adding to that excitement, it was my first year attending as a HMRC user researcher. Let me give you an insight into what ResCon 5.0 was like from the perspective of a new joiner to the Civil Service.

Day 1

We began the day networking with tea and coffee. I heard lots of familiar voices and saw many known names on lanyards, but I did not know most of the faces. This certainly made introductions quite funny and entertaining. We have worked ‘side-by-side’ for the past two years, developing bonds and friendships, but for some of us, it was the first time meeting each other in person. 

My highlights of the day were the talks from Aleksandra  and Cath. Aleksandra and her team highlighted very realistically how often inclusion is forgotten in research. We used a board game where we put together a research plan as a group which we constantly redesigned and adapted to fit individual needs. This was a wakeup call to all of us. Cath shared a humorous yet painfully accurate depiction of how badly people communicate. In her talk, we realised how many hesitation and filler words we actually use. She showed us how pausing can help us overcome this tendency which is deeply wired into our brain. 


Day 2

On the second day, we had a variety of talks and activities. First, we created a time capsule letter for our future self in service. We also learned about the latest advances on mixed/virtual reality and how to understand the user perspective through emotion analysis. Lastly, we discussed the importance of constructing a shared narrative via open access in research. 

The day ended with the ResCon Awards ceremony where we celebrated our colleagues who have done a remarkable job this year. To my surprise, I was a nominee for the advancing research award. Even though I have only been part of HMRC for a few months, having my colleagues recognise my user research skills has motivated me to continue working hard day-to-day. 

My take home reflections

Aleksandra’s talk was very eye-opening. She showed how moderators can create ‘hellish’ research sessions for users with accessibility needs by not taking the time to adapt essential areas of the session to their individual needs. Setting up inclusive technology and chatting with the user in advance can make a big difference. Understanding the user’s reality is also essential to connect with the user in the sessions and get profound insight in return. Her findings came at the perfect time as I was preparing some research sessions with users with access needs. 

 As a user researcher in government, I work with stakeholders from different areas of the business whose expertise is outside user research. Therefore, it is up to us as user researchers to communicate our findings clearly. Effective communication can help stakeholders understand the importance of our findings and make our projects advance to the next stage. I will certainly put Cath's tips into practice in my next presentation. 

As a new starter, I highly valued coming together and engaging in lively discussions about the newest research practices, open collaboration and inclusive user interaction. 


Looking into the future

Overall, ResCon 5.0 was a conference to explore what the user research practices of the future could look like. It was also wonderful to reconnect with colleagues face-to-face after the pandemic and meet all the new user researchers for the first time. Lastly, allow me to finish by recognising the massive time and effort that went towards planning and executing this year’s ResCon. 

It was fantastic to see so many people attending ResCon 5.0 and welcoming the new starters with open arms. I’m looking forward to next year already!

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