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Understanding your users User personas


Our user researchers have identified five main user personas for the ONS website. These personas group together the different types of people who use the site.​

Each persona has a different level of knowledge and focuses on different tasks on the website.

Expert analysts

Who they are

Someone who creates their own analysis from data. This user downloads spreadsheets into their own statistical models to create personal datasets.

Access to the data for analysis is more important to them than its presentation.

Written reports give helpful context, but I would prefer to see the data. It has to be very easy to find what I want.

— What an expert analyst is likely to say

What motivates them

It is part of their job to analyse data. They have a passion for data and need accurate statistics to provide confidence in their analysis. They are interested in the use of open data.

What they want

Expert analysts want to:

  • have clear links through to the latest available economic data
  • find specific data, such as historical data
  • create datasets to support their statistical models
  • access data quickly, within the hour, as they are time-pressured
  • avoid being distracted by similar-sounding data
  • find data in number format, not just percentage change
  • know when the next release of data is due
  • understand what impact changes in methodology have on data
  • see clear signposting for data revisions

Behaviour and preferences

They are more likely to be critical about mistakes and shortcomings in the provision of statistics, and will phone the ONS to locate new data or to query changes in data.

They may use an application programming interface (API). An API allows users to automatically import data between computer software. An example of this would be Quandl’s Financial Data API, which can be used to access datasets from multiple publishers.

How they find information

These users prefer to access data through a desktop computer. They will bookmark browser pages. They know when information is due for release, so will sit on the site to wait for it, often on the release calendar page (opens in a new tab) 

What they like

  • Datasets and previous releases being simple to find and re-find.
  • The impact of changes to methodology being made clear.
  • Data and analysis not being conflated – presentation is unimportant to them.

What they do not like

  • Delays to data releases, or changes to their frequency.
  • Datasets using different formats and layouts.
  • They get frustrated if they cannot find clear links to data quickly.
  • Overuse of zip files.

Information foragers

Who they are

Someone who wants local data and keeps up to date with the latest economic and population trends to help them make practical, strategic business decisions.

They often do not know exactly what to search for, until they come to it.

I want to enhance my understanding of the UK economy and structure using data. Summary reports are too vague.

— What an information forager is likely to say

What motivates them

They want to improve their understanding of the UK economy and structure, and look for official data from reliable sources to help their organisation. They need a reliable data source, with methodology they can trust.

What they want

Information foragers want to:

  • keep up to date with the latest economic and population data
  • use local data, with demographics, to compare with national data
  • copy and share content that is easy to understand
  • find data within the day of publication
  • use data to make graphs and support infographics
  • have trust in our methodology, and they will follow changes in it
  • be confident they have the latest data
  • know upcoming release dates for planning purposes

Behaviour and preferences

They know what they are looking for but sometimes have to search for this. They can find locating the correct dataset problematic and may rely on email alerts to guide them. They find email alerts useful for finding unusual things that spark their interest. They often rely on email alerts to lead them to newly released data.

They prefer data but will use written reports.

How they find information

These users prefer to access data through a desktop computer. They will download data in XLS or CSV spreadsheets – they find JSON formats too technical.

What they like

  • Browsing by theme and seeing data organised in this way.
  • Quick access to data, especially spreadsheets.
  • Clear titles, good metadata and precise keywords.
  • Tracking methodology changes.

What they do not like

  • Too many sites covering the same topics.
  • Too many links or unclear organisation.
  • Content that assumes users know what to look for.
  • Being presented with technical tools or jargon.

Inquiring citizens

Who they are

Infrequent visitors to our site who search for unbiased facts about topical issues. They want simply worded, visually engaging summaries, charts and infographics. Data can help make informal decisions about pensions and investments.

They engage on social media and browse with smartphones or tablets.

I want to find unbiased information so that I can verify the key points of what I see on the news and Facebook.

— What an inquiring citizen is likely to say

What motivates them

They want to find out more about a topical issue they have seen on the news, such as house prices or immigration. Many want to track financial investments and follow changes to indexes, like RPI or CPI.

Others want to find out about their local area, such as crime or house prices, or are looking for information to help with their studies.

They have an enquiring mind – engaging titles and images will spark their interest.

They distrust big business and government, and are looking for a trustworthy source to verify news.

What they want

Inquiring citizens want to:

  • find unbiased information to verify facts given by non-government organisations or political parties
  • find content with clear data points such as high-level summaries
  • see visually engaging content
  • quote or share links to content
  • see an overview of trends
  • find written reports useful for putting numbers into context

Behaviour and preferences

They will often arrive at a web page through eye-catching links from email alerts or social media. They will ring the contact centre to help find information. They will often share infographics.

How they find information

They access the ONS website on an infrequent basis from laptops at home. They will use mobile devices where following ONS on social media.

They do not tend to download and save any content. Where they do, they are more comfortable with spreadsheets and PDFs.

What they like

  • Clear links to “popular” data.
  • Being able to drill down to their local area.
  • Being able to browse a website with ease.
  • Interactive content.
  • Intuitive labels and utilities.

What they do not like

  • Unclear naming conventions, which they can find confusing.
  • Regular changes to the format or location of data.
  • Language that is too complex.
  • The impression of any bias or agenda.
  • Having to rely on downloads to make data clear.

Policy influencers

Who they are

Someone who uses data for benchmarking and comparison. For some policy influencers, this requires data and analysis at a regional or local level. They rely on official government statistics, trusted by decision-makers, for their reports.

People make important decisions based on my work. I need to use data I can trust to build a profile of my region.

— What a policy influencer is likely to say

What motivates them

They want to access our website to further their own understanding of the economy.

They will share data that may be of use to their organisation. They want to find trusted information and will look to the ONS and other government data to provide this. Using trusted data gives them credibility.

What they want

Policy influencers want to:

  • use ONS data they can combine with other government sources to create their own charts
  • copy charts and infographics into reports for evidence
  • download multiple datasets at once
  • create benchmarking levels, for local areas against national data or neighbouring areas, for example
  • use written reports, sometimes at a local or regional level
  • find long time series of data
  • create their own over-time analysis
  • access methodology information so they can be aware of any changes

Behaviour and preferences

They prefer a single source for data but will use third-party commercial data providers. They often rely on email alerts to learn of new data availability and releases that may be of use to them. They will refer to written reports to put data into context.

They will contact the ONS for information on the effects of methodology changes.

How they find information

These users prefer to access data through a desktop computer. They prefer the CSV format as it is easier to manipulate.

What they like

  • Data that are easy to find, browse and share.
  • Links to methodology.
  • Being informed of any changes made to methodology.
  • Clear, unique titles that will show in search results.

What they do not like

  • Too many similar-sounding statistical releases and datasets.
  • Inconsistent data formats and layouts.
  • Being unable to find information on comparability over time.
  • Content that assumes users know when new releases will come out, or which releases will be useful.

Technical users

Who they are

Someone who only wants data and will create their own datasets and customise their own geography boundaries.

Data from the ONS are frequently used in conjunction with data from other government departments. They may be expert at what they do with statistics, but can be less expert at looking for base data.

There is not the urgency we see from the expert analyst. They do not tend to use written publications.

I need easy access to specific types of data that I can reformat, cross-reference and manipulate.

— What a technical user is likely to say

What motivates them

They have a passion for building platforms of data from various sources. They need trusted data and confidence in accuracy of data.

What they want

Technical users want to:

  • create their own datasets from merged data
  • customise their own geography
  • use large volumes of data
  • find cross-themed data to combine
  • download data to reformat, cross-reference and load into their own databank
  • access data within the week of its publication, and like to see it timestamped
  • see well-signposted information on geography changes

Behaviour and preferences

They have a strong idea of what they are looking for but sometimes have to search for it. They are less likely to view written reports as they only want data.

They transform data to meet their needs. If geographic boundaries do not match what they are looking for, they will create their own.

How to find information

These users prefer to access data through a desktop computer. They will download entire datasets and prefer to use Json, XLS or CSV formats.

What they like

  • Customisable data downloads, in appropriate formats.
  • Easy links to a simple interface that has access to all ONS data.
  • Search that will reliably take them to to the right dataset.

What they do not like

  • Data being in a format that they cannot easily combine with other sources.
  • Changes to geography that are not clearly signposted.
  • Not being able to find particular geographical datasets through search.

Find out more about how to identify your user's needs

Help improve this page

Let us know how we could improve this page, or share your user research findings. Discuss this page on GitHub (opens in a new tab)