Creative data visualisation to support BBC user types

User Experience & Usability

colourful illustration of simple cutout style human figuresThe BBC is not only the world’s oldest national broadcasting organisation: it’s also the largest, with over 20,000 employees. A variety of part time, flexible and contract staff swell the total to over 35,000.

Delivering the BBC’s services involves people operating in a wide variety of environments and locations. Insights into how this diverse workforce collaborates, coordinates and communicates at work is pivotal to ensuring positive user experiences across the systems and tools they use. We were hired to conduct user research to further this understanding.

System Concepts came in when we had very limited data on BBC employees. What they have delivered is a useful starting point for future UX work.”

Dr Karen Yunqiu Li, Senior Human Computer Interaction Specialist, BBC

The challenge

Our brief was to provide research insights into the needs, behaviours and environmental factors experienced by users and to understand how BBC staff communicated, coordinated and collaborated with their stakeholders. This would enable the BBC Enterprise IT team to optimise and better support the business critical systems and tools used by staff, contractors and freelancers. We knew that the user types research would generate a lot of data, so from the outset we saw the involvement of our Creative Services specialists as key to communicating insights effectively.

Providing a good user experience aids service delivery and performance, so we were tasked with researching issues including:

  • What are people’s professional communication habits and choices?
  • How do they collaborate with team members, stakeholders, external partners etc?
  • What constraints or pain points do they face?
  • What are their likes and dislikes concerning systems and tools?

What we did

Our research methodology for building a set or user types encompassed four phases:

1. Quantitative online surveyClose up of hands using laptop, selecting positive response from three options

Over 900 surveys were completed by BBC employees, revealing different user patterns and categories. Our team collaborated closely with the BBC while undertaking the survey data analysis. This process spanned several iterations in order to identify the types of insights sought, using a variety of specialist survey and data analysis tools.

2. 7-day diary study

We applied sampling techniques to select representatives to talk to in more depth – initially through a group of 21 employees that undertook the 7 day diary study.

3. One-to-one interviews

A subset of 15 participants went on to be interviewed. Where practical these interviews took place in employees’ workplaces, so we could observe their environment first hand.

4.  User type and map development

Following the detailed data analysis, our Creative Services team proposed several alternative visual design approaches. We visualised 5 user types, along with maps depicting the personal and professional objectives of each, and the internal systems and tools they adopt.

Again, this was an iterative process involving close dialogue with the BBC UX team, ensuring the most comprehensible approach for users. These visual designs were how the research results were ultimately presented – there was no reliance on a lengthy written report.


Through our creative data visualisation, user types and maps enable the BBC Enterprise Systems IT team to rethink the use cases in particular business areas. Then they can either tailor the configuration to meet those needs, or come up with communications that will make sense to and be easily followed by users.

Five different user types

“We used it as a conversational piece to show people the starting point of multiple use cases, that they can build on top of the modes of working.”

Dr Karen Yunqiu Li, Senior Human Computer Interaction Specialist, BBC

Paul Thorpe, our Creative Services Director, summarises, “We wanted to produce designs that would enhance the data findings, make the 5 user types meaningful and easy to communicate, and capture the imaginations of those with the power to implement change. To achieve this, we had to convey the stories of each user type powerfully and effectively.”

Speech bubbleImprove usability with creative data visualisation
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