Sending messages to research participants is one of the most important aspects of user research.
Some user researchers do all their own messaging. Others work in organisations with a dedicated ResearchOps team. Whatever your situation, at some point you’ll probably need to send people interview appointments, survey invites or panel alerts.
In this post I’m going to talk about why GOV.UK Notify is a great tool for sending messages and discuss 6 of the benefits for user researchers.
What is GOV.UK Notify
GOV.UK Notify is a platform for public servants who need to send emails, text messages and letters.
Notify is used by over 2,700 services across 697 UK public sector organisations. These include central government, local government, the NHS, police and schools.
Over 1.2 billion emails, 119 million text messages and 3.7 million letters have been sent using Notify. Whether it be electoral registration reminders, updates on state pension eligibility or critical coronavirus (COVID-19) messages, Notify is helping public sector organisations meet a huge variety of user needs.
How to get started
If you are a researcher working in the public sector, or on behalf of the public sector, you can send messages with Notify. All you need is a public sector email address.
Go to www.gov.uk/notify and register an account. You can then setup a trial service and start sending test messages.
Once you’ve had a play and you’re familiar with Notify’s features, you can make a request for your service to go live. There is very little paperwork and you’ll most likely be up and running the same day.
Sending messages with Notify has many benefits
Here are 6 reasons why Notify can help user researchers.
Messages are trusted
Notify’s message templates use design patterns that have been extensively tested with users. They’re accessible and include high quality public sector branding. Users feel confident that messages sent with Notify are genuine and official.
Each service you set up has a large message allowance
There are no costs or limits on the number of emails that you can send with Notify.
Central government researchers can send up to 250,000 text messages for free per year with Notify. Those working in local government have a 25,000 free text message allowance. It costs 1.58 pence (plus VAT) for each text message you send after you’ve used your free allowance.
This means that using Notify to send text messages will be free for most user researchers.
If you need to send letters the costs are much lower than the market rate and include printing, packing and postage.
It’s easy to message a lot of people
Notify allows user researchers to send messages in bulk. To send a batch of messages at once, follow the instructions to upload a CSV file with a list of contact details.
You can also send messages automatically using the Notify API.
Both approaches are less prone to error compared to sending messages in bulk from your own email account.
Notify can help protect researcher and participant data
User researchers don’t have to worry about using their own email address or mobile phone number. This reduces data privacy risk, as we don’t have to handle participants’ personal data. It also means we don’t have to share our contact details.
Turn on inbound messaging to let participants reply to the messages you send them. Then sign in to Notify to read their replies.
Your emails will get through
The Notify domain is on the ‘allow’ lists of all major email providers. This means emails sent by researchers are less likely to be blocked or marked as spam by the receiving email domain.
So, using surveys as an example, invites are more likely to reach people when sent with Notify than when sent out using a survey management tool.
Notify is safe to use
Notify is highly secure, and is continually assessed against best practises in data storage and processing.
Researchers still need to apply their expertise
Using Notify in itself will not guarantee that your messages will be effective. Taking recruitment as an example, researchers still need to think carefully about how to communicate the purpose of your research, why we want people to participate and the potential incentive for them to do so.
Notify doesn’t store contact details, so researchers will also need to securely process and store participant data using their existing tools.
How are you using Notify for user research?
There are many potential ways that Notify can be used for user research. We’re interested in hearing how you’re using it, so feel free to share your own tips, comments and questions in the comments section.