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Podcast: Collecting information from users

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: People and skills, Podcast, Service design, Transformation, User research, Ways of working

Government Digital Service podcast: Collecting information from users.

In this month’s episode of the Government Digital Service (GDS) Podcast, we’re joined by Harry Vos and Moyosore Kolawole from GDS’s Collecting Information From Users team to talk about tackling the long-tail of PDF forms in government.

As you might expect, many government services use forms to collect information from their users. But did you know that the number of PDF or other document-based forms hosted on GOV.UK is growing by approximately 6% per year?

Making government forms accessible, easy to use and fast to process

Typically, these forms are inaccessible, hard to use and slower to process compared to online forms. That’s why a team at GDS is exploring options for a new common form-building platform for government.

Working in close partnership with operations teams, policy teams and the cross-government form-building community, GDS hopes to create an affordable way for lower transaction services to quickly create accessible online forms.

We’re also joined by Suzanne Mycock from the Home Office who is contributing to GDS’s user research. Suzanne, who works in a non-digital team that provides services to a small number of users, tells us about the difficulty her team faces when trying to create, and interpret, forms with limited software options and little design experience.

Get involved

We want policy teams to join our research panel and help us by testing prototypes and taking part in user research interviews.

If you build or publish forms on GOV.UK as PDFs or other document formats - please get in touch. Our team would love to hear more about:

  • how your team is involved in creating or maintaining document-based forms
  • what tools you use to create document-based forms
  • your skill and experience level in creating forms

If you don’t work on forms directly, but know other people who do, why not share this post or connect us?

Subscribe to our podcast

You can subscribe to the GDS Podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and all other major podcast platforms. You can read a transcript of the podcast on Podbean.

Do you enjoy the GDS Podcast? Help us to make it even better by completing our short, anonymous survey.

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  1. Comment by Richard posted on


    Really insightful podcast as per usual! Great work 🙂

    Do you mind if I reference this podcast over on please? I'm writing an article about collecting information from users and this would be an ideal reference.


    • Replies to Richard>

      Comment by The GDS Team posted on

      Hi Richard,

      That’s no problem - please remember to link back to the podcast post when you reference it.

      The GDS Team

  2. Comment by Sam McLaren posted on


    i think the GDS podcast is great. We run one here in Dorset Council. Do you select guests or could we put someone forward to be a guest on a future issue?


    • Replies to Sam McLaren>

      Comment by The GDS Team posted on

      Hi Sam,

      We often invite guests to talk about the work we’re doing together, like this episode (which we’re glad you enjoyed!). Other times, we invite guests to explain how they’re using a GDS platform, product or service to help create a simple, joined-up and personalised experience of government for everyone - like our episode on GOV.UK Pay, where we heard from the Environment Agency and Surrey County Council.

      If you have an idea for a guest and a topic that you think would fit, you can drop us a line at

      The GDS Team

  3. Comment by AJ Wilson posted on

    Some thoughts.. Who likes filling out forms? Who likes completing applications? Or for that matter several forms, applications.. No one. So why does gov, specifically digital gov still operate like we are getting citizens to fill out 1970s carbon paper pads, forms? This is not a criticism of gov it’s a challenge of this thinking. Making citizens, customers, users do the work is crazy. Dig gov should do the work by gathering the information and messaging the customer advising them they are eligible, swipe right if you want this.. What about replacing forms with a friendly conversation? Maybe it’s an AI casual peaceful conversation with the customer that in passing conversation tells the customer did you know.. Would you like.. Can dig gov take the Google, Netflix, FB approach doing everything they can to make it easy for a customer to say yes or no. I’ve seen enough A213, BJ319, MFF12 and so on and so on gov forms filling up shelves to shake my head and wonder if I’ve spent weeks training to understand what these are how is my poor customer going to feel when we make them fill out yet another gov form… Thinking forms, applications is old thinking and labour intensive for the end user.. Stop hurting customers/citizens.. Take digital government, digital. Digital is beyond entertaining text into a rectangle.. Flip your thinking and work on the magic.. 🙂