COVID-19 user needs: an open resource for content teams

In April, we talked about building a bank of user needs for COVID-19. And we've done just that.

We’ve worked from Gerry McGovern’s top tasks to give the starting point for collating needs. We’re now ready to make the first set of needs available. 

You can view the COVID-19 user needs in this spreadsheet.

How we’ve collated these needs

Various organisations have shared their needs with us. We’ve also worked with volunteers to identify needs based upon desk research.

What’s next

We’ll continue to follow up on collating needs - if you have any to share, please do. We’ll also look to draft some more over the next 2 - 4 weeks. Please email if you have any needs to share, or any comments on this set.

From conversations we’ve had, we know there is a demand from organisations for a set of COVID-19 user needs. If you start to use this bank of needs, tell us how they’re working and if anything else would be helpful.

Specific notes on the needs


we’ve noted how the needs have been validated in the document. Anyone using the needs would need to make their own assessment, and potentially validate further depending on what you’re using them for. Needs are never ‘done’, and these are intended as a helpful starting set.


Each need has an ID. We’ve de-duplicated needs, and have a record of all of the originals which is why there are gaps in the IDs. In any set of needs, it’s helpful to use IDs for much quicker reference and to make sure everyone knows which specific need they’re talking about.


We’ve done a few passes and made some edits for de-duplication, but there are likely still some areas of duplication. Tell us if you spot any - email


There are some principles we applied when collating/drafting needs. The main ones are:

  • we do have a need around consuming information in your own language. Again, this would usually be a principle so should possibly be removed.
  • we’ve erred on the side of including things rather than leaving them out for this first set.
  • we have needs for understanding some COVID-19 terms.

We’d usually say this last point was a principle of any product/service so wouldn’t capture it. But as whole populations have had to assess complex terminology, it made sense to capture in this instance.


The language may vary a little across the needs. For example, in the UK we typically refer to ‘lockdown’ more than ‘quarantine’, but other countries use the term ‘quarantine’ much more. This is reflected in the needs - we didn’t see any reason to correct for this in a first pass of the needs.

Some needs are, to our knowledge, country specific. We’ve tried to mark this up, but left them in as some of the concepts may apply elsewhere and the needs could be adjusted with further input.

Acceptance criteria 

These will often need further validation. We expect we’ll continue to look at these over the next few weeks. We’ve made some edits to acceptance criteria, typically as part of the de-duplication process.

Emotional needs 

There are some needs which are more emotional than practical, though the majority of needs we have captured so far are task based. These would probably need a bit more contextual research, as it’s tricky to tell too much without direct user research in some form.

Hierarchy of needs

We’ve tried to align the level of these needs, but some may be more overarching needs than others. Some of the needs may not be virus specific, but are significantly affected by the virus. These needs are a type of pre-existing need that is altered due to the virus.

Needs as a framework

Some of these needs may be better articulated using different frameworks, but we’ve used user needs for now, as it’s what we use the most.

Using this set of needs

How teams might use this set of needs:

  • build an overall picture of the pandemic, to help organisations avoid such a narrow focus in their work,
  • as a starting/evaluation point for their own research,
  • teams may use a bank of needs to help look forwards, to see if they can help inform what might be coming up.

Ideas to build on this set of needs

We’ve been chatting with people across the content profession, and here are some of the ideas people have for building on this set of needs:

  • spend some time exploring the language used,
  • run global surveys to inform needs further,
  • use some studies to help illustrate needs,
  • managing this over time - can we overlay timepoints to the sets of needs for where different countries are,
  • use job stories from this to consider how user journeys may change in future.

We’ve created this set of needs to help avoid duplication of effort, so they’re open for teams and individuals to use in a way they find helpful.

We’d like to hear what you’re doing with them, and we’re going to try to get involved in some of the suggestions above. Please do get in touch to let us know if you’re using them email

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