Blog

User Research – Why do it?

This is a post by Nicola McBain, from OSCR, the Scottish Charity Regulator

At OSCR we have a digital vision where the transactions that charities and the public need to carry out with us are all digital.

We are getting there, but still have someway to go.

My part of this journey is developing an online application for organisations wanting to apply for charitable status. Basically, we are moving away from a PDF form to a fully online application asking a wider range of questions, so the user journey is more effective for both the applicant and us!

So why undertake user research? Some people may think we could have just re-designed the application process ourselves; after all, we have been doing this for 10 years. Well yes, we could have, but would that really enable us to develop a truly improved application process? The answer, having undertaken user research, would be no!

By listening to our users, we have been able to challenge our assumptions about their feelings when they apply to become a charity. It has highlighted a wide range of opportunities that have been fundamental as we move into the design of our new process and it has given us another opportunity to further understand our service users.

This essential feedback has made us reconsider:

  • how we communicate application processes timescales
  • the kind of questions we ask to give us the information we need
  • any application checklists we issue to aid the applicant.

This work has also formed the basis of a rather lovely user journey map that easily depicts the user journey for all to see.

But the impact goes further than this project itself. These opportunities highlighted potential improvements across the organisation. They will help us design future digital services and improve our website and guidance.

Although I have been involved in a wide range of consultations, being in the room with stakeholders and seeing the approach first hand was a real eye opener. The approach challenges users to explore their motivations at all stages of the journey and highlights their barriers and frustrations. This is something that providers of public services should not be scared of discussing, and as an organisation we are already considering who else would benefit from this insight.

We also want staff to feel empowered, to get involved and to learn more. We are holding workshops with staff where they get to conduct user research for themselves. This encourages them to consider user research as part of any further improvement projects.

Overall, I would say that it is easy just to rush to the design part of any improvement project and use internal knowledge and experience to start building a prototype of what you want to achieve…

But stop…Take that time to speak to users – you won’t regret it!

Days 3 & 4: Service Design Champions

On the final two days of the Service Design Champions programme, the focus is on tackling a service design challenge – an opportunity to try out service design tools and methods.

How can I get involved with the Scottish Approach to Service Design?

We encourage you to join the Scottish Approach to Service Design Group to continue the conversations from the programme, and link up with other people who are working in this space.

Where can I find out more about…

Considering ethics when doing research

A practical guide on how to seek and share insights about people’s lives in an ethical way – Ideo  Little book of design research ethics

Australian Government Digital Transformation Agency – Ensuring informed consent in user research

Personas

Mail chimp – User Persona Research

Persona template – used by the user research and service design team to capture draft personas.

Journey mapping and how to do it

Why bother – Why we use user journey maps in Government

How to – How to make a user journey map

‘As is’ user journey template – used by the user research and service design team to map existing user journeys.

‘Hypothetical’ user journey template – used by the user research and service design team to map user journeys before research has been undertaken.

Using the improvement model to test ideas

PDSA record sheet – used by the Improvement team to define an approach to testing a change.

Defining the problem

Problem definition template – used by the user research and service design team to capture a shared understanding of the problem space or issue to be explored.

Exploring solutions

Pass it on template – used by the user research and service design team to quickly create concepts in a team.

Service proposition template – used by the user research and service design team to present the benefits of the service from the perspective of the users as well as the organisation.

Who to follow

@leisa ‏- Leisa Reichelt – Service Design & User Research at Digital Transformation Office

@katyarnie – Katy Arnold – Head of User Research & Design, Home Office

@skrug ‏- Steve Krug – author of Don’t Make Me Think – a common sense approach to web usability

@NNgroup ‏- Nielsen Norman Group – usability advocates offering evidence-based user experience (UX) research, training, consulting

@steveportigal – Steve Portigal – author of ‘Interviewing Users: How to uncover compelling insights’

@indiyoung – Indi Young – co-founder of the UX agency Adaptive Path, author of ‘Practical Empathy: For collaboration and creativity in your work

‏@cjforms – Caroline Jarrett – Forms and survey specialist

@danachis ‏- Dana Chisnell – teaches design in government at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Director or Center for Civic Design

Service Design Champions: The Challenge

On the final two days of the Service Design Champions programme, we focus on tackling a service design challenge – an opportunity for the Champions to try out service design tools and methods.  Ruth Christie (Policy Adviser from the Children and Families Directorate and our challenge sponsor) introduced the challenge and problem space from her experience of working in this area.

We would like to say huge thanks to the parents and practitioners who gave up their time to participate in interviews, co-design and prototyping sessions. Parents kindly shared their experiences of accessing information and support which was shared with the teams on day one. Practitioners joined the groups on the last day to bring the perspective of those organisations already directly supporting families of disabled children across Scotland.

The teams worked hard over two days to explore and define the problem, develop ideas and begin to test their concepts with prototypes.

Team 1 – Alex, Gary, Charlie, Mark, Florence

How can we raise awareness of social care assessments?

How can we raise awareness of social care assessments?

The aim of this concept is to have the right people involved, including a broker who helps fill out the assessment form, and a social worker, creating bespoke guidance and a universal entrance to the social care system. This would provide faster access to the support needed. An online space helps raises awareness about the service.

Team 2 – Robert, Heather, Aimee, Karen

How might we ensure teachers are provided with the correct training?

How might we ensure teachers are provided with the right training? 

Teachers sometimes lack the means to offer appropriate support to children who need it. This concept focused on teachers identifying that a child is unhappy, and then arranging a time to discuss this in private with the parents and/or child to make support recommendations. The aim is to be able to provide expertise at the right time.

Team 3 – Katy, Laurna, Lorraine, Alaster

How might we use collaborative tools to bring professionals and parents together and provide better outcomes?

How might we use collaborative tools to bring professionals and parents together and provide better outcomes?

The team focused on respite support services that are available to parents and carers, and how to access them within their local area. Their concept was a tool which had a range of support available to give the ability to choose a holiday for respite that worked with the users budget and needs.

There were a lot of questions left about how this would work in practice but the idea was to show the collaborative tool helping with a practical task.

Team 4 – Richard, Christian, Kjersti, Dawn, Chris

How might we signpost parents to relevant services to prevent crises?

Many parents are reaching crisis point because looking after their child (and putting their child’s needs first) takes its toll on their mental physical and emotional health. Signposting could help with this, but it doesn’t happen as consistently as it should, because service providers aren’t always aware of the other services that are out there. Or there’s professional rivalry and fear of parents sharing negative experiences of about services

Having a single point of contact, or a meeting with a variety of professionals, might make it easier for parents to get the support they need when they need it. This would stop them getting to crisis point. Options discussed included a case conference (which could, potentially, be intimidating) or more like a carer’s assessment.

Day 2: Service Design Champions

What will I get out of the programme?

The Service Design Champions Programme introduces the key principles of service and user-focused thinking. It brings together people involved in designing and delivering public services and policy to help them become champions of the service design approach within their organisation.

It explores questions such as:

  • How do we make sure we are solving the right problem?
  • How do we understand the behaviours, contexts and needs of our service users?
  • What does good service design look like (and how do I know when it its going wrong)?

What happens on day two?

On day two we introduce user research – what is it, why we should do it and how we do it.

We cover the following areas throughout the day:

  • Why do user research?
  • How should we engage with service users, and how do we build our understanding of their lives and service needs?
  • What are the key stages, methods and tools for doing user research?

Where can I find out more about…

Why to do user research

Excuses, Excuses! Why Companies Don’t Conduct User Research

How to do user research

Government Digital Service – User research service manual

IDEO – Design Kit

How to collect inputs from others in a conversation that uncovers their perspective – Interview guide

User research can be done at any point in the design cycle. This list of methods and activities can help you decide which to use when – https://www.nngroup.com/articles/ux-research-cheat-sheet/

Scottish Government – Digital First Service Standard

Videos played on the day

Eric Dishman – Ethnography, Evidence, Ecosystem

A scene from Werner Herzog’s The White Diamond…

Why kids lie

Day 1: Service Design Champions

What will I get out of the programme?

The Service Design Champions Programme introduces the key principles of service and user-focused thinking. It brings together people involved in designing and delivering public services and policy to help them become champions of the service design approach within their organisation.

It explores questions such as:

  • How do we make sure we are solving the right problem?
  • How do we understand the behaviours, contexts and needs of our service users?
  • What does good service design look like (and how do I know when it its going wrong)?

What happens on day one?

On day one we introduce service design – what is it, when and where should it be applied and how it relates to other activities such as improvement science.

We cover the following areas throughout the day:

  • What are the common challenges faced when doing service design in the public sector?
  • Why is mapping services from a user’s perspective important and how is it done?
  • How can service opportunities be identified and how might we approach defining a project?
  • What does good service design look like?

Where can I find out more about…

What service design is

Video explaining what service design is and how it works – pulls out the idea that Government services are complex – What is Service Design?

Why do service design in the public sector

Design Council – Transforming Public Services

Design for Europe

What good service design looks like

Take a look at the following organisations who share examples of their projects online:

Snook – service design agency based in Glasgow and London, helping organisations make their services better

LiveWork –  research and design consultancy and global pioneer of service design

Design for Europe – a three-year programme to support design-driven innovation across Europe

FutureGov – helping local and national authorities across four continents think differently about public services.

On day one we discuss ‘Accidental Design: Working with mental health users’ which was a talk by Katherine Garzonis from University College London, at Service Design in Government conference, 2016.

How to do service design

Nesta – Designing for Public Services – a practical guide

A toolkit on how to invent, adopt or adapt ideas  – DIY Development Toolkit

Service Design toolkit

British Columbia Public Service – Service Design Playbook

UK Government Digital Service – Government Service Design Manual

How to apply a design thinking, HCD, UX or any creative process from scratch

Book – Service Design, from insight to implementation

Book – The Service Innovation Handbook

Project Scoping Template – used by the user research and service design team at the beginning of projects as a planning tool.

Who to follow

@lixindex – Lucy Kimbell – Artist, designer and social scientist

@IDEO – Bringing human centred design to the people who need it most

@Marthalanefox – founder of doteveryone

@designcouncil – using people-centred design to enable positive social, environmental and economic change

@SDNetwork – Service Design Network

@HilaryCottam ‏- Hilary Cottam – social entrepreneur focused on the reform of the welfare state.

@apolaine ‏- Andy Polaine – Co-author of ‘Service Design: From Insight to Implementation’