The Cabinet Office set out to digitise a 16-page offline form on the gov.uk platform in a way that meets the GDS service standard. This was a high priority for their minister at the time.
The team’s approach was simply drop the existing paper form into a website format. I was asked to usability test the online form, but I took it a step further: I made it my mission to change the way they thought about their form, with user needs at the core of their work.
If this wasn’t challenging enough, I had only five weeks and zero budget to make a big impact in time for the minister’s deadline.
I did a mini discovery
I ran contextual interviews across England with recent users of the previous paper form, in which I visited their chosen location (home or work) and had them build a journey map for me of the process they went through when they completed the application – starting with early stages, when they first began thinking about it, through to the final stages where they received the result.
I took the team along
The team weren’t able to join me in my interviews, so I brought the interviews to them by having them play key roles in the analysis of user research findings. As a team, we built an overall journey map of the end-to-end process, placing user feedback and challenges in the appropriate spots.
I identified quick wins through usability testing
Although a full discovery was necessary, realistically I knew this wouldn’t happen in the short timeframe before the ministerial deadline so I also built and ran usability on a web form that followed the paper format. This enabled us to come up with easy fixes to improve the user experience, and iterate the form design once based on feedback before the assessment.
I helped them implement the GDS service standard
With a GDS assessment looming, I met with the team regularly to talk through the service standard and specific things they could do to meet it. I also represented them during the user research portion of the assessment.
I gave them a to-do list
My time with the team was limited, so I worked with them to prioritise their next steps. I encouraged them do research with a broader range of users beyond their current user groups, and educated them on various user research and service design methods they could use going forward.
As a result, I changed the way they thought about their service
Before running my discovery, the team thought their job was validating their solution (the form)- but by bringing them along on the contextual, end-to-end journey, they were able to see that there were more opportunities to improve their service than just the website. After I wrapped up my work, they used the findings to get approval for a much larger budget to involve a full-time user researcher and service designer to overhaul the end-to-end journey.
“This is really eye opening – I thought the paper form was fine, but I can see now that we have to look at all of it and make changes.” – Team Member
What I learned:
- Service teams don’t set out to design bad services. We need to have compassion for them too.
- Even with no budget and little time, it’s possible to do good work.
- Figure out what research will help you achieve your objectives and focus on that.
- Bring your team along – it’s the only way to make sure this sticks in their minds.