Crafting a product or service with the goal of providing the people who use it with a useful, delightful, constructive and pain-free experience. If done well, UX design is invisible.
This includes things like understanding use cases and user needs, designing desired user journeys, as well as creating wireframes and prototypes. It can also involve formulating personas, facilitating co-creation workshops, and eloquently presenting convincing design reasoning to stakeholders.
Creating user interfaces that are accessible, discoverable, appropriate to the use cases, and enjoyable for the target audience.
Creating style guides, design systems, medium-to-high fidelity interface prototypes all fall under the remit of UI design. If you can create coded prototypes and design with practical code considerations in mind (which I can) then even better.
Gathering the appropriate quantitive and qualitative information to identify, assess, test, and validate design hypotheses and decisions.
This may involve gathering direct information gathering such as user interviews and analytics; or indirect methods like ethnographic studies and public datasets. Analysing this data and providing insights to inform designers and other decision-makers is another crucial part of this skill-set.
Crafting the written elements of a product or service, and the identity around it.
This often involves identifying and/or defining the required tone and voice, taxonomic structure, SEO considerations, and writing copy to suit all of these. It can also mean designing information architecture, content strategies and even engagement drives.
Making the visual assets used to communicate meaning, tone, intent and appeal to the people experiencing the product or service.
Brand design, photography, image editing, digital painting, vector artwork and colour theory all play their part in a good graphic designer's arsenal. Which is lucky for me, because these were literally my main work for some of my freelance years.
Sculpting end-to-end processes that best serve the confluence of user and business needs.
Service designers will commonly build artifacts such as service blueprints, journey maps, and strategy documents. Communication and decision-making skills are crucial to this role, as it often involves being the bridge between other design fields, development teams, and senior stakeholders.
An increasingly urgent aspect of the design landscape that works to ensure minimisation of risks, mitigates potential harms, and maximises the positive impact of what we create.
This involves employing relatively new tools such as consequence scanning and ethical canvases; as well as a solid understanding of ethical & meta-ethical theory, broad knowledge of relevant legal actions, and a strong moral compass. My background in philsophy comes in very handy here.
Essential, but often overlooked, is the need for designs to be accessible.
For the people who prefer information in lists instead of narratives, here's an alphabetised list of my core skills and areas of expertise. So you can hit that old ctrl+F shortcut to easily see if something's in my skillset.
Adobe creative suite
Data flow diagrams
Guerilla user testing
Object Oriented UX
Tone and voice documentation
Digital Transformation Case Study
This case study is a summary of the activities I took part in during a two-year stretch as a senior UX consultant on a government-sponsored project. I cannot disclose the identity of the client for security reasons, and all details in the images have been altered or obscured to ensure the integrity of the finished work.
I have not made a distinction between my own exact role in the activities described, or which were my own idea. The team worked together as a collaborative unit, and so claiming sole ownership of any particular elements would be disingenuous. I contributed to all activities described, owning some and assisting with others. It is intended to describe a positive design process that I would repeat again (after applying some learnings, of course), and stand as an exmaple of the depth of experience I have.
A system for criminal background checks needed to retire their legacy application and processing system. This included resolving a large number of requirements, including:
Bring a decades-old digital interface into line with a modern design system, while developing that design system.
Transform a mostly paper-based processing system into a primarily digital service.
Create positive, efficient experiences for the service users and employees.
Ensure protection of sensitive data.
Design to reduce errors in important decisions with significant potential impacts.
Cater to a wide audience which could potentially include anyone.
Meet the highest standards for accessibility.
Phase 1 - Understanding the problem
There was a lot of unknowns to make known before we could get very far. Just some of the questions we had to answer:
What details are actually needed for processing?
Why is each piece of data required?
How is each piece of data processed?
What fields cause the most problems for users?
What fields cause the most problems for employees processing applications?
What risks are related to wrongly input data?
How do we improve the efficiency and efficacy of these design horrors without causing a huge disruption?
We set about finding out the answers to those questions from a user-focused perspective, using all the tools we could apply to the problem:
Scripted and unscripted user interviews with volunteer users.
Engaging partner companies with experience working with users.
Assessing the analytics data we had on current applications.
Home visits with known service users with disabilities.
Online ethnography and other desk research.
Open discussions with customer support staff about frequently encountered problems.
Card sorting with processing staff.
Data collation and analysis
Presentation of things like needs maps, pain maps, and personas.
Accompanying the user research, we also needed firm business requirements to ensure that what we built would perform the functions required of it:
Workshops with senior stakeholders and subject matter experts (including employees).
Shadowing employees while they worked.
Examining legal documents and confirming applicable constraints.
Building a prioritised backlog of features.
Phase 2 - Designing something better
The core design team consisted of user researchers, UX &UI designers, service designers, developers and BAs. We also ran regular co-design workshops to include senior stakeholders, SMEs and an employee focus group, to ensure everyone understood and agreed to the end result.
This was a complex system, including multiple application types with different information, standards of validation, assurance processes, and final results for each. We knew that just replacing the existing service like-for-like would replicate the existing problems, wo we engaged in a lengthy process of service design to put our learnings to use. This process was tightly entwined with the rest of the design team, and produced extremely useful results:
As-is service maps
New service blueprints
Pain point prioritisation
Strategy assessments and proposals
With a wealth of data to feed our designer brains, we worked collaboratively to produce a comprehensive array of design artefacts:
User journey maps
Rationale maps to explain design decisions
Designing for a system that included public-facing and employee-facing elements needed a complex and expansive design system. We produced a bespoke Sketch library based on Atomic Design and the GDS, managed by Abstract and accessible by Zeplin. This created an efficient collaboration workflow not only within the design team, but also with the different development departments.
We took multiple steps to validate our discoveries and designs as we progressed, including:
Guerrilla testing paper prototypes.
Employee drop-in sessions.
Live A/B testing.
The project had numerous senior stakeholders, including staff team managers, product owners, heads of department, and government ministers, who all needed to be kept up to date with progress. We achieved this through several channels:
Regular show and tells.
Service design reviews.
Project management updates.
Dashboard screens around the office displaying data from multiple sources.
Scrum ceremony engagement.
Phase 3 - Delivering the right solution
After exhaustive research and design cycles, we had solutions that needed building. Fortunately, we had been able to bring the development teams along for much of the design process, including their feedback to reduce the difficulty of the handover. But even tighter collaboration was necessary to get the approved designs built. We needed to make sure that what was delivered was correctly communicated, but also that it would be released in a way that made coherent sense. We did this mainly through:
User story refinement sessions
Our collaboration with the developers didn't end with that, though. We took an active part in development and assurance process:
Co-writing test scenarios
Performing manual quality assurance testing
Performing design reviews on delivered code
Consulting on any unclear requirements, or overlooked scenarios
Nothing was considered completed the first time it was developed. After rolling out each release of new features, testing was performed to capture any unexpected problems. This included:
Setting relevant, measurable KPIs
Building analytics dashboards to track performance
Monitoring incoming applications for issues
Identifying problems and their causes
Re-designing and re-validating new solutions
Adjusting the agile project plan to account for new backlog additions
Assisting with bug triage
So, when it was all said and done, what did we achieve?
Passed the GDS assessment with flying colours.
Simplified complex processes to increase efficiency and allow for a leaner processing team.
Empowered employees to enhance their responsibilities and reduce friction points in their working methods.
Migrated sensitive data from outdated on-site solutions to a highly secure, heavily automated cloud platform.
Replaced paper applications with digital and assisted digital applications for all but very fringe cases.
Produced some of the first trans-inclusive government-standard research into collecting sensitive data online.
Contributed new and improved components to the GDS.
Created a system trusted and enjoyed by public and employees alike, even in the face of massive changes.
Developed a complex, multi-part, multi-format system while improving consistency and efficiency.
Here's some quotes from folks who I've had the pleasure of working with over the past few years, so you know I'm not just blowing my own trumpet.