by Sarah Stokes (User Researcher on ‘Get a Job with the NHS’)

I’m Sarah, a User Researcher with Difrent who are the delivery partner for the NHS Jobs team!

Our project has recently moved into Alpha, so one of the things on my mind right now is how we’re going to communicate the results of the usability testing we’ll do during this phase with stakeholders (and the wider public), because we want everyone to buy into our research and what we’re planning. It was pretty handy then that the “Managing User Research Findings” event, hosted by the User Centred Design team was a couple of weeks ago!

These cross-government events are always really good because you get to spend more time with colleagues and learn from them, as well as other departments like DWP and the Home Office who are speaking at the event and pioneering new techniques. This topic of this latest event was particularly useful for myself and our team because there is so much data from the project, and so many people invested in it, that we need to start thinking about the ways in which we’re going to manage and share that.

So there were three sessions that we attended, and I’ve decided I’m going to share the top tips that I’m hoping to apply to this team moving forward from each of those.

 

Sharing information across services – Katie Arnold

So Katie talked about how we all want to keep our data forever, because a lot of our time and our effort and energy is spent on collecting it. But – when it all starts to pile up it actually loses its value as it becomes less organised, and stakeholders won’t want to pay for research that they don’t get any value from. This is key for us – I actually work for the teams chosen delivery partner Difrent, so of course we want to make sure that the NHSBSA are getting value for their money both now, and several months or years down the line.

Organising our documents and resources better is something that as a team we’ve actually been discussing recently, because the sheer scale of the project means there is a lot of documentation and a lot of people who want to read it! For me personally, I need to be able to organise our research in a way that means our team can quickly get to the research findings they need to be able to do their job, while I can still find things like our previous scripts, blank consent forms and raw data for analysis.

Katie did actually talk about a method that would help us, suggesting that whatever repository a team might use, they should organise each research folder in the following way:

  • Research plans and briefs
  • Materials and resources (templates, ebooks etc.)
  • Working folder (this is where work in progress goes)
  • Outputs (content goes in here when your happy with it)
    • Lists of user needs
    • Interviews transcripts notes
    • Video clips
    • Experience maps/actual journeys
    • Brief, questions and debriefs
    • Case studies
    • Summary slide decks of insights
    • Photos of research at work
  • Admin
  • Raw data (locked down, participants consent, their details etc., only relevant people have access)

Based on the discussions our team are already having, this file structure is absolutely something I want to start using.

Design Systems

The Design team at GDS are working on a consistent place to store the things that designers and developers need to build our services, including:

  • styles (anything that helps designers and devs build something that looks and feels similar to gov)
  • components (things like buttons), and
  • patterns (best practice design solutions from around government, which is made up of components)

This is pretty important to a team like ours who are going to be looking for guidance on creating the kind of things that the Design Systems will store. What’s interesting is that their end users are actually people like us, so not only does the end product (the patterns) matter, but the also the evidence behind using a particular font or colour or style of button for example.

The tool is a work in progress, but we’re going to be keeping an eye out so we can start informing the way we design our service early. They’re also experimenting with ways to display the evidence behind patterns, and so I personally am keeping an eye out to see what inspiration I can take for sharing our research. They’re also looking for teams to test with, including teams like ours where it’s a partnership between a government body and a delivery partner like Difrent, and so we’ve volunteered to take part.

Sharing Findings across Organisational Boundaries – Stephanie Marsh and Bekki Leaver

This session was really great for everyone, as not only did it push the message of pooling government resources, but they also shared their failures. They’d wanted to find a way to share findings across government and got a load of heads of departments in a room to do just that, but it didn’t quite work because the people in the room weren’t the ones with the actual knowledge to share. However, the team still learned from the experience, and these are the things I’ll be taking back to our team:

  • Rather than documenting everything and everyone who might be linked to your service, find a name, introduce yourself, and have a chat. It’ll be more useful to actually discuss the areas where you overlap and find out how you can work together
  • There is no ‘best format’ for sharing data – everyone needs something different so instead investing time in simplifying data to make it easy to understand is better
  • Their project was incredibly ambitious – if they’d done it on a smaller scale to trial first, they’d have invested less time and resources before finding out it didn’t work (kind of like Agile development….)

 

Summary

So overall – a really successful day. I’ve come away with better ideas to structure our findings and to share them with our stakeholders, easier ways of finding the patterns we need to develop our service, and tips about finding the right people to talk to who might have done this before. Can’t wait to start researching in Alpha!

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