Blaenau Gwent Service Improvement Project
We are working with Blaenau Gwent to apply user-centred design (UCD) to improve one of their online services. This is the first of a series of posts and show and tell sessions sharing our progress. In this post I’ll explain how the project came about, and what we hope to achieve
Earlier this year I met with five councils to discuss the barriers they face to UCD and any examples or case studies where UCD could have been used to improve failing services.
Many of the barriers they reported were shared across councils, namely:
- Senior decision makers don’t have the understanding or appreciation of the value of UCD to include it as part of the design process and see it as surplus to requirement
- There are limited Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT) skills in LA service teams to carry out UCD activities, and contractors are expensive
- Staff have limited capacity to carry out UCD activities on top of their regular work demands
- When citizen consultation and feedback is sought, it is often a tokenistic exercise and there is no real intention to use this insight to shape service design.
The prevailing issue seems to be a lack of understanding of UCD and its value by the senior, decision-making council staff, which then results in other issues like few DDaT roles being developed and staff not being freed up to carry out UCD activities.
We felt that in order to reach the senior decision makers a clear example would be needed of how UCD can be used to improve a service and a clear measure of the positive impact for citizens and for the council.
We saw a straightforward way of doing this, by taking one of the case studies shared by the councils I spoke to and working with that council to support the UCD activities needed to improve the service and make it measurably more usable for citizens.
Of the case studies that were submitted, one seemed to be a good example of a clearly measurable issue that, with some ‘light-touch’ user research and content design input, could be markedly improved.
The service issue
Blaenau Gwent identified some service issues in their street cleansing services and had undertaken robust discovery research to understand some of these issues. One of the issues explored was high instances of fly tipping being reported through the website, but fly tipping crews often reporting on arrival that this is only litter.
Through the discovery research they found that the online reporting process for litter was so complex and confusing that citizens were often reporting litter as fly tipping, as this was an easier user journey, which resulted in costly fly tipping crews being sent out unnecessarily.
There were also content issues where the language was unclear and the definitions of fly tipping and littering were not easily understandable, leading to incorrect reporting.
Working with digital and service staff at Blaenau Gwent, we are supporting them to improve this service using UCD practices by leading on the following user research and content design work:
- Usability testing to understand the issues and pain points within existing service
- User interviews/focus group to explore the service needs of citizens, their mental models and preferred language
- Card sorting/tree testing for information architecture validation
- Further usability testing to ensure service improvement meets user needs
- Desk research to understand high level trends around topic and language
- Reviewing existing service content against good practice and standards
- Translating identified citizen needs into content solutions
- Implementing any additional content changes and language preferences identified as a result of testing
The project is now underway, it will consist of three 3-week sprints and we plan to complete by early December (2022). We will then leave a period of three months before we return to review the performance metrics of the improved service and compare these with the same metrics from the previous service.
We hope that this project will be successful and will result in a service that is easy to use and that meets the needs of both service users and the council. We also hope that, using metrics as evidence, we can show clearly that undertaking 10 weeks of fairly lightweight UCD activities we were able to take a failing service and turn it into an efficient service.
If that is the case, then we will use this experience as a case study that we can present to some of the senior decision makers that don’t see the true value of UCD.
We will blog more about the progress and outcomes of this project as we go along. If you have any questions, please contact me at email@example.com
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