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How we do user-centred design for citizen-facing services – part one

By Matt Edgar. 8 November 2017

At the EHI Live conference last week, Domain A interim director Alan Morgans and I presented on our citizen-facing services. In this series of posts, I would like to share what I said there about our approach to user-centred design.

“Find a pharmacy”, “Find apps to manage your health”, “Manage a long-term condition”: as Louise Downe, Design Director at the Government Digital Service (GDS) once said, good services are verbs. You won’t find any acronyms or project code names on our transformation page, just simple descriptions of the things we aim to help people do.

That’s consistent with our vision from the NHS IT strategy:

To empower the person (and where appropriate their carer) to maintain their own health, manage their illness or recovery, and interact with the NHS in a way that improves convenience and effectiveness for the individual and their clinical team.

To do that, we have to meet all our users’ needs.

Whether it’s information, advice on where to get care out of hours, or a tool to help people make healthier lifestyle choices, every NHS service must be clinically safe and effective. We work closely with our clinical colleagues to make sure this is the case.

The safest service of all would be one that nobody used, but that wouldn’t be very effective! So we have to consider people’s practical needs. How will they actually use the service? What devices will they use? How do we make the service accessible to as many people as possible?

We also know that many people come to health services seeking comfort and reassurance as much as information and treatment. If we fail to meet those emotional needs, people may be disempowered by fear and worry, making them less able  to manage their wellbeing.

User-centred design is the process by which we understand all those different needs, and create services to help users meet them. We’re not alone in using this process. There’s a worldwide community, and even an ISO Standard. The catchily-named “ISO 9241-210:2010 Human-centred design for interactive systems” defines six key principles to judge whether design work is genuinely user-centred:

  1. The design is based upon an explicit understanding of users, tasks and environments.
  2. Users are involved throughout design and development.
  3. The design is driven and refined by user-centred evaluation.
  4. The process is iterative.
  5. The design addresses the whole user experience.
  6. The design team includes multidisciplinary skills and perspectives.

This is part one of a three part series. In part two, I will show how we apply each of the six principles in our work on citizen-facing services at NHS Digital.

Last edited: 11 September 2018 11:09 am