Read transcript - What is discovery? - 3:53 min
Why do we do a Discovery stage?
Leisa: We do a Discovery stage to discover, which sounds really trite I know, but it’s very important because it’s really easy for teams to come in thinking that they probably know what the answer is already and just going to validate that and you don’t want to do that.
We are too close to technology and we are too close to government to actually really know the problem and the solution particularly well so we need to go out and really understand things from the end user’s point of view. Go out in the field: meet them, see what it’s like to be them; really understand their experience. You’ll come back seeing the problem completely differently and that’s what Discovery’s all about.
What do we do in the Discovery stage?
Leisa: In the Discovery stage we go out and we observe people. We go out to ideally where they are doing the thing that we’re gonna be improving for them and we understand what their experience of that is right now and we look at all of the stuff. Not just the stuff that we might think is immediately in scope for us, but stuff that they’re doing with other people, other departments and mapping the whole process and really identifying where the pain points are and that tells us what we can do next.
So it’s ideally a bunch of contextual research, definitely not briefing an agency or a research team to go out and bring you back a report. It’s a team sport. Everybody in the team needs to be going; seeing this for themselves and building that empathy with end users.
You’ll also be doing things like understanding the technical environment and understanding the political and legislative environment; all of that kind of thing. In the scheme of things that’s easy - making sure the team really understands what the problem and the possibilities are, and framing that around the people who will be impacted by the changes that you make, that’s the important thing.
What comes out of a Discovery stage?
Leisa: What comes out of a Discovery stage is empathy and a way of focusing the team on designing something that meets user needs. So there are a lot of different ways you could do this.
Common ways I’ve seen that work really well are people finding ways of concisely describing what the user need is and maybe putting up a poster or making actually a poster of particular people that you’ve met and describing the problems that they’re having that you need to solve.
Journey mapping is another thing that people use really often. Creating maps of the entire ecosystem and the process of people go through. It’s amazing how making a map that follows a person’s experience through a service a lot of the time reveals government to itself in a way that it hasn’t seen before. So that can be a really powerful thing to do for your team and also for other parts of government as well. So they’re common things that you get out.
Some people do personas but generally we find that the teams who really do user research as a team sport don’t tend to need them because they already have connections to individual users that they’ve seen from research anyway.
You’ll also get like maps of technical landscape; maps of kind of policy and legislative stuff that you need to understand. Another thing that’s really useful is a map of the actual business process that happens inside government as well: of how this work gets processed inside government. A lot of the time that’s where big, big opportunities for improvements are that are reasonably simple. But the main thing out of all this is really empathy and a proper human-centred understanding of the problem that you’re about to solve.
The purpose of the Discovery process is to help the team get a deep understanding of the problems they are setting out to address in the service delivery by understanding:
- what users are really trying to do when they encounter the service
- the current experience for users
- what the users’ needs are as they interact with the service.
You’ll examine all the channels and touchpoints of the service (not just digital); the end-to-end experience and key user groups. This includes end users, professional users, public servants supporting service delivery and policy users, even if you are only planning to focus on a small part of that experience. You should achieve this by doing contextual user research that involves the entire team.
The Discovery stage will help the team to challenge their preconceived ideas of what the problem and solution might be and to frame their understanding of problem and solution around the users’ experience.
The key outputs from this stage should be:
- a map of the actual users’ experience of the service
- user needs for the service (stated, unstated and created).
In the Discovery stage you’ll clarify the government’s policy intent for the service so that you are able to align this with user needs. You’ll need to understand the business processes associated with the service by business process mapping.
If there are any obvious technical, legislative or other constraints relating to the service these will also need be understood in the Discovery stage.
This stage is for discovering not validating, so the team should not start prototyping and testing service design.
Before you start the Discovery stage make sure you’ve set up the team. You should also have a plan and recruitment strategy for user research.
- DTA Guide to Discovery
- DTA blog: Documenting Discovery
- DTA blog: What is Discovery?
- DTA blog: Doing Discovery in Government
- Doing user research in the discovery phase
- We need to talk about user needs
- Researching and mapping your users current experience
- Verify how we talk about user needs
- 5 cognitive traps to avoid in Discovery
The Digital Service Standard has been adapted from the UK Government’s Digital by Default Service Standard under the Open Government Licence v2.0 and v3.0.
Last updated: 12 November 2015