Unlock is an independent award-winning national charity that provides a voice and support for people who are facing stigma and obstacles because of their criminal record, often long after they have served their sentence.more
4 minute read
Difrent recently worked with Unlock around some content design and user research on their existing website. Francis McGowan (Business Analyst), Emma Sutcliffe (User Researcher), and Dani Allen (Content Designer) planned and ran a two day design sprint with their allocated two charity days for the working year.
The challenge was to run a two day sprint to understand the users and problem, ideate and prototype new designs to test with users and iterate based on findings. This also included a third, pre-planning day.
As part of the pre-planning phase of the project, we needed a few things from Unlock. Their Digital and Communications Manager Ruth was very helpful in providing access to Google Analytics and Hotjar, so we could collect information about users behaviours on the existing websites. We analysed this data to establish the most popular web pages and how users were interacting with them. Unlock currently have three user groups:
• people with convictions or cautions
• practitioners who help people with convictions
Unlock also ran a survey which gathered a lot of useful data from users and helped us to map out some of the pain points that users experience. We identified that the most visited pages were those for people with convictions, so we chose to focus on this user group for our research sessions.
We spent this day:
• working out what we need for the two day sprint
• creating a Miro board with a sprint plan and any resources we needed
• looking at analytics and data from the survey and pulling out key information
• creating resources for Unlock to use, such as research plans, how-to guides and example documents
• recruiting users for our research sessions
This day was essential in planning out how our two days would go. Because of the extreme time constraints, we needed to have a good idea of what activities we’d do. We also had to squeeze our user research into half a day to give us time for analysing and iterating the designs, so having participants organised, and consent forms shared beforehand was critical.
Image: Screenshot of day 1 Unlock sprint board
The first of the two days was spent understanding our users. Who was visiting the Unlock website, their information needs and what kinds of pain points were they coming across. We managed to build quite a strong picture of the users by empathy mapping what we learned from the survey results and analytics.
We spent day one:
• framing the problem and creating a problem statement
• empathy mapping our users
• choosing the most popular pages to design and test - ideation
• creating prototypes and pair writing new page content
• preparing a discussion guide to use in the research sessions
At the end of day one, we had a good idea of the users, and some new content re-written based on content design principles. We’d decided to do an A/B test with our five recruited users, showing the old and new content and getting them to talk through the information whilst completing pre-set tasks. Because we only had one User Researcher, Emma, we all chipped in and took on running a session to make sure we got the research done in the morning. Following the co-created discussion guide and Emma’s tips made everyone feel comfortable running the sessions and ensured consistent results.
Image: Screenshot of day 2 Unlock sprint board
Day two was when we got to talk to some users and show them what we’d worked on the previous day. User research is a key part of the design process because until we’ve put our designs and content in front of users who visit the website, we don’t know if we’ve done the right thing.
We spent day two:
• conducting user research - everyone got involved
• finding the main themes from our research and putting these on post-it notes in Miro
• analysing our research and creating a map of our users and their pain points
• iterating our new pages using post-its so we could provide evidence to explain where each of the changes came from
• conducting a retrospective, reflecting on the process of the two day sprint and what went well, what didn’t go so well and what we could do better next time
Our research sessions were really interesting, and we got a lot of useful information about why people come to Unlock for help, the kinds of search terms people use and how they’re feeling. This is important because when people are stressed, anxious or upset, this affects their ability to read and take in information.
This is where content design principles come into play. We look at making information as easy to read and understand as possible. Our users were really engaged in the research sessions, and we gathered lots of information about our new pages and the existing content, as well as a comparison of the two.
The biggest challenge of the sprint was lack of time. We managed to interview four users in one morning and created a lot of documents to help Unlock to carry on doing research and making improvements. One of the great things that came out of this work was getting to do research with a whole new user group. Everything was so interesting. It was also a great way of documenting some of our ways of working, which is something we can use across other projects.
We felt like we were able to create some really useful resources for Unlock to use going forward. We also did all of this in a very short space of time. A typical sprint is two weeks, and we managed to do so much in the space of two days, with our pre-planning day used to create a lot of the resources. It was a great experience and we learned lots about lean design and research.
While ideally, you’d have a lot more time to think about the design and research of a product or service, trying this has taught us that if we really need to, we can get a whole lot of stuff done in a very short time whilst still following best practice, GDPR and ethical considerations.
Our last instalment, we’ll be talking about what went well, what didn’t go so well, and what we’d do differently next time.
To find out more about what the charity Unlock do, head to their website here www.unlock.org.uk
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