Introduction to interaction design in gov
- Author Benjy Stanton
- Date (updated 11 September 2022)
Interaction designers, sometimes known as user experience (UX) designers, are an essential part of digital software teams that want to meet user needs.
They work closely with the entire project team, especially service managers, product owners, subject matter experts, user researchers and software engineers.
What do interaction designers do?
- Create design ideas based on user research
- Design mock-ups
- Create prototypes in code
- Decide on high-level user journeys and micro-interactions
Other useful skills
- Graphic design
- Content design
- Front-end development
- User research
- Information architecture
- Responsive web design
GDS (Government Digital Service) design resources
- Government Design Principles
- Design section in the Service Manual
- GOV.UK Design System
- Interaction designer job profile
Day to day
Sitting at the computer
Much of your time will be spent sitting at the computer, designing things. Don’t forget to walk around and talk to your team.
There are lots of meetings. Attend as many as you can, this is where decisions are made. Although time consuming and often boring, one of the strengths of agile is the shared understanding between the team. The more you hear, the greater the understanding you will have.
Workshops are like meetings, but you actually get stuff done. Bring post-its and use whiteboards to analyse research and come up with design ideas.
A brief meeting with your immediate team to share what you're focusing on. Try to answer these questions: What did you do yesterday? What are you doing today? Is anything blocking you?
Show and tell
Once a fortnight, every project has a presentation where they share their progress on a big screen. Anyone in the organisation is allowed to watch. Be prepared to talk about your work and show a few slides.
Observe as much user research as you can.
User need is discovered
User needs are uncovered by user research, or other sources of evidence. Sometimes business requirements are introduced by the internal team too. Make sure business requirements meet user needs.
Understand the need
Read the user research, talk to the user researchers and subject matter experts. Understand why this thing needs to be added.
Has this been solved before?
Speak to the design team. Speak to the wider government design community. Check the GDS (Government Digital Service) design resources.
Mock-up some ideas
Design a few ideas quickly, these could be sketched on paper, created in a design app like Sketch or Figma, or written out as plain text. Usually the most simple idea is the best. Remember that many users are inexperienced with using computers and digital tools.
Sometimes a paper prototype is enough to use during user research. Sometimes an interactive HTML prototype is required.
Usability testing and research
Meet with the user researchers and discuss the prototype and how it functions. If possible, go along and observe the research session.
Repeat steps 1 to 7.
Prototyping in code
It is difficult to set up the prototype kit first time (unless you are familiar with installing things via the command line). Get some help to setup everything. Once that’s done, you only need a basic knowledge of HTML and CSS to get started.
- Pens, post-its, notebook
- A web browser, like Google Chrome
- GitHub account for version control and sharing code
- Visual Studio Code for writing code (other text editors are also available)
My blog post about interaction design tools.