Introduction to interaction design in gov
I wrote this a few years ago when I was at DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency). It’s been hiding in GitHub, so I’ve moved it here. It’s mostly still relevant and useful. Well done past me.
Interaction designers (sometimes called user experience designers) are an essential part of 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 developers.
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
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.
What did you do yesterday? What are you doing today?
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 research. Sometimes business needs are introduced be the internal team too. Make sure business needs meet user needs.
Understand the need
Read the research, talk to the 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 design resources.
Mock-up some ideas
Design a few ideas quickly, these could be sketched on paper or created in Sketch app. Usually the most simple idea is the best. Remember that many users are inexperienced with computers. They can only complete basic tasks.
Sometimes a paper prototype is enough to collect research. Sometimes a clickable 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 environment 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 (Sass) to get started.
- Sharpies, post-its, notebook
- Google Chrome
- GitHub account for version control and sharing code
- Heroku for hosting prototypes
- Google account for sharing docs, calendars and more
- Atom for writing code (other text editors are also available)
Recommended Atom plugins:
- Sketch for designing mock-ups
- Microsoft Office
- Ghostlab for mirroring prototypes on multiple devices
- iA Writer the best note taking app out there
- GitHub desktop