Decide

Focus the effort around a design hypothesis.

Design hypothesis

What

Framing your work as a hypothesis means no longer just thinking about the thing you’re making or building, but paying more attention to whether that work is achieving your intended goals and outcomes.

Why

When done collaboratively, hypothesis-building is powerful at getting a team on the same page about what it’s doing and why. It also allows the team to be flexible — if one approach doesn’t result in the outcome you expected, you have implicit permission to change course and try something else.

Time required

1-2 hours

How to do it

  1. As a team, identify and make explicit the problem you’re trying to solve. What goals or needs aren’t being met? What measurable criteria would indicate progress toward those goals?
  2. As a team, write out the hypothesis for the work you want to do to address the problem(s) you’re trying to solve. You may want to write broad hypotheses at the outset of a project and more specific hypotheses each sprint.

    Here’s a common way to structure your hypothesis:

    We believe that doing/building/creating [this] for [this user] will result in [this outcome]. We’ll know we’re right when we see [this metric/signal].

  3. Identify the main entry points for the user need you’re addressing. This could be external marketing, the homepage, a microsite, or another page.
  4. Build or do the thing, and measure. If you learned something unexpected, then create a new hypothesis and change course so you can continue working toward your goals.

Example from 18F

Additional resources

Applied in government research

No PRA implications. No information is collected from members of the public.

18F

Comparative analysis

What

A detailed review of existing experiences provided either by direct competitors or by related agencies or services.

Why

To identify competitors’ solutions that excel, are lacking, or are missing critical design elements. Comparative analysis can give you a competitive edge by identifying opportunities, gaps in other services, and potential design patterns to adopt or avoid.

Time required

1–2 hours to analyze and write an evaluation about each competitor.

How to do it

  1. Identify a list of services that would be either direct or related competitors to your service. Pare the list down to four or five.
  2. Establish which criteria or heuristics you will use to evaluate each competing service.
  3. Break down the analysis of each selected competitor into specific focal areas for evaluation. For example, how relevant are search results?
  4. Use a spreadsheet to capture the evaluation and determine how the targeted services and agencies perform based on the identified heuristics.
  5. Present the analysis, which should showcase areas of opportunities that you can take advantage of and design patterns you might adopt or avoid.

Example from 18F

Applied in government research

No PRA implications. No information is collected from members of the public.

18F

Journey mapping

What

A visualization of the major interactions shaping a user’s experience of a product or service.

Why

To provide design teams with a bird’s-eye view of a service that helps them see the sequence of interactions that make up a user’s experience including the complexity, successes, pain points, and emotions users experience along the way.

Time required

4–12 hours

How to do it

  1. Document the elements of the project’s design context. This includes:
    • People involved and their related goals
    • Their behaviors in pursuit of their goals
    • Information, devices, and services that support their behaviors
    • Important moments in how they experience a service or major decisions they make
    • The emotions associated with these moments or decisions
  2. Visualize the order in which people exhibit behaviors, use information, make decisions, and feel emotions. Group elements into a table of “phases” related to the personal narrative of each persona. Identify where personas share contextual components.
  3. Discuss the map with stakeholders. Point out insights it offers. Use these insights to establish design principles. Think about how to collapse or accelerate a customer’s journey through the various phases. Incorporate this information into the project’s scope.

Additional resources

Applied in government research

No PRA implications. The PRA explicitly exempts direct observation and non-standardized conversation, 5 CFR 1320.3(h)3. See the methods for Recruiting and Privacy for more tips on taking input from the public.

18F

Style tiles

What

A design document that contains various fonts, colors, and UI elements that communicate the visual brand direction for a website or application.

Why

To establish a common visual language between the design team and stakeholders. It also acts as a collaboration artifact that both the design team and stakeholders can use to contribute to the final design direction.

Time required

1–2 days depending on how many rounds of feedback the team offers

How to do it

  1. Gather all the feedback and information that was provided during the initial kickoff of the project.
  2. Distill the information into different directions a solution could take. Label these directions based on what kinds of interactions and brand identity they represent.
  3. Create the appropriate number of style tiles based on the defined directions, which establish the specific visual language for the different directions.
  4. Gather stakeholder feedback. Iterate on the style tiles, eventually getting down to a single style tile which will be the established visual language for the project going forward.

Additional resources

Applied in government research

No PRA implications. No information is collected from members of the public.

18F

Task flow analysis

What

A step-by-step analysis of how a user will interact with a system in order to reach a goal. This analysis is documented in a diagram that traces a user’s possible paths through sequences of tasks and decision points in pursuit of their goal. The tasks and decision points should represent steps taken by the user, as well as steps taken by the system.

Why

To validate a design team’s understanding of users’ goals, common scenarios, and tasks, and to illustrate in a solution-agnostic way the overall flow of tasks through which a user progresses to accomplish a goal. Task flow diagrams also help surface obstacles in the way of users achieving their goal.

Time required

2-3 hours per user goal

How to do it

  1. Based on user research, identify target users’ goals that need to be analyzed.
  2. For each goal, identify common scenarios and the tasks and decisions that the user or system will perform in each scenario. Don’t assume you and your stakeholders share the same understanding of the tasks. The idea is to make the flow of tasks explicit in the diagram, so that you can check your understanding by walking through the diagram with users (steps 4 & 5).
  3. Produce a diagram that includes each task and decision point that a user might encounter on their way toward their goal. While there are several diagrammatic languages that can be used to produce task flow diagrams, the basic look is a flow chart of boxes for tasks and decision points and arrows showing directionality and dependencies among tasks. The diagram should cover the common scenarios identified in step 2.
  4. Present the diagram to a subject matter expert who knows the task(s) well enough to check for accuracy.
  5. In collaboration with users and/or subject matter exprts, annotate the task flow diagram to pinpoint areas of interest, risk, or potential frustration.

Additional resources

Applied in government research

No PRA implications. No information is collected from members of the public.

18F

Task matrix

What

Also known as an user-task matrix, is a simple approach for exposing frequency and importance by user class or persona.

Why

To indicate what tasks are most critical for user experience.

Time required

1-2 hours

How to do it

  1. Ask the user questions about the importance and frequency about a task.

  2. Gather all the information and seperate each task into a subtask.

  3. Insert each task into a diagram and ensure its complete.

  4. Review the analysis with the team and check if the tasks are consistent.

Additional resources

“The User Task Matrix.” by Chauncey Wilson

“How to improve your UX designs with Task Analysis”

18F