As a service designer, a large part of my job is making sure everyone on the project sees and understands the same picture.
We all need to have a shared understanding of:
why we’re here
what we’re trying to do
the outcomes (changes in the real world) we want to see
That sounds easy, but in reality it’s not. Everyone has their own perspective: designers, developers, content designers, architects, security people, product owners … everybody comes at the problem with their own priorities and experiences, their own preferences, language, biases and assumptions.
We can have hours of discussions and endless workshops to thrash these conflicting worldviews and languages out. Thousands of unmourned post-its may be lost in the process.
So one day, back in 2019, when I was working on the very early days of findbusinesssupport.gov.scot I decided we needed an authoritative way to describe and demonstrate our purpose.
In my experience at that time, it really helps to have a big reminder of “this is why you’re here” every time you enter the workplace. (It was ‘real’ then, it’s (mostly) virtual now.)
I was part of the team that designed and built it in the midst of a global pandemic. And which suddenly learned, unwarned, that we would be the primary vehicle for the Scottish Government’s response to the emergency for businesses.
We were still in Beta in March 2020, so we were just routinely publishing all the data we had about usage. But, as we – de facto, if not officially – became a production service due to necessity, we just continued to do so.
To get best results you need to take all your project team with you.
Sometimes the most difficult part of the research process can be getting full buy-in from the project team. This can be especially true when the team have strong opinions on what needs to be done and the research is contradicting this. This can lead to conflict and the validity of the research being questioned. However, there are ways to bring the project team with you and get their buy-in and support at every stage of a project. Let’s explore these.
That means it’s (probably) now the de facto default against which your website or apps will be judged if a case is brought against you.
Although I would guess most jurisdictions will give you 6-12 months to catch up, depending on the scope of your organisation.
Update your accessibility statements, if you need to. Basic standards are still:
Under the hood, not much has changed. Biggest updates are on :focus styles, and the visibility of focused elements. Oh, and authentication. Not being able to rely on cognitive challenges is going to be a big change for many organisations.
All online activity generates carbon emissions. Every image downloaded, every click, server call and visit to our site. These types of interactions generate Scope 3 emissions. Lowering these emissions helps Scottish Enterprise towards achieving our Net Zero targets. And, for our users, the user experience is improved, along with SEO, because pages load faster and they use less data interacting with our sites.
I recently ran a session with some of our content developers covering alternative text, and the difference between alt text and captions. It seemed to be well received, so I thought I’d write it up.
“Text alternatives” is the first guideline of the first principle of WCAG 2.1. It’s literally the first thing to think about – and the reason why is pretty simple: not everyone can see images.
That may be because they have a vision disability. But it could also be because the image has been deleted, renamed or moved. Maybe their network connection is poor. Or their browser doesn’t support the format. Or they have disabled images in their email client because they have a 500MB monthly limit.
Whatever. It happens. Text alternatives are what users rely on when images are not available. Like this one right here:
The alternate text needs to replace the image. So your question becomes very definite:
What text do I need to provide if this image is not available? How might I describe the appearance, purpose, function, or meaning of this image to someone who can’t access it?
In the run-up to January 2023 we migrated our first site – SDI.co.uk – to our new Design System.
Just under 3 years of research, design, build and, finally, the migration of content from the old site to the new site. This is a huge milestone in the development and success of our future websites for Scottish Enterprise.
Polish your elevator pitch because it is more needed today than ever before.
How often do you talk to peers who just can’t tell you what their project exists to do. They can only tell you what they do on the project.
A friend of mine took on a new role at a finance company. When he started there were 40,000 defects in Jira.
When he left 2 years later….there were 40,000 defects in Jira..
He couldn’t tell what his project actually did.
So what was their team actually meant to do?
If you don’t know the Pitch then why is your company funding your project?
A good pitch is a way of telling your story that rolls together:
It does this in a No-Nonsense, Plain English manner.
So how do I create this magical Pitch you speak of
There are lots of ways to create a Pitch, but one that has never failed me in workshops is the Pixar Pitch. This is the structure that ALL Pixar movies use and to date they have raked in over 15 BILLION DOLLARS. So obviously not a bad approach to story telling.
I seem to have been running a lot of retrospectives lately. And yes, I just used an Oxford comma. Get over it.
In case you don’t know what that means, a retrospective (or a ‘retro’ for short) is a meeting-come-workshop where you look back on work you’ve done, as a team, and try to identify ways you could be better in future.
In agile methodologies, you can hold retros pretty regularly. With Scrum, you’d hold one at the end of every sprint – typically every 2 weeks – so you can get feedback quickly and adjust course immediately.
Think guiding a canoe through rapids; if you can’t change course quickly, you are going to hit a rock (a fairly common metaphor for retros uses a sailboat, as above) pretty soon, and pretty fatally.
It started with a leadership course 14 years ago. It ended with a leadership course 1 year ago.
Somewhere in between I have spent almost 14 years working with the most talented, passionate people, and now my last day at Scottish Enterprise (SE) approaches.
It’s been the best of times, seeing what small teams of committed people can bring to work and to their relationships. It’s also been the most frustrating of times too. I can’t help but marvel at how I spent 3 years trying to move us over to digital signatures, but to no avail. Then Covid hit and boom, it happened. When the risk is high, politics is low.
But my time in SE isn’t just the last two very challenging years. It’s much wider than that and I’ve been reflecting on some of the things that cut through everything I’ve done. There are many but I’m going with just three things.
Applying for a job seems simple enough, right? Set out your own expectations on a job and employer, find something that meets your expectation and apply! However, in the 6 months I have spent with the service design team at Scottish Enterprise (pretty new right!) I have learned that very few things are as simple as we say or think.
Following several queries and concerns relating to our Current vacancies page on Scottish-enterprise.com, the team kicked off a project to research, understand and act on the needs of our customers (potential applicants) and colleagues (those involved in recruitment).
I wanted to find out if, and to what extent, Scottish businesses are purpose led. As part of this process we wanted to explore businesses’ attitudes and actions towards Net Zero and Fair work initiatives
As a user researcher working at Scottish Enterprise, I joined with my colleagues in strategy to explore this in more depth and to provide insight to help shape the organisation’s approach going forward
Working with the strategy team was a really positive and enjoyable experience. We worked very closely together to clarify the objectives and desired outcomes of the project and the strategy team were involved at every stage.
Companies and consumers both have a part to play to create more sustainable economies which help people to flourish.
What do we take from those we have worked for, and with? What do we take from each role we do into the next?
I’ve blogged before about my career journey. The best of times has been when I’ve worked for someone who has understood me as a whole person and believed in me. Here’s some thoughts about my journey over 35 years