With the whole country still reeling from Covid-19 lockdowns and HMRC delivering projects at pace to help keep the nation going, 2020 has been a tough year for everyone.
There’s no more Argos catalogues to flick through, ‘I’m a Celebrity’ is going to take place in Wales and many of us are working from our bedrooms with only our pets for company. It has all felt very strange.
Welcome relief came in the form of Rescon, the third time HMRC’s User Research community gathered only this time it was virtually and remote. Over the course of a whole week we heard from a number of speakers and took part in several workshops. They say that three is the magic number, so here are three things that I took away from the week.
Know when to leave things alone
The first keynote speaker showed us how constantly adding to iterated designs had affected diner’s behaviours in unexpected ways. The increased functionality in the diner’s journey had somewhat overloaded the user and thrown up some unexpected insights. The speaker summed this up brilliantly by comparing this to Frankenstein’s monster.
This is a valuable lesson in knowing when to leave things alone and not overload the user on a particular feature. This is something that is particularly important on HMRC pages and by sticking to our GDS design guidelines we don’t over-complicate and bombard the user with information. This can in fact be a negative thing despite best intentions.
Planet Centric Design
Our third day introduced an altogether new concept; Planetary design. The speakers’ presented their efforts to move towards being planet centric by combining sustainable design with ethical, inclusive and circular design principles. They presented the projects they had recently been working on including a national phone network.
The idea of planet centric design is not something I had ever heard of and so this was a completely new concept but one that already had considerable market share. It was fascinating to imagine how in the future HMRC could do more to incorporate some of these ideas into our agile methodology.
Our fourth day focussed on accessibility and inclusivity. The first speaker gave a deeply personal account of her struggles dealing with her own auditory and visual impairments. Hearing her describe the first time she heard the crunching sound of dry leaves beneath her feet as she walked was both emotional and inspiring. Anyone listening to her daily challenges would better understand the importance of inclusivity in our design and User research processes.
By getting together as we have during this week, we are reminded of all the fantastic things we are doing as a User research community and the value we are adding into our services. By putting the user at the heart of everything that we do, we can deliver meaningful change, allowing HMRC to remain the standard bearer for User Research moving into a brighter future.
Gruffydd Owain Weston