User-centricity is a design philosophy that puts the user's needs and expectations at the center of everything. It has been gaining traction in government organizations across the globe, as pioneered by organizations such as the United Kingdom (UK) Government Digital Service, and as promoted by the Canadian Digital Services' mission: "We're here to improve people's lives by putting them at the center of government services." While government organizations and vendors with internal design resources praise the benefits of being user-centered, it can seem hard for a government organization without internal designers to move in that direction. My goal is to show you that regardless of size and resources, every organization can take small steps toward a user-centered culture.
I have distilled my experiences working with human services agencies across the globe to identify five ways in which your organization can integrate users and their feedback into the development of your products and services.
Promote a Culture of Curiosity for the Users
At IBM Watson Health, everything revolves around our users, their needs, and their story. By focusing on users, we ensure that we solve real issues and understand what solutions are most viable, enjoyable, and easily adopted by our users. One way we do this is with our sponsor-user program, in which teams continuously engage and collaborate with customers to co-create and validate our solutions.
When designing IBM Universal Access, our responsive citizen portal for government, we partnered with the New York City (NYC) Human Resources Administration, working with them to develop the best solution to meet the needs of New Yorkers as they applied for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Your organization can start its own journey to user-centricity by promoting a culture of curiosity for its users: you need to stay constantly curious about who your users are, what they want or need, and what is preventing them from achieving their objectives. After asking all of those "what" questions, you need to ask "why." "Why do they want or need this?" and "Why are they prevented from achieving their objectives?"
Asking "what" tells you what your users are doing. Asking "why" helps your team to understand the real motivations behind your users' actions and, most important, identifies the actions they perform merely because the process forces them to. What barriers can we remove to simplify the process...