User research – or building services that help people

Discovering people’s real needs is critical to building better services in Wales – as the work of a combined CDPS-Sport Wales team shows

25 July 2022

User research helped the team discover how community groups could access sport grants more easily © Pexels

CDPS and Sport Wales have been working together to research and design a community investment (grant-making) service that community groups and sports clubs in Wales could access online more easily.

Understanding your audience

One of Sport Wales’s aims is to increase the reach of its grants, especially among disadvantaged groups.

To help achieve that aim, the service design team needed to understand the current application process better and the kinds of groups that were already applying for grants. We also had to learn more about people who could benefit from funding but had never applied and what might be preventing them from doing so.

The team put user research at the centre of our work. That allowed us to understand:

Using insight to make decisions

During the discovery phase, the team gathered plenty of insight that helped us present a strong case to explore, design and test a better application process.

We found that friction in the application process was deterring potential applicants. Confusing language, inability to access help and the need to provide a burdensome level of information all contributed to that experience. We’ve blogged in more detail about what we learned in our end of discovery findings.

Our research helped us to refine the design, functionality and content of our initial prototypes © Unsplash

Expanding our understanding in alpha

We took what we learned in discovery and developed it further, exploring 3 strands of work as part of the alpha phase. One of these strands was to develop a prototype of the grant-funding service, which we tested with real users, and iterated in fortnightly cycles (“sprints”).

CDPS and Sport Wales saw the benefit of extending the alpha phase for a further 14 weeks to focus solely on designing, testing and iterating prototypes of the application process. We continued to do that with audience groups that had applied for funding in the past, as well as with those who had never applied to Sport Wales previously.

Our aim is for the application process to be open to all.

Developing better services through research

Our research continues to help the team refine the design, functionality and content of our initial prototypes.

The insight we get from potential applicants will help us iterate our prototypes until we can design and deliver a service that is easy to understand and navigate and that supports a positive application process.

User research, alongside user centred design, is a critical component of how the public sector in Wales should build and deliver services.

By using an Agile approach and ways of working, we will continue beyond alpha to research and find out what works and to iterate the service. That’s how we will ensure that it meets the needs of people who can benefit from Sport Wales’s community investment and support.

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