Why ONS needs to hire service designers

What is a service?

“A service is something that helps someone to do something.” – Lou Downe, Head of Design of the UK Government.

My name is Benjy and I work in Digital Publishing, the bit of the organisation that runs the ONS (Office for National Statistics) website, API (application programming interface) and social media channels. Our service helps users to find, understand and use statistics.

I’m an interaction designer, but I’m keen to help ONS bring in service designers so we can continue to strengthen our ability to delivery great services.

What does a service designer do?

A service designer is a practitioner who uses user-centred design techniques to help organisations improve their services. It’s different to many similar sounding roles, which is partly why I’ve written this blog post.

Service designers will help us to;

  • have empathy for the people who use and create our services
  • understand problems in detail and lead us to the right solutions
  • close the gap between organisational goals and user needs

What tools do they use?

Service designers often use very similar techniques to interaction designers and user researchers. Such as user journey maps, personas, storyboards and prototypes.

One of the differences is, they can help us look at the service through a wider lens by getting involved earlier on, looking at the bigger picture and figuring out how our services fit into the context of the wider organisation and the into lives of the people who use them.

Why do we need service designers?

Service designers help organisations consider the end-to-end, front-to-back and cross-channel nature of services. Here’s what that could mean for digital publishing…

End-to-end

Currently, our teams are focused on the middle part of the user journey. For example, what the user is doing when they visit our website.

A service designer will help us to widen the scope, and understand what people are doing before and after they visit our website. For example, how and when do people become aware of the services that ONS provides?

A service designer will also help us to better understand what people do with the statistics after they’ve left our website. What goals do we help our users to achieve?

Front-to-back

Small teams need to focus on the external customer facing channels (like the ONS website). But, as ONS expands its ability to deliver user-centred services, we’ll need to focus more on the things that our end users never see.

Improving and joining up the way we collect, process and write about statistics will lead to improvements for many of the services that ONS produces and a more consistent experience for the people who rely on us.

Across every channel

People who need to use our statistics experience the ONS via different channels;

  • ONS website
  • API
  • social media
  • email newsletters
  • call centre
  • GOV.UK
  • television and newspapers

Right now, despite our best efforts, many of these channels are designed in isolation, or are completely out of our control. Service designers could help us join up these different channels and help the experience to be more consistent.

Aren’t we doing this already?

There are definitely teams within ONS that are doing this already. User researchers, product managers, business analysts, content designers and others care about working in this way.

A good service designer will integrate with these teams and help them to achieve better outcomes.

What are the next steps?

Let’s build a community of people who care about service design, so we can help the organisation understand where this new role fits in.

Please leave a comment or get in touch with me via email benjamin.stanton@ons.gov.uk or Twitter @benjystanton.

One comment on “Why ONS needs to hire service designers”

  1. Great blog Benjy and you’re not the only person to spot a need for service designers.
    I think there’s also a role for service designer to understand how a service creates value for users and the organisation, and how to describe services in such a way that service providers can see how the things they do are interconnected and need to be aligned to service goals.
    I’m convinced of the need to fill this gap and look forward to working with you and others to make it a reality.

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