In a team as big as Home Office Digital, there’s always the danger that we replicate each other's work. Knowing what others are working on or have worked on becomes really important. But what’s the best way to do this in a team of 300 people?
Avoiding replication doesn’t just mean avoiding doing the same thing twice (or more). We’re all learning and trying new things. How do we share those learnings so that we make better decisions in the future?
Here are some things we’re doing to better collaborate and build better services for our users:
Internal design patterns
GDS has done a lot of great work sharing patterns and learnings. Design patterns are reusable solutions to commonly occurring problems (user needs). A lot of these GDS patterns are focused on services for the public. Here at Home Office Digital we’re building services like renew your passport that citizens use, but we’re also designing internal services and systems for Home Office staff.
We want to look at all the services we’re building here at the Home Office and pull together patterns that are common and working well. That way our designers and developers can draw on GOV.UK patterns when it comes to things like typography, buttons and layout, and use our internal patterns for things like logging into a service or writing a report.
We hope to include lots of useful information about the user research and accessibility testing that goes into developing a pattern. This will help designers understand the pattern and decide if it can help them with the problem they are trying to solve. This approach will save everyone time and help bring consistency to Home Office services, which will ultimately benefit all of our users.
Some might question whether patterns stifle innovation and creativity. Used incorrectly, that might be true. But used correctly, patterns are really good place to start when faced with a design problem. We can take an existing pattern, and explore and iterate from there. If through user research we see a pattern meets some of a user need, we can then iterate it to better meet the need.
Home Office Forms
Government services tend to use a lot of forms. It’s no different at the Home Office. We’ve been building a framework for forms since last year called Home Office Forms (HOF). It’s based on the design patterns we’ve found from forms we’ve previously created. We now use HOF across multiple services and we are continuing to improve it. HOF gives developers a great starting point for any new service and also is a living example of all the learnings our teams have had when building forms.
We’re only at the beginning of our journey to increase reuse and improve collaboration. Home Office Forms and our pattern work are a great start.