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The hidden benefits of user centred design

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Design, Service design

Delivery teams across the Home Office spend a lot of time observing and testing ideas with users. It’s an essential component of user centred design and helps us understand if our ideas work.

However, I have a theory that there is a hidden benefit of this approach that I don’t often hear people talk about: user centred design makes the team working on the service happier and more motivated.

Let me explain.

The problem with carrots and sticks

In his book 'Drive - The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us', Daniel Pink explains how motivating people at work is still largely anchored in old notions of reward and punishment from the age of manufacturing.

When applied to modern jobs that require creative thinking, these models often have the opposite effect of demotivating people and reducing creativity.

Pink argues for a new model of motivation and explains that after a base level of financial needs is met, people are more motivated by the following things:

  • autonomy - the need to direct our own lives
  • mastery - to get better at things that matter to us
  • purpose - to do something that's meaningful to us

It’s this last point in particular where I think user centred design can help.

Pile of Post-It notes

If you're part of a team building services, you want to know that the work you do makes a difference. While metrics demonstrating that targets have been met and user satisfaction has increased are useful, actually seeing the effect of your work is powerful.

Knowing that something you’ve been a part of has made someone’s life better or easier – such as making an online application form easier to understand, or optimising the underlying code for a service – increases your own emotional investment in a project and therefore your motivation.

Next time you’re asked to observe user research, make sure you do; you'll be happier for it.

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1 comment

  1. Comment by Jenny Mulholland posted on

    One thing that works well and supports this reasoning is asking the team to create hypotheses before user research. Sometimes different​ team members come up with completely opposing hypotheses. When they go to the research lab, everyone is keen to find out the 'real' answer. It really matters to the team, and it makes the work more fun to be involved in, as well as more satisfying because you are seeing first hand that what you are creating is the best it can be for the users. Mastery and purpose right there!


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