3. We focus on understanding the problem first

We want to build the right thing, not just anything. We know you probably have a very good idea of what you want us to do, but as your partner, it’s important for us to revisit and understand the problem as a joint team using user-driven research. The first work we will do as a team is to interview users and agency stakeholders to understand more about the problem, desired goals and outcomes, and your organization’s priorities. We call this “Discovery.” After our initial research, we pull together insights based on what we’ve learned and reframe the problem. At that point, we’re ready to begin designing a solution that works for your users and your agency.

What does this mean for you?

It’s necessary for your team to express the outcomes and impacts you want to achieve — completely separate from any specific solution — so we can make sure our team focuses on the ultimate goal. When entering into a project, we will want to know what your organization is trying to achieve at a high level, but we look for partners willing to take a fresh look at the problem. The joint team will seek to build on your existing research and understand your users’ needs in order to effectively design a solution for them.

For larger projects, we may do two to six weeks of research in which we speak directly with users and other stakeholders. This helps us properly frame the problem to be solved. The discovery period may include workshops with agency stakeholders to help co-design a solution.

Typical user interviews may be:

  • 45-60 minutes
  • Preferably in person and in the location that these users regularly interact with your service (home, coffee shops, the office, etc.)
  • Typically with two researchers, one to ask questions, one to take notes

Workshops with stakeholders typically:

  • Include five to 15 stakeholders from an agency
  • Range from 60-90 minutes up to a full day - or even multiple days - in length
  • Focus on understanding goals and priorities

If there are significant commitments to a specific solution before engaging us, it may not be the best fit for our team as it limits our ability to play a role in defining the problem and solution and responding to user feedback.

How do you know if you’re ready to understand the problem first?

  • Are you willing to spend two to six weeks on user and problem research?
  • Can you identify ways we can immediately start to build a network of users to connect with?
  • Has a specific solution or design direction already been settled on by stakeholders, or are they open to new solutions that might emerge?
  • Is there a date that has already been promised to stakeholders, or is there room for a discovery process?
  • Have you described the high-level outcomes or impact your organization is looking to achieve?
  • Have you expressed your projects in terms of desired outcomes or impacts, separate from a solution?