6 minute read


For this project, the UX challenges were in several parts of the onboarding experience. Current issues identified from analytics and research directly from physical job centres, showed that claimants were dropping out at various points before fully registering for the service. This was coupled with the objective of new functionality being integrated to the web app in parallel. This functionality consisted of digital ID authentication and automated interview booking.

The focus wasn’t just the claimants though. Staff adjusting to a new web app tool for the service, that was constantly evolving, generated requirements for “the backstage” of the service. The challenge was to get the service channels working more fluidly together during this part of the experience for both user groups.


Serving as the Lead UX consultant for this project, I worked as part of a team that conducted user research and various conceptual design tasks. This included a variety of tasks ranging from the planning and facilitation of workshops, to feeding design into the agile development process.

Working as a UX team with the Product owners, Data Analysts and other interested government departments helped us kick off the understanding of the features involved. Assumptions were based on analytical data in addition to user feedback by both claimants and staff. This gave us our initial research questions.

We decided to identify basic analytic metrics such as completion markers in the user journey during the first iteration. Time on task by the claimant was included just to give us a complimentary metric. Statistics around claimant calls to a helpline were also used as indicators of success.


Whilst part of the UX team was collecting specific user feedback of the current claimant experience, I was tasked with understanding the process and needs of staff “backstage” in the service. The claimant on-boarding process required communication and coordination between several service channels by the staff. We needed to understand the issues and opportunities between these channels.

By facilitating a mapping workshop, I was able to understand what data the staff needed, when they needed it and why it was important. Collaborating on current and an idealised process allowed us to understand the issues they faced and if they corresponded with our assumptive scope.

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Mapping the channels in the service

Completing a cognitive walkthrough allowed me to identify usability issues within the most common user journeys. Using persona models from previous research, gave me the opportunity to familiarise myself with this part of the service before conducting further research. Particular heuristic violations were highlighted in order to be addressed within upcoming ideation workshops.

By now we had a pile of research data. To make sense of it all, as a team we came together to map out the experience of our key user groups. I facilitated a workshop where the team shared and discussed everything we had discovered when reviewing the various service channels. We broke out the user journeys and aligned issues, user needs and policy considerations.

In order to give direction for a testable prototype, we consolidated all our learning into a set of assumptions and hypotheses. Through rapid wireframes, we could zoom right into the detail of form design and input behaviour. A collaboration with a UX writer was integral in order to make UI language easier to understand for a variety of user groups.

Working in tandem with the UX writer, I went about constructing an interactive prototype using the GOV.UK prototyping kit. We approached each screen and interaction in the flows as if replicating a conversation. After hours of observing claimants being interviewed by staff we understood how information, which can get quite complex, needs to be broken up and logically sequenced. There is a lot of responsibility on claimants to provide evidence. The correct and valid evidence, language and form inputs had to be tight and understandable by claimants with disabilities or even limited English comprehension.

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Experience map
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Whiteboard Flows

After several days of prototyping we were able to test claimant portions of the onboarding process through various task scenarios. As a team, we collated observations into themes during usability testing. This thematic analysis and collected user perception data (ease of use, usefulness and satisfaction) enabled us to define severity and prioritise improvements for subsequent agile sprints.

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Usability evaluation in the lab


Claimants dropping out of the registration process due to confusion of their eligibility, has a massive effect on both sides of the service. Claimants become disillusioned and revert to traditional service channels in order to pass the burden of the complexity they've just experienced.

As part of a small UX team, I was involved in working with both claimants and staff to understand the flow of information that occurs within the onboarding process. Usability issues and content needs were addressed, all the time with a consideration for new functionality being implemented.

There was a lot of little victories within this study in addition to solid foundations for measuring the experience and improving the bigger picture. A selection of these insights was:

  • Defining the user type earlier in the flow to filter claimants to the content only relevant to them, and down a path that makes sense for their context.
  • Clearly illustrating to the claimant what will be required of them to complete the onboarding process.
  • Supplying the claimants with alternatives for ID authentication, when we know some options are currently failing.
  • Focus each screen with “one idea”. Forms are focused on a single topic to reduce cognitive load.
  • Provide staff with clear markers and information so they can adequately prepare for their first interview with a claimant.

What this all meant, as a result of this work in the short and long term was:

  • A reduction in claimant dropouts in the initial phase of the service.
  • A reduction to call centres from claimants about specific issues related to onboarding.
  • A reduction in claimants arriving at interviews with wrong credentials needed for registration.
  • A reduction in the amount of time staff need to prepare for or have to have follow up interviews with claimants.
  • A backlog of what we need to fix and what we aren’t doing, to enable the right outcomes for the user.


Onboarding matters for a governmental service as important as this. It’s an introduction to the user, it sets their expectation of how they think the service is going to be.

Integrating government policy into a desired interaction experience can be very difficult. Complex services that include a depth of requirements in eligibility, security and accessibility can be overwhelming. Stripping everything back and focusing on what the outcomes need to be for the users of the system is key. That and asking “why?” constantly. When a project plan provides you with a challenge, always go back to the start and clarify “why”. We need to be addressing user needs not just implementing features.

A little research takeaway that was a surprise is how often people write things down with pen and paper to remember. Users with low digital literacy skills will write passwords, to-do lists and partial conversation notes in little books or scraps of paper. This can get lost, compromised or misinterpreted in the process of having a relationship with the service. There is a myriad of reasons why, but that tiny bit of user behaviour was a constant reflection during the project.

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