“SURS is the main producer and coordinator of national statistics in Slovenia.”
The PiP (”Personas and Prototyping”) project was initiated by the Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia (SURS) to learn more about their users and improve their online releases. SURS is the main producer and coordinator of national statistics in Slovenia. The main type of publications is regular online releases, which are published on a daily basis and report on weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly trends in statistical data. Additionally, special releases present other newsworthy data, such as stats related to national holidays, various world days etc. You can think of a release as a blog post that presents key information from statistical research, offers some data analysis and aims to bring statistical data closer to citizens.
The article is divided into 6 different sections:
What made it successful
What we would keep
What we would do differently
Next steps and final thoughts
In this article we want to share what we learned, what were the biggest challenges and what made this project successful. But before we dive deep into details of the project, we would like to point out some key learning points (sort of a tl:dr):
Service designers are teachers and learners at the same time. We need to be able to guide and adapt simultaneously.
Where there is commitment there is success. If it was not for the openness, trust and motivation of the core project group from SURS we couldn’t have applied the core principles of service design (collaboration, iteration, human-centeredness, …).
It is scary to change direction mid-project. To make difficult decisions it helps to think about what makes more sense long-term vs. short-term.
Trust is built slowly. Expect push backs and doubts at the beginning. Keep your promises and listen. This will show everyone that you are there to help not to make their lives more difficult.
Applying service design principles is essentially change leadership and change management. It is as important to bring everyone on board as it is to achieve the desired results.
1. THE STRUCTURED BUT ITERATIVE PROCESS
The process was designed based on the initial brief provided by SURS. The process had roughly four stages: Planning, Personas, Prototyping and Evaluation. We defined activities and expected outputs for each stage.
The first, planning stage involved the establishment of the core and extended group, deciding on what communication channels will be used, setting expectations and goals. In this stage it was important to hear everyone’s understanding of the project and what would make it successful for them.
The second stage was about developing personas. Due to the little time we had to create validated personas (4 weeks), the plan was to create first drafts and develop them further in the following stage of prototyping. First we got familiar with SURS employees and their work and we analysed existing documentation on their users. We mapped expectations and needs of SURS content writers and editors that helped us formulate what we need to explore during research. Next we conducted 10 interviews with two profiles of users – amateur and professional statisticians. We used the gathered data to form insights that were then used to create first drafts of needs-based personas.
In the third, prototyping stage we decided to focus on personas and their use. This was not our initial plan (as we wanted to prototype new releases) but based on feedback that we received from SURS subject-matter writers and other employees, it was crucial to make sure that personas would be useful for them, before we move on to changing releases. We invited some content writers and editors to try them out and help us understand how they could use personas in their work. Based on their input we created guidelines for writing releases based on developed personas. We also wanted to partially validate the personas so we created a questionnaire that would help us see if the personas we created really reflect SURS users. We concluded the process by upgrading both the guidelines and personas and presenting them to a wider audience at SURS.
The last evaluation stage was about reflecting on the process (we already had a mid-reflection between the second and the third stage). We evaluated what worked, what could have been better, and what we learned. As part of the project, a report was created which summarised the process, its outcomes and outputs.
Even though the majority of the process was done online, there were some key meetings done face-to-face. These were crucial for creating a sense of community, a feeling that we are a group of human beings working together and not talking heads.