UK NSC consultations: Addressing user needs with simple designs & common components
The UK National Screening Committee’s (UK NSC) digital service on GOV.UK provides users with information, publications, and consultation opportunities relating to NHS population screening programmes across the UK.
As one of the main signposting pages for information, publications and consultations, the condition pages represent a top-priority resource.
One of the dynamic features on the condition page is a modal box that appears at the top of the page when a condition is in consultation. When in this state, users can communicate their views on population screening for a given condition. The modal box is designed to present the top-level information that users need when taking part in a consultation.
Despite comprehensive user research throughout discovery, alpha and private beta, once the service launched in public beta, we found that users struggled to find the relevant documents. In the initial design, users needed to click through to the consultation page to view them. However, it seemed that some users expected to view consultation papers directly from the condition page.
Since this came up during an active consultation and meant that some users felt unable to take part, it was an urgent priority. My task was to review the end-to-end user journey, and come up with a design solution that addressed the issue.
Working from the user feedback, we identified that users needed to view the consultation papers directly on the condition page and at the start of the user journey. As we had already iterated the modal box design from a single link to a simple button, adding more links could potentially confuse users and increase the time spent on the page. And, having two competing buttons might throw users off.
This led me to research other services, and review the GOV.UK design system to find alternative components that could present the information quickly and clearly. I decided to mock up some designs using a secondary button rather than a link, which would draw users’ gaze towards the actions they need most, as quickly and simply as possible. Furthermore, the updated design would use common GOV.UK components to ensure a consistent and joined up user experience across the website.
After reviewing the designs as a team, we implemented the change. Ordinarily, new designs are prototyped, tested and reviewed before going live. However, due to the business-critical nature of the issue, we needed to forego this process. However, we worked closely with users while implementing the design, and gathered feedback as soon as the new designs were live.
The result was immediate positive feedback from users, and from the usability testing we did thereafter. For me, it’s a great example of how simple, user-centred design thinking can solve a huge problem for users. It also shows how insights gained from pre-launch research can be contradicted once a service goes live, and that the best content design follows an iterative and user-focused approach.
The modal box we iterated on also ended up influencing future designs for programme change consultations, a separate type of consultation that was later brought in. It shows how during the ongoing development of a digital service, existing designs often need to be (re)considered alongside new features based on changing organisational requirements. Below are a few mock-ups I created for this new feature.