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18 August 2023

How to utilise Performance Frameworks for User Centred Design

Joshua Healey

Evaluating project success requires open and honest reflection. Without it, determining areas of strength and weakness is left open to interpretation, potentially compromising overall results.

By introducing an iterative performance framework, changes can be monitored and results scrutinised to ensure optimal outputs – both for the benefit of the company and the ultimate end user.

A case for performance frameworks

To illustrate the need, let’s take a look at performance frameworks in action…

Part of Hippo’s work with NHS England encompasses the Register with a GP surgery service. One of the key ambitions of the service is to reduce the barriers of entry to healthcare for everyone.

40% of households have at least one person with additional needs.

With so many people struggling to access this vital service, there was a need to make some changes to the process. To ensure that those who were struggling to access the service were catered for and taken into account.

Our hypothesis was that if we made the start page simpler, it would not just improve the experience of users from low confidence backgrounds and marginalised groups but improve the experience for all users. 

But most importantly, we needed a way of reporting on our changes, to measure the tangible improvements.

Designing a performance framework

Without a framework, it becomes almost  impossible to measure the impact of design decisions. Therefore a performance framework needs to include things like the top-level service purpose, goals, user needs, key performance indicators and design hypotheses.

Because these frameworks consider user-needs, it keeps tech, design and data hypotheses focussed on improving things for the people using it.

In the case of NHS England, we spent several weeks workshopping and refining our framework and used the start page changes to test the effectiveness of:

  • our design decisions
  • the framework we had created

As well as being a useful tool to help us to optimise the service, it also acted as a useful reminder of the purpose the project was working towards.

When delivering something at pace and to scale, it can be easy to lose sight of why you started the work in the first place. Building a framework can help companies to course correct, ensuring the focus remains on the initial intended outputs.

Not just moving the problem elsewhere

That is not to say that making changes is solely about relocating the issue. A performance framework must encompass the entire reach of the project, otherwise the impact of changes could be missed.

When we altered the start page for NHS England, we wondered if it would simply move the problem to somewhere else in the service.

After a month of making the change, we observed a significant decrease of 11% in drop-offs on the start page without any increase in drop-offs on the pages we moved the content to. 

Similarly, we found that the average time users spent on the start page decreased significantly by 18.5% – with no significant change to how long they spent on other pages.

This was only made possible by the utilisation of the performance framework and reactive, iterative improvements.

By reducing the amount of time people spend on the start page and increasing the amount of people who continue into the service, we did what we set out to achieve.

Without a performance framework in place this would have been harder to measure.

How a performance framework helps in the long-term

Using a performance framework was a useful first step. It provided us with some re-assuring data and gave us confidence that we have built a tool which works for our service.

That does not mean the job is done though. There are new challenges emerging that would benefit from this approach. With that said – a performance framework is something which should always be evolving. It does not stop at one test.

As a team we will continue to iterate upon and use our performance framework to help monitor our design decisions and put our users first.

And, most significantly, consider how such frameworks can be utilised across a greater range of applications moving forward. That way, proving success becomes much easier.