Learnings on data from Service Design in Gov Conference

What we mean by data

When I talk about data I’m talking about information: facts and statistics collected together for reference or analysis. We can collect data on people doing things, like when they use services.

Make data more accessible

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) gave a talk on the redesign of their website. ONS are experts on collecting and sharing data, as the largest independent producer of official statistics in the UK. During their website redesign they uncovered which statistics people were looking for. The design team (Benjy Stanton and Keiran Forde) set about finding ways to deliver that data in the easiest, most understandable way possible.

Give the context of the data

ONS bulletins are important as they tell people how the data was collected. Researchers want to share information on things like small sample sizes, which may give people an indication into how to interpret and use the data.

Consider if you’re collecting data at the users expense

Are you collecting data that you don’t really need, at your users expense? This is one the questions that designers Helen Spires and Lindsay Green at NHS Business Services Authority (NHS BSA) asked themselves, during their project designing an eligibility checker for free prescriptions.

Make best use of qualitative data

Since we’ve started delivering more services online, we have access to data that we haven’t had before. Hackney Council have been giving out market permits since before the internet was widely used. Before permits were online, the council might know how many they’d photocopied or received that year. Since market permits are now available online, it’s much easier to understand how many people are downloading and applying for them.

Plan for your data being hacked

When collecting people’s data, we must consider what will happen when we are hacked. When we are hacked, not if we are hacked. Once the data is collected, you and your organisation responsible for it. This is why when collecting data, we have to ask: is the benefit of collecting the data larger than the negative impact of it being leaked? Ade’s example was the recent wifi enabled vibrator hack. An engineer decided to collect data: people’s email addresses, when they use their vibrator, their preferred settings. Did they consider what it would be mean for individuals when that data was available for all? And did users give fully informed consent to that data being collected and analysed? Was it worth it?

Learn more

‘Making stats easier to understand’ ONS full slides



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Charlotte Fountaine

Charlotte Fountaine

Service designer, eager to use design to reduce inequality and influence positive social change.