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In the beginning…

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Every story has a beginning. This is ours, the origins of the digital delivery programme within SLC.

It started towards the end of 2010, when a team from GDS carried out usability testing on our online application. This was so early on, that it was the first time I’d heard of GDS! They tested the student finance application with 33 customers; some students completing the application on their own and other students completing their application along with a parent.

When the testing was completed, the results were fed back to us. To give you a flavour, here are a few facts:

  • We’d allotted an hour for each customer to complete their application.
  • Even with an average session time of 2 hours, only 1 of our 33 customers was able to complete an application.

My heart sank when I read that. Then it got worse – the one successful customer worked in IT (normally IT staff are filtered out of usability testing because they have too much experience with digital systems and don’t represent a typical user). Even worse, he worked on an IT help desk. So the only person who could actually use our application was a professional whose job was to help others use computers.

The team from GDS presented the results and recommendations to our senior management team, including video clips of the testing, so that they could see for themselves the frustrations and difficulties the customers experienced.

“I’m, like, really baffled. It makes me feel a bit stupid”

“It’s very difficult to know is this going to take 2 minutes, is it going to take 2 hours?”

“It shouldn’t give you the option to continue if you haven’t filled in the right sections, because then it’s wasting time.”

So, we took the results and report from this testing, and it formed the basis of a business case to build an application in line with the government’s digital by default standard. This work became known as our digital delivery programme. In future blog posts, we’ll share how we’ve done this, and what approaches we’ve adopted, but what has certainly been one of the most beneficial changes for us has been the ability to continually test the application with customers throughout the build process

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