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Video court hearings 

User Researcher 

User testing and improving the design of HM Court and Tribunal Services’ on-boarding process for the virtual hearing system. Simplified the process for users with low digital skills and significantly increased the number of people who got through the set up process unaided.

The problem

The court service were undergoing a large digital transformation to move some of their key services online. In 2017 and 2018 I worked with a multidisciplinary agile team to develop virtual hearings in the role of a User Researcher. I ensured the product was designed with a user-centred mindset and followed an inclusive design process.

An important part of joining a video hearing was the setup process before joining the hearing. Users were required to allow their web browser to give access to their camera. It was vital this step was completed or a hearing couldn't go ahead. This was a tricky thing to explain to people with high levels of digital experience and even harder for those with low digital skills. In initial tests 14 out of 15 participants couldn’t get past that step. There were three UX researchers in the team but this was an area I took responsibility for and I worked with the UX Designer in the team to overcome this issue in 6 weeks.

What did I do?  


Sprint 1 - Planning research on existing design  

Version 1 of the design I agreed with the UX designer to keep it very light touch and see if we could explain it to people with just text at the start. At this time according to national statistics roughly only 30% of the UK population had ever done a video call and I thought the biggest issue would come from users with low digital skills because they would find it more difficult than users who had a high level of skills. 

With this in mind I started: 

  • Recruiting participants by writing briefs for recruiters and reaching out to my own network of users on the project

  • Writing and preparing test scripts

  • Preparing a prototype for the test

  • Finding, booking and setting up lab space


Sprint 1 - Run Research 

The set up of the test was that participants had to read the instructions and join a three way video call using the virtual hearings system. It was complex to organise this set up because we needed all three researchers in the team to start their sessions about the same time. 

Luckily my planning all paid off and we were able to successfully run all the session with only some minor issues.  


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Sprint 1 - Analyse and present findings 

After conducting the research I watched all the recordings from the session and analysed the findings. I then used affinity mapping to sort and order the results. I stuck printouts of the screen on the wall and mapped the themes against them where possible to help me keep track of where the user struggled in the journey. After finishing the analysis I ran through the themes with the other researchers who took part in the research to see if they agreed with the findings. 



Sprint 2 - Redesign workshop session 

At the start of the next sprint I ran a "how might we workshop". This was normally run by the UX designer but they were off at this time so I volunteered to run it. By having a diverse group of people in the session including the scrum master, developers, product owner, court clarks and other researchers we were able to produce a large number of ideas. 

At the end of the session the team had agreed three ideas to take forward and look at. 



Sprint 2 - Guerrilla testing and results playback 

Ideally we wanted to only take one or two ideas into another usability lab so to get some quick feedback on the ideas and narrow down the options I ran some Guerrilla style research. I sent an email round to staff in the court service and invited them to take part in some research.


For this research I built a quick prototype in Axure to test with users and asked them to imagine they were setting up for a video call. From this research I found that the design where we broke out the steps and asked users to set up their camera and microphone one at a time worked best.  


Sprint 2 - Refine design session

I played back the results to the team and then worked with the UX designer to refine and improve the design. Based on the feedback there were a few bits of the design that still didn't work as well as we wanted. At the end of the sprint we demo-ed the new idea to the team and got their feedback. After speaking to the team everyone agreed we should take it to another round of testing because it was an important part of the deisgn we needed to get right. 


Sprint 3 - Re-ran the same research

I organised and ran the same usability lab we ran first of all with 14 participants who fell into low digital skills category. 13 out of 14 were able to set themselves up for the video hearing unaided which showed a massive improvement for us. 

The new design was added to the development backlog and played a key part in the final product. 

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The result

The recommendations I presented helped the team to develop an improved process. After 6 weeks, 13 out of the 14 participants with low digital skills managed to complete the process without any issues. This was a big step for the project because it proved to senior stakeholders that we could overcome some of the projects’ big challenges by following a rigorous design process. The Government Digital Service commended the work I had done to ensure the product met the standards required.

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