User experience Design: the role of UX in communicating public policy

Public policy is often complicated. It involves communicating complex ideas, visions and strategies around topics such as health, education and care to diverse audiences. Policy is often well documented, but not always well communicated. This can be problematic for those on the ground putting it in to practice.

Over the years here at Uscreates, we’ve become experts in making complex information accessible, engaging and actionable. We work with our clients and their stakeholders to leverage their expert knowledge of a topic and pair it with our understanding of communication methodologies. This way, we can help them tell their stories and communicate game-changing ideas to diverse audiences.

We are increasingly asked by our clients how they can communicate their content pragmatically, both online and offline. Often our response involves a recommendation to consider the benefits of User Experience Design (UxD) and the role it plays in providing the user with a positive experience navigating complex content.

The User Experience Professional’s Association defines UxD as:
“Every aspect of the user’s interaction with a product, service or company that make up a user’s perceptions as a whole. User Experience design as a discipline is concerned with all the elements that make up that interface, including layout, visual design, content, brand, sound and interaction. UX works to coordinate these elements to allow for the best possible interaction by end-users.”

Fundamentally UxD aims to bring together end-users and multiple disciplines to create communication outputs where human interaction is a tangible outcome and maximum engagement and accessibility are a tangible goal.

Whether we’re using UxD to help our clients communicate the emerging role of technology in healthcare or the benefits of service design approaches for those delivering Further Education programmes, the aim is always the same – to make information actionable and accessible. To do this, we put the end-user(s) at the heart of the process. Here are a few things to consider when using User Experience Design in the communication of your ideas, strategies and policies:

1. Use information architecture (IA) as a foundation to add clarity to content

So you have your content. Now it’s important to consider the role that well-defined information architecture plays in communicating said content. Effectively organising and categorising large pieces of information helps act as a solid foundation for clear and well crafted communication moving forward. Limited consideration for structure will inherently induce disengagement for end-users, and complicate the process of implementing policy on the ground. However, effective communication doesn’t stop at Information Architecture (IA). As we have become consumers of mass information and technology we expect more from our content, especially on screen. We want to be able to interact with it, efficiently navigate through it and not be restricted by more traditional linear formats. Consider ways of helping your users get to a destination as quickly as possible no matter where they are within the content.

2. Design toward visual familiarity and intuitive functionality

Most of us are familiar with the way that websites and digital products look, feel and function. We have come to expect certain simplicities from the way they work. Many web designers will tell you that ‘the easier your website is to use, the more people will use it.’ Whether online or offline, communication of information onscreen will always evoke an expectation of interaction that is intuitive and similar to our web-based experiences. When you’re communicating your visions and ideas through screen based outputs, push for design that embraces affordances and mechanics that your end-user is familiar with. Consider design that encourages a visual crossover between online and offline if you’re designing across platforms. Fundamentally, the way users access information may be different, but their User Experience should be the same.

3. Design for accessibility of multiple end-users

Effective communication isn’t about shoe-horning your end-users into the same camp. Inevitably they may want different information, at different points in a communication journey, and in different formats. However, designing information in a way that is accessible to multiple audiences is no easy task, and well-crafted information and effective communication aren’t always synonymous. Think about how you can communicate your information in both a written and visual context to help end-users navigate and digest information, in ways that are individual and relevant to them. For example take your information architecture and pair it with effective interaction design to create a user-friendly navigation system and help users efficiently move through content.

Overall, UxD helps create a balance between written clarity, visual simplicity and interactive experience, in order to drive message accessibility and understanding among end-users. Remember the idea is never to dilute the message or meaning, but to design from multiple end users’ perspectives in one streamlined communication output.

We recently worked with Health Education England to design the User Experience in their Values Based Recruitment Toolkit. Here’s what project lead Lucy Cooper, has to say about the approach:

“We decided to create an interactive PDF as it is a great way of presenting a lot of information online in easily digestible chunks. This really helped us to focus on the content, especially deciding what was truly necessary. Developing our PDF involved pulling together information to satisfy stakeholders at both a strategic level and also an operational level, and the nature of the document means that users can click straight through to the information they need quickly and easily. Users can follow links out to further reading if they wish, or just focus on the background and strategic fit if they’d prefer. The colours and design give the document more of a creative and vibrant edge than a standard paper policy document which sits on a shelf gathering dust, and being electronic, it can be continually updated without worrying about paper copies going out of date.”

Find out more

If you would like more information on UxD or have questions about ways we can help you communicate content through User Experience design, drop us an email at robbie@ucreates.com. We’d love to hear from you!

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