Building a service using user-centred design techniques

LAMP - a library impact project - is using an iterative, user centred design approach. Bethan Ruddock describes some of the tools and techniques being used.

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It's one of the key questions for HE and FE libraries: does use of library resources affect student attainment?

This question was addressed by the Library Impact Data Project (LIDP, The enthusiasm around this project led to the Jisc Library Analytics and Metrics project (LAMP), which aimed to build on LIDP and expand the scope in terms of institutions, data, and questions that could be addressed; and make the processing centralised, streamlined, and less of a burden on institutions.

LAMP followed a user centred design approach. We created lo fi prototypes (of user needs and questions, as well as interfaces) and put them in front of real users to gather meaningful feedback that informed future developments.

User-centred design is an iterative approach, with every stage of the process going through an analysis-design-evaluation cycle.

Our community advisory and planning group (CAP) was formed of librarians from a variety of HE institutions, in a variety of roles, and was involved in all of our user-centred design work.

Some of the tools we used:

Simple planes: the project development threads (environment and context, use cases/stories, interface, and database) were mapped to Jesse James Garrett’s simple planes principles of website design ( strategy, scope, structure, skeleton, and surface. This helped us to think about how all of the elements were interrelated.

Premortem: a premortem imagines a future where the project has been a failure, and participants must work backwards to understand what contributed to this failure. Very importantly, this gave us not only an idea about risk factors, but what failure would look like for our users, not for Jisc.

Job stories: we used job stories ( to refine our 'epic' strategy needs and macro use cases down to concrete tasks:

When… I want to… so I can …

Gut tests show 20 different analytics dashboards/user interfaces, for 20 seconds each. Participants score their gut reaction 1-5, and can add a brief comment about what they like/dislike. This is a way to get a good idea of 'what feels like it will work', without getting into details of functionality.

Dashboard wireframes were our first low-fi prototype, important for gathering our first round of feedback. People are less likely to critique a 'finished' looking product, and roughness is a visual cue that what you're seeing is an unfinished draft.

Design critiques:, used to move from rough paper prototypes to more polished paper prototypes to more 'active' prototypes using InVision, which allowed users to click through a workflow based on a job story.

We also gathered user feedback on our database design and data structure, and are continuing to have user involvement now that the project is working with the Jisc Learning Analytics offering (

Why user-centred design?

"Ultimately, the project needs to understand who is this decision making tool for? This audience may expand and morph as the project develops, but it needs to ensure it doesn’t fail its primary audience(s) by trying to serve the needs of everyone." (Ben Showers,

More information about LAMP, and these techniques (and others used) can be found here:

Bethan Ruddock is Content Development and Project Manager at Digital Resources at Jisc.