User-centred design at Zaizi: Putting users first

We’re growing our user-centred design team to make sure the services we create for public sector organisations solve real problems for users.

My name’s Dan Healy and I joined Zaizi as its first Head of User-Centred Design about a month ago.

Of course, Zaizi had a team of UX designers, service designers, and user researchers before I joined. But I’m here due to Zaizi’s strategic commitment to putting the user at the heart of everything we do. An essential part of that is to help Zaizi’s user-centred design team to fulfil its potential. More on that later. 

How user-centred design helps us solve real problems

What is user-centred design? Good question! User-centred design is all about putting the user at the heart of everything that you design and deliver – be it products, services or technologies. The process involves focusing on user needs at every stage of the design process in order to identify and solve real problems. It may sound like a new thing but it’s not. It dates back to the 1970s but came to the fore through the publication of Don Norman’s book The Design of Everyday Things. As well as being a celebrated academic, Don was Apple’s first ever User Experience Architect. So he knows a thing or two about designing products that users love.

I’ve been working in user-centred design for over 20 years. In that time I’ve had the privilege of working with some truly exciting organisations throughout the private and public sectors – from financial services to cyber security and, most recently, the UK space sector. In my last role, I led a team of user-centred designers whose jobs are to grow the UK economy and solve some of the world’s biggest problems through the sustainable exploitation of space technologies and satellite data. Now I’ve come on board at Zaizi to help make sure the public-sector work we do delivers to the same standard.

READ: Our user research mission statement for 2022

Building a user-centred design team

Although I’ve got lots of practical, hands-on experience in user-centred design, my job these days isn’t about designing technologies, products, and services. Rather, it’s about designing and growing user-centred design teams so that they can be the very best that they can be. Growing a team sustainably and strategically doesn’t happen overnight. Let me share some of my process with you. 

I treat the first few months of any new job as my discovery phase. This means that I’m learning all that I can about the team that I’m looking after and the organisation that I work for. Much like the designers that I support who are working on projects for our customers, I use the double-diamond process. This user-centric process has served me well over the years. It’s won me industry awards for my work and helped me to build world-class design teams. It will make sure that I am building the right team and building the team right.

Right now, I’m within the first diamond – getting to know my team and my organisation as well as I can. After that, I’ll synthesise what I’ve learned and use it to inform the ways in which I need to strategically grow my team and its capabilities. For example, which particular skills do we need even more of? How might we create an even greater sense of cognitive diversity within the team?

So what comes next?

One of the key outcomes of the first few months of my work here at Zaizi will be a vision statement for my team. This aspirational statement will become our North Star. It will guide all that we do within the user-centred design team and the wider organisation. It will drive collaboration within my team and beyond. And it will also help us to articulate the unique value that we bring to Zaizi and, of course, to our customers.

I’ll aim to create regular posts on how I’m evolving Zaizi’s user-centred design capability as I go. Exciting times are ahead! Also, if you’d like to be part of the team that I’m building, please get in touch.

Thanks for joining us! We’ll keep you informed with regular updates.

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