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Digital service design: through the eyes of a UX design intern

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Six months ago I was really lucky to be one of 4 individuals chosen to be part of DVLA’s first digital talent pool. Working at DVLA for 2 years I never thought I’d be able to use my design knowledge in a job offering me such great career opportunities.

Cross government collaboration

As part of the very first Government Digital Service (GDS) training day I spent 4 days in London, going through various workshops and presentations for new designers in government.

GDS are continually developing these training sessions. They help build up good working relationships and networks within GDS. The sessions covered design principles, how important good research is and the golden rule to good design is to have a user-entric approach.

Government designers also keep in touch:

  • every 6 six weeks or so at cross-government design meetings, a great way to keep up-to-date with current trends and design patterns in government as well as discussion on design as a whole
  • via an app called Slack, an instant messenger of sorts allowing me to ask questions, share ideas and get an almost immediate response like some feedback on screen iterations
  • by email - there's a comprehensive, ever-growing list of designers across government and emails are sent out to us designers, in a forum of sorts; it lets me keep an eye on the different issues designers face

Prototyping with the right tools

UX designers have a variety of different tools at their disposal, from pencil and paper right the way through to front-end coding software. Creative types, like me, typically find things like code a struggle to grasp. I’ve found the more I use it the more I understand the power it gives you as a designer.


I fully believe you’ve got to have an in-depth knowledge of a service before you even attempt to design it. Making sure you carry out good quality research before starting anything ensures your service gets off on the right foot.

Paper prototyping

Throughout the design process it’s important to be able to discuss changes and ideas in a way that does not take up too much time and resource. Paper prototypes are always the best place to start; they allow me to quickly sketch out page layouts and concepts before developing them into flat screens.

Fail fast

I use a software package called Sketch to design flat screens. After building up a library of elements in Sketch, including buttons, fields and icons, mocking up flat screens and patterns is a quick and easy process.

They look real enough for us to discuss the content and allow us, as designers, the opportunity to take into consideration the content and layout before making a working prototype. It also allows us to be selective on design decisions - to keep the good things and drop the bad.

The golden rule

User-centric design is good design. Once you’ve got your initial prototype ready, it’s time to test it out on the public.

It’s easy as a designer to assume you know what looks best. When your target market consists of over 45 million hugely diverse motorists different factors have to be taken into account. The golden rule is to ensure we do the hard work for the user and that the user needs always come first.

Raising a crystal goblet to the future

All in all, my first 6 months as a trainee UX designer have been interesting, insightful and educating. I look forward to the challenges ahead and further developing my skills and understanding.


In my next blog I’ll be going into a little more detail about my experiences in digital service delivery, particularly, the applications we use and a little in the UX@DVLA.

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  1. Comment by Dan williamson posted on

    Great blog Dan