27 Nov 2017

Confident co-design with young people

Confident co-design with young people

When it comes to designing a website for others it feels far quicker and easier to just get on with it yourself but there are a couple of downsides to that. Just ‘minor’ things like that fact that it’s not quicker or easier. At focusgov we don't take shortcuts.

It benefits everyone if we involve the intended user in the design process. We get to find out exactly what they want and need. What we create will be a lot closer to that than if we were to attempt things without their input. 

As a designer for Focusgov, I've created multiple websites for young people. We always get the best results by working directly with them. We understand what they want and learn how we can give them just that so the website becomes something they call upon, something that benefits them and actually serves a purpose.
Hosting a workshop is a great way to find out plenty of information to achieve this. This can be completely outside of the comfort zone of many especially if they aren’t used to working directly with young people. Below is an idea of how we would embark on this.

After a brief overview of why everybody is there and what we want to achieve and how it will benefit those who have attended (essentially the end user) that’s when we want to get them talking. What they have to say is invaluable so we make sure they feel comfortable enough to share it. A relaxed atmosphere makes all the difference. There are subtle ways we create this:

1. We may need to stand initially to get their attention and make them aware of where their focus should be but we don’t stay that way, it screams classroom. We sit with the young people to listen to their opinions, preferably avoiding forming a ‘head’ of the table. King Arthur had the right idea with his round table!

2. Dress smart but casual to appear professional but not overly authoritative. We do not try to dress like them (need me to explain why?)

3. Go in with a plan but make sure it’s one we’re willing to ditch should it appear to not be working. It’s an idea to have a few back up topics or activities should that be the case. There are a lot of different attention spans to cater for.

4. Remember teenagers are just as socially aware and intelligent as adults, we don’t confuse naivety with a lack of intelligence. We show them respect and all going well we receive the same in return.

5. Remember how things felt when we were that age; will people think my ideas are silly? how much longer do I have to be here? I don’t want to talk in front of everyone… and so on. Then we consider ways to approach these insecurities.

6. Many teenagers are still trying to find their own identity so they take things they associate with themselves quite seriously. They can be easily influenced so may give the opinion they think will impress others and not what will please them. Perhaps some things could go to an anonymous vote such as colours and fonts, throwing their answers in a box.

When working with young people there’s a tendency to attempt to be ‘cool’ but as long as it’s a well-thought out, hands-on, and active workshop you can do without the slang and graffiti graphics.

Co-design means service users (in this case, young people) and designers working together to create something that takes into account the different views, needs and wants of the community. The best way to create services for young people, is in collaboration with them. We put the user at the heart of the design process to create effective and innovative solutions.

If you have a website or app project you feel could do with a little help from Focusgov, please feel free to drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you!

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