I’m building a digital product/service and I want to make sure I’m doing it right

If you’re already building a digital product or service, you’re hopefully thinking about some of these areas these principles cover already.

You can use our checklist to map where you are right now and where the gaps are in your work.

It’s hard to do everything, so don’t get overwhelmed if you’re missing areas. Just prioritise the work that needs to be done depending on where you are in the process. For example, if you’re at the start of the process, it’s not good spending all your time building partnerships if you don’t even know what you’re going to build!  

Your checklist

Start with user needs, and keep them involved
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  • I have researched directly with my user group to understand their needs from their perspective. This means understanding their behaviours, attitudes and needs. For example, I’ve conducted semi-structured interviews with users or undertaken or contextual research
  • I have a plan to continue to engage with my intended service users over time, such as conducting usability studies
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Things you might have:
  • User needs based on user research
  • Personas
  • Jobs to be done
  • A research plan for ongoing usability testing
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Tools you can use:
  • User needs – the Government Digital Service has great guidance on identifying and writing up user needs
  • 1:1 user research interviews – here’s a handy how-to for charities on NCVO
  • Personas – there’s lot of guidance on the web, this is a helpful overview on Personas
  • Jobs-to-be-done – this Harvard Business Review article a is useful introductory article, more practitioner-focused information can be found on these dedicated sites jtbd.info and jobstobedone.org  
  • Usability testing – Nielsen Norman group have many good resources like this introduction, Steve Krugg has published two very helpful introductory books
  • Contextual inquiry, or shadowing – there’s a good introduction here
  • Form software such as Typeform or Google Forms can be helpful for signing up users for research and gathering short bits of information
  • Acumen parted with IDEO.org to produce a free introductory course to human centred design – Acumen / IDEO Human-centred Design Course
Case studies

Youth Business International

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Understand what’s out there first
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  • I have looked both inside and outside of my sector, in the UK and abroad, to identify services that offer something similar to what I’m trying to do and achieve a similar social outcomes
  • I have looked both inside and outside of my sector, in the UK and abroad, to identify services that are using a similar process or technology
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Things you might have:
  • Market scan, competitor analysis or map of other services out there already doing something similar
  • A business canvas showing how your product or service differs from what’s out there
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Tools you can use:
  • Alidade can help you create a plan for finding technology tools that suit your social change project
  • Charity Catalogue helps nonprofits easily and quickly discover the best online tools and resources
  • Nesta’s DIY Toolkit has been designed for development practitioners to invent, adopt or adapt ideas that can deliver better results
  • Squarespace, Tilda and Github pages can be useful for creating simple websites
  • The Lean Canvas and Superhero Canvas can help you map out what’s unique about your service.
  • Tech trust marketplace gives charities tailored access to discounted software
Case studies
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Build the right team
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  • I have dedicated technical resource, whether in-house or through an external agency
  • I have senior management buy-in
  • I have access to expertise in the social area I’m working in
  • I have users represented, either through an ongoing plan for user research, or through their involvement directly in the work
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Things you might have:
  • Contracted teams of staff who are clear on the budget and timescale of their work
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Tools you can use:
Case studies
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Take small steps and learn as you go
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  • I and my team are accepting that my first plan will almost certainly not be the right one. The expectation that the nature of the service will shift over time has been communicated to senior sponsors
  • I have identified my key assumptions and have a plan to test them, for example through a MVP (Minimum Viable Product) or RAT (Riskiest Assumption Test)  
  • I know about, and am using techniques like agile or kanban to manage the development of the product or service
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Things you might have:
  • A good system for tracking your development process, e.g. a Trello Kanban board
  • Scheduled processes in the team’s diary, such as sprint planning meetings and sprint retrospectives
  • A way to track your assumptions, such as a Knowledge Kanban
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Tools you can use:
Case studies
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Build digital services, not websites
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  • I mapped out where users will come to my product from, why they will come, and what they will get from interacting with my product
  • I have mapped out their journey through my service
  • I have thought about where they are going after they have finished with my product, and what I need to give them to so that their next step is as easy as possible
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Things you might have:
  • A competed flow of where the user is coming from, what steps they undertake while involved in your service, and where the go immediately afterwards
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Tools you can use:
  • Service Blueprints to map out both user, frontline and back office functions in a service
  • User flows to understand steps through a specific service
  • User journey maps to understand a user’s journey through a service, including things like their emotional state
  • Google Analytics to track how users interact with the online components of your service, and where the drop-off points are
Case studies

Reach Volunteering

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Be inclusive
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My service is accessible to users with different needs, for example:

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Things you might have:
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Tools you can use:
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Think about privacy and security
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  • I am following principles of GDPR, such as minimising what data I am collecting
  • I have considered the security of my service and have a plan to maintain that security
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Things you might have:
  • Have a privacy policy
  • Get all interviewees and testers to sign a research consent form
  • Completed the Government’s Cyber Essentials checklist
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Tools you can use:
Case studies
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Build for sustainability
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  • I have mapped out the likely ongoing cost of the service depending on its growth. That includes future technical development, marketing and staff support costs
  • I have considered the lifecycle of the service, and when the service might need to change, or be retired. For example by considering it against the GDS stages of an agile project
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Things you might have:
  • An Agile roadmap and a rough budget based on required people and resource
  • An ethical revenue generation model, so you have the money to evolve the product
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Tools you can use:
Case studies

Breast Cancer Care

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Collaborate and build partnerships
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  • I have identified other organisations who are working to deliver a similar service or social outcome to me
  • I have engaged with relevant organisation to minimise the amount of duplication
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Things you might have:
  • Map of other organisations working in this space
  • Meetings planned / taken place with other organisations
  • Understanding from a user’s perspective how the different organisations / services they engage with interact
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Tools you can use:
Case studies
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Be open
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  • I have shared my work, either with other organisations working in a similar area to get their feedback, or through open platforms like blogs or using Creative Commons licenses
  • I have explored open source technologies I could build on
  • I have considered if and how our technical assets could be open sourced
  • I have explored whether we could open our data for others to benefit from
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Things you might have:
  • Blogs sharing your work and process
  • A list of other organisations working in a similar space
  • A space where you share your code
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Tools you can use:
  • 5 Star Open Data is a popular standard for open data
  • Creative Commons licenses to make your content reusable
  • Github for sharing or accessing other’s code
  • Online communities of practice, like Digital Charities Slack Channel, Charity Connect, the ECF Newsletter and others
  • Speaking at Tech for Good and NetSquared meetups – find your nearest one here.
Case studies
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Other things you might want to consider:

These items are part of a larger overall Checklist for Charity members. Take a look at the whole collection here:

The Charity Checklist

See the Checklist

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