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Developing digital services for users

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Digital Service, DWP Digital

Hi, I'm Michala Hare, product owner for the Apply for a Budgeting Loan service.

We launched the private beta of the service on 1 February 2016. Discovery and alpha had taught us to keep the transaction simple, quick and accessible - that’s what we wanted to continue doing as the service evolved.

Michala Hare, Product Owner
Michala Hare, Product Owner

The service allows users to apply for a short-term loan so that they can afford to buy essential items or services. The service was initially used by three Jobcentres and users applied online using terminals in the Jobcentres.

We worked closely with Jobcentre colleagues which helped us to learn first-hand how the service was working for users, how it was supporting colleagues to process the information and what improvements were needed before further roll-out. We could then make changes to the service in real time.

Improving the service for users

We quickly recognised that users found it easier to provide all the information they needed to apply for the loan using the digital service. Previously we had to contact about 30% of users to give us missing information but with the new service this dropped to 4%.

Insight from user research undertaken by the Apply for a Budgeting Loan service team
Insight from user research undertaken by the Apply for a Budgeting Loan service team-

The end to end user journey time was also reduced (on average) by eight days. Our user research with people living in supportive housing, lone parents and pensioners showed us how flexible this service can be for customers who prefer to use a smartphone or tablet rather than making phone calls or going into a busy Jobcentre.

Using evidence to redesign the service 

As we progressed through private beta and opened the service up to more Jobcentres, the data started to tell us interesting things about user behaviour.

We discovered that the answer to a couple of questions was always the same for every user, which gave us evidence to challenge which questions to include.

A screen from the Apply for a Budgeting Loan service, showing some of the questions users need to answer
A screen from the Apply for a Budgeting Loan service, showing some of the questions users need to answer

We have really good relationships with colleagues in the policy and legal teams, which gives us a good basis for challenging the need to include some of the questions. We’re making good progress, using evidence to back up our proposals, along with input from operations, as well as the outputs from user research.

It's not just a website

This is a good example of where the service design is not just there to replicate the policy and legal questions that are already in place. We are here to create a service based on the user and make it as effective as it can be.

As we enter public beta, we will gain more evidence to support our current challenges and will be in a position to really get to grips with user and data-driven design.

We have two new features in the backlog to start work on and the team is raring to get going on those. This is definitely about transformation of the whole journey and not just a pretty front end.

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  1. Comment by Ceta posted on

    I have recently used this service online to apply for a social fund budgeting loan,without this service I would have to continue struggling in silence,I'm long term disabled and suffer from severe Agoraphobia which leaves me housebound,the day to day challenges that my various illnesses cause me leave my quality of life very impaired,I'm unable to visit my local job centre or council for help and speaking to someone on the phone triggers my anxiety and panic attacks,so this service is an absolute godsend to myself and others who suffer similar problems as I do,I'd like to thank the DWP and Michala Hare for developing an accessible service for people such as myself who desperately struggled with the current service,Thank you deeply.