Designing A Service To Allow People To View Qualifications Online

The project

The Skills Funding Agency needed to decommission the National Career Service site on Direct Gov and moving it to GOV.UK.

This was an opportunity to redesign the site and conduct research to understand what users needed from a career service. The part of the National Career service I worked on was ‘Find my Qualifications.’

1:1 User Interviews
Prototype / Usability testing
Journey mapping

Discovery – Alpha


I had to established whether there was a need for users to have access to their qualifications online. If there was a need I then would explore solutions that would allow users to do this.

As someone applying for a job, I need to prove that I have all the qualifications I said I have without having to pay for replacement certificates.

– Epic user need

Research objectives 

Through discovery and Alpha we needed to understand:

  • If there was a need for users to access their qualifications digitally
  • Pain points in the existing journey
  • What solutions would best meet any needs identified

What I did

Conducted explorative interviews to understand the need around users accessing their qualifications

Journey map the AS-IS to better understand the existing journey and the user pain points in it

Prototype testing to test early design concept

Explorative interviews

To understand whether there was a need for users to view their qualifications online.

Findings after multiple rounds of testing

Testing highlighted problems in the service.

  • There was still a lack of clarity what tax year users will see depending on when they access the service.
  • Users were uncomfortable having to use a personal mobile device to access the service, concerns were also raised because multiple people would need access to the service. (2 step verification)
  • In the result file there was still some doubt among some users which column related to which tax year. (Due to lack of headers)
  • Certain guidance such as CSV format, when the results are available, how long they’ll be available and restrictions around how many files they can uploaded was not acknowledged on guidance page which lead to questions once they’d entered the service.
  • A couple of users wanted to know when the results would be ready to collect to stop them having to unnecessarily  checking.

Improving the service

Content on guidance page was revisited to see how we can make it more concise ensuring users understood all the information they need before entering the service. We also explore ways of explaining what tax year the user will see at different times of the year to ensure they understand they when should be accessing the service.

Our research was shared with the team working on the Government Gateway service. 

End to end prototype testing

To understand how easily our users could complete the service’s end-to-end journey I tested how users would expect to find the service and how they would get through government’s verification to be able to access it, designers in the team also helped create dummy results to be able to test user’s understanding of the results.

Our users were spread out across the country, I conducted remote sessions using Skype to screen share we could observe users using the prototype. I set up an observation room so the team could all observe making notes of what they saw on post it notes, after each interview we discussed the feedback and at the the round of testing had a team affinity sort.

Testing the service in live

Once in Private Beta we were able to understand how users would use the service with their real data.

We combined analytics, interviews and observational research to understand user behaviours and the problems users were having with the service.

We learnt that the single search functionality wasn’t used in the way that we’d expected, small Pension schemes with less than 10 members were using the bulk search as still a lot quicker for them. We found that the single search was instead used when there was error in the data returned.

The biggest issue that we identified in research was the download feature not working. 14 of the first 21 users that used the service received an error that prevented them from downloading the file. Through the interviews we understood that our users used a variety of different spreadsheet applications and different versions which caused the service to not be able to read the file.

Outcome of this research

Since this research:

  • The service passed it’s GDS Private Beta service allowing it go live on GOV.UK.
  • Improvements and iterations have been made to the live service.
  • Documented what we had learn and new user needs established.