Investing UCD Resources Wisely


Lisa Battle is working with the Social Security Administration. She is a contractor from Lockheed-Martin.

Quick background on the presentation directly from the proceedings:

Recognizing that the Usability Center [of the Social Security Administration] staff cannot offer the same level of committed resources to every project, Mr. Wheeler started an initiative to define levels of service. We reflected on our project experiences over the past few years and categorized them in terms of the degree of involvement that we had—including some that were intensive, full-time projects with two or more designers, and others where our involvement was brief or occasional. We also thought about how to position the Usability Center’s services in the future. The intention was to use the levels of service both to encourage moving our methods out and to manage the demand for services.

In the end, we defined four levels of service:

  • Full service user-centered design
  • Specific activity consulting
  • Project team mentoring
  • Do-it-yourself guidance

Their levels of service are similar to my recently explanation to a project manager (PM) about some different options I saw in proceeding on a project. I used a gold, silver, and bronze level of service explanation and left it up to the PM to decide what level of service he thought was appropriate. I gave him my take on which level was appropriate given the time and budget constraints and he agreed. He also thanks me for putting the decision in an easy to understand way.

But since this type of thing has come up before, perhaps it would be a better thing to put together a more rigorous decision making tool to help figure out what level of service are needed for different types of work efforts.

It would also help document why the designer chose the level of service and not relegating it to a gut feeling. Which isn’t always bad, but you also can’t track/trend the information over time.

For example, as a manager you could track how many bronze projects your people did last year. Maybe there are a lot and you might want to find out why. There could be many reasons. Products getting better over time, fewer products being developed, fewer features. People not liking the service you are providing. Designers too quickly jumping to bronze level because it seems easier.

Also, with respect to the levels offered by the SSA’s Usability Center, you may start to notice a trend in DIY projects which would offer you an opportunity to examine products from a QA perspective to see if even in DIY mode the projects are meeting overall requirements in usability.

I will follow up to see if the information is shareable. I know there will be a link to much supporting documentation on the “post conference” page.

One reply on “Investing UCD Resources Wisely”

  1. I’d be very interested to see this information; I’m in the process of developing a UCD service menu for my group. Rather that allow UCD or IA to become a verb, I’m hoping to break it down. Something like this would greatly expedite those efforts.

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