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Design With Users #designwin


Episode 8

In one of our previous episode "The Government of Canada's Digital Standards", we asked you to vote for the digital standards that most interested you. The results are in! You chose “Designing with Users".

In this episode, we’ve selected 3 great videos dealing with the basic principles of user-centred design for you to watch, accompanied by comments from our colleagues Alvaro Vargas and Ksenia Cheinman.

Alvaro Vargas (@ThatVargas)
Experience Designer @ Canada School of Public Service

Ksenia Cheinman (@altspaces)
Learning Architect @ CSPS Digital Academy

It's not you. Bad doors are everywhere

Ksenia Cheinman, product manager for the Academy's Premium design stream, explains:

“When I watch this video, I can feel the anger that I experience when I run into ‘bad doors.’ For me, it is about the human aspect and all I can think about is this sensation of constraint.

Poor design often leads to 4 common experiences:

  1. We are at the mercy of others
  2. We are given no choice and have no voice
  3. The product is designed in a silo with no testing on real people in the real world
  4. There is no feedback loop

So, if you design anything, a new policy or a new project, think about the “bad doors” you have encountered, so that you can focus on building better services for others. And keep in mind the 3 basic concepts of “good doors”:

  1. Allowing your users not to have to think
  2. Making the task simple and clear
  3. Taking on the upstream part of the work to make the task simple downstream"

Principles of human-centered design

In this next video, Don Norman introduces us to “The principles of human design.”

Alvaro Vargas, experienced UX designer and long-time fan of Don Norman, says:

“I fully agree with Don Norman when he says that the most successful experiences are those we are not even aware of.

Automated banking machines are a good example. When was the last time you went to the ATM to withdraw money? What do you remember about this experience, other than the fact that you got what you wanted? For me, this is a successful user experience design, allowing a user to perform a task and not have to think about it, or if they do,  to make sure that there is very little about the experience that is negative — at least in terms of what you can influence or control.

Also, the causal approach is typically my go-to. If you only deal with symptoms, as soon as you’ve addressed it, others will pop up, persist, or become new symptoms.

When you approach a problem, always look at what happened before and after it occurred. This enables you to get to causes, especially if you consider that where you experience the problem may not actually be where it begins."

What can we learn from shortcuts?


“This is almost like proof of the divergence between the designer's intention and the user's will. It’s a great example of a kind of rebellion from the user's perspective, showing that they will do what they want to do. The examples tell me that on the one hand you really need to listen to your users; on the other hand, you want to observe them carefully to look for the differences between what they say and what they do. Going back to the first video, where Don Norman talks about prototyping, I think it's very important to do prototyping so that we can observe how people interact with a product or service, specifically:

  • What questions do they ask? What do they not ask?
  • What things do they use? Or not use?
  • And, always, why?

As a designer, UX or otherwise, you need to go beyond the obvious if you want to create better experiences; that’s where you can surprise and delight."


“And that goes back to those human feelings again. We have time constraints. We have real challenges that we're trying to solve in our everyday. So, I think that when we're trying to design a product that aims to provide better experiences for real people, it's not enough to put people in a laboratory and observe them with a predefined solution. We really need to engage with these people outside. We must use the same services as them.”


“Yes! Do not adopt the zoo approach of observing them in controlled environments. Go where they are. Be a good detective and pay attention to what your users are surrounding themselves with.

  • What are the things that are part of their environment? What other things are competing for their attention?
  • Who do they talk to when they need help?
  • What does their space look like? What kinds of memory aids do they have on their desks or walls?

This will allow you to develop more intuitive products and services."


“Yes, and we need to remember that when we create a service, we are responsible for it. If we are responsible, we should make sure that it works well for people, by learning and making iterative changes.”


“The message of adaptability is very important. To remain relevant and useful, you must continually engage with your products and services and look for ways to make these small improvements. Your users are always changing and adapting, so your products and services should, too. Keep up!”

Learn more about designing with users

External resources:

Resources available to Government of Canada employees only

Busrides - Trajet en bus

Busrides - Trajet en bus

Our mission is to broaden and deepen digital literacy. / Notre mission est d'élargir et d'approfondir la culture numérique.

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