Annie Lewis

Head of User Research

Torchbox at SDinGov 2022

Related post categories Digital products Public sector
3 mins read

Last week, Nick, Charlotte and I got to hang out with the clever people at SDinGov 2022 - the service design in government conference. This event brings together folks across the UK who are working on creating brilliant, intuitive, helpful services for citizens across the UK, on behalf of central and local government organisations.

I’m so proud to work on government services - and it was a real privilege to spend time with people from all corners of the UK government who are so passionate about delivering services which make a meaningful difference to people’s lives.

And, being in Edinburgh, it was nice to do this outside of the Westminster bubble, too!


Nick took this pic from Arthur’s Seat… right next to where the conference was held!


We loved:

  • Hearing about how involving people with lived experience in the design of the services that affect them is gathering momentum
  • Learning about how ethics has shaped the research approach for designing services relating to bereavement (Charlotte and I are passionate about research ethics and safeguarding, and are doing similar work with our friends at Sue Ryder)
  • Paul Maltby’s (Chief Digital Officer, DLUHC) rallying call for involving digital in policy and strategy design
  • The case against mapping for mapping’s sake - maps are a service design tool which help the team get to where they need to go, and it’s not always appropriate for them to be an output in their own right. Don’t let a service blueprint distract from the service that needs to be made (user journeys matter, but your designer’s journey? Not so much, once it’s complete!)
  • Talking about how behaviours and expectations matter when you’re designing for people, and that more often than not, demographics do more harm than good (with some proper behavioural research, we can do better than a lazy, image-based persona!)

As a bonus, I also got to sit in on our very own Nick Vines’ fab talk about why search engine optimisation is so important for designing great services. Google (or your search engine of choice!) is the front page for everything on the internet, and if you forget that, you’re missing out on so much information about what people are thinking about - and the words they naturally use - when they’re looking online for information and support. Nick’s ‘NHS Track Test and Trace’ example is a classic!

Nick at SD in Gov

Nick pointing at a screen. The screen shows search engine results for the words "Track and Trace". The top results are from Royal Mail and the Post Office

I loved that we were able to start this conversation with this audience - linking in with Paul Maltby’s comments in the keynote, we need to better understand and engage with people’s changed expectations of services, and we have to design our services so they’re easy to access from where the people are… if many people start at Google, so should our services!

I’m excited about the potential people could see in applying more SEO techniques when designing and building websites and services. Nick and I have already been thinking about how we can bring SEO and user research closer together in our own work.

There’s so much more that digital can contribute to improving people’s lives than transactional services on We’re serious about service design, and from working in government previously I know how important it is; good service design makes sure that the people who need your services get what they need, every time. We’re really excited about bringing the power of service design to our charity and not-for-profit partners, and we’ve just hired the fabulous Joe Honywill to help us do that!

We’d love to talk to you about how service design can transform how you support the people who need your organisation - get in touch to hear more!