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John Waterworth

Head of user research @ Dxw Digital

John leads the user research practice at dxw digital. Making sure that our clients have a deep understanding of why and how people use the services we’re creating together.
Starting out as a technologist, John has been designing and making digital things since the early 1980s. His work is now focused on how we can design and make products and services that work well for the people who need them. And how individuals, families, communities and other stakeholders can participate in creating the services they use.
Previously, John was Head of User Research at the Government Digital Service and led the government user research community.


Holding together your learning, thinking and making

Hypotheses are a great way to hold together the learning, thinking and making in an agile and user-centred team. But lots of organisations struggle to use them well. In this talk I’ll give you my take on hypotheses and the practices you need in place to make them effective in your organisation.


A good hypothesis looks like this:

Because [of something we know] We believe that [doing something] Will achieve [some valuable outcome] Measured by [some tangible change]

Or more specifically:

Because [research findings] We believe that [improvements ideas] Will achieve [desired outcome] Measured by [performance indicator]

And hypotheses are only as good as the ingredients they’re made from. They depend on clear, agreed outcomes with associated performance indicators, and improvement ideas to achieve those outcomes that are grounded in solid research findings.

In this talk I will describe a set of practices that teams can use to create the ingredients for effective hypotheses.

* Outcomes: Many teams start without clear, agreed outcomes. And often the best and most exciting outcomes are too big to achieve in one leap.

So, I’ll describe techniques to break down an unclear brief and reshape it into a clear outcome. And I’ll show how you can use a theory of change process to identify achievable, shorter term outcomes that build up to achieve the larger, longer term outcome.

* Research findings: Many teams are now doing some good research. But too often they don’t know how to analyse what they’ve seen and create strong findings that encapsulate what they’ve learned.

So, I’ll describe collaborative techniques that teams can use to make sense of their research activities and produce clear statements of the important things they’ve learned.

* Opportunities and improvement ideas: At an interaction design conference, it feels like this should be the easy part. But for many teams the organisation has already decided on a solution, or the team is only ever allowed to explore one idea.

So, I’ll described opportunity and solution mapping techniques you can use to create, prioritise and justify many different design ideas.

* A theory of change for hypotheses

Building these foundations will help you create good hypotheses and use them effectively.

And, improving each of these practices is a valuable outcome in itself, that will help to make your teams more agile and user centred.