Government of Canada: takeaways from a NDA project

I worked end-to-end on a user experience project for the public sector in Canada. While I cannot publish it due to a non-disclosure agreement, the lessons I learned and my high-level overview are well worth sharing.

NDA UX Project - Government of Canada



After immersing myself in a confidential Government of Canada UX project, I decided to share the lessons learned. I’ve learned more by getting my hands dirty in new areas of study that I really needed to dedicate myself to than by doing what I do on a daily basis.


My challenge as a UX professional was to develop alterity in this case study as a UX Designer and Workshop Facilitator. Even though I can’t share all of my findings, saving the key ideas to remember is the most important thing. It’s all about learning. Here are some key takeaways.

Lesson #1

Spend more time investigating the problem than prototyping.

UX Case Study - Spend more time investigating the problem than prototyping.

Image by Hubert Neufeld

Diving deep into the research to understand the core of the problem to be solved is half of the work in a user experience project. The prototype may be visually appealing but will possibly run into many problems, kicking the main issues into the long grass.

Designing without grounding and justification in every design decision can fail in the long term. You can’t see the problem immediately, but the end-user does. Devoting more time to assumptions is an outstanding opportunity to build self-justifying prototypes.

Lesson #2

Define the expected outputs in each framework.

UX Case Study - Define the expected outputs in each framework.

Image by John T.

Create expectations and fulfill them: this is basically what you should keep in mind when defining expected outputs at each step of the user experience process. By defining the desired result with the specific task, it is possible to verify the project's success or failure based on the final delivery.

It allows you to delimit the performance of the project, avoiding dispersion. However, for expected outputs to work, it is necessary to define the project's expected outcomes as a whole clearly.

Lesson #3

Design goals help the project to be more achievable.

UX Case Study - Design goals help the project to be more achievable.

Image by Possessed Photography

Design goals help us stay focused on the project’s most important tasks and make sure the designs align with the primary goals. Working with design goals helps align stakeholder expectations and understand user pain points, especially if the project already has some improvement insights based on previous research or ongoing implementation tests.

It can be tough to set design goals if your team doesn’t know specifically what to do. Therefore, you should not focus on specific design features but on how the design might be considered successful.

Lesson #4

Prioritize tasks based on data rather than personas based on average behavior.

UX Case Study - Prioritize tasks based on data rather than personas based on average behaviour.

Image by Franki Chamaki

When the segment for a product is heterogeneous or too broad, it is necessary to give up creating a persona. Yes, I know it may seem frustrating to research without looking at an idealized persona with all their favourite behavioural characteristics.

The challenge in creating data-driven tasks lies in testing hypotheses. Analyzing the data makes it possible to collect relevant information when looking at the recurrence of facts or identify different ways of solving the same problem from users’ decisions.

Therefore, defining jobs to be done can make more sense than trying to create proto-personas. It is dangerous to average behaviours and list actions in a profile if your audience is too broad. Focus on completing the job rather than imagining what your ideal persona would look like.

Lesson #5

Poly-hierarchical breadcrumb trails require in-depth analysis.

UX Case Study - Poly-hierarchical breadcrumb trails require in-depth analysis

Image by Jack Anstey

Working with polyhierarchies in a project is a double challenge. To guide the user to a page, it's crucial to work effectively on how the hierarchies will work on the path, not to conflict with the navigation flow considering subpages’ structures. For this reason, it's necessary to analyze the macro navigation flow.

Often you will not be able to modify the information architecture structure of the master page. Still, you can verify how the ‘sister pages’ use the breadcrumb trail feature and make an in-depth analysis to identify gaps and test patterns.

Baseline testing is an excellent method to observe this behaviour. When you look at how many backtracks a user makes browsing the website, you can understand their challenges in finding what they are seeking.

Lesson #6

Affordance problems can provide valuable clues for visual storytelling.

UX Case Study - Affordance problems can provide valuable clues for visual storytelling

Image by Rob Wicks

We have all had a first experience with a product, and in most cases, I suppose we didn’t have a tutorial on how to use it. Whether by feeling, recommendation, or observation, the fact is that we have learned to use it in practice. Adapting this learning in the short term considering navigation on a website is a challenge when the user needs to take some action and is unsure if the chosen path is the correct one.

To reduce uncertainty, it is necessary to simplify the complexity of the interface. However, when this is not sufficient for understanding the product or service, provide clues to lead the user to the desired findings. A simple way to do this is to tell stories.

The storytelling process captures the user’s attention if created visually, initially allowing a context about functionality, followed by an everyday example and step by-step. By reducing the learning effort, we reduce the user’s chances of feeling unable to perform a specific task and increase their understanding and learning in the short term.

Lesson #7

Design requires content, which needs context.

UX Case Study - Design requires content, which needs context

Image by Florian Klauer

The more information is available to the user, the more difficult it will be for them to make a decision. We can include other implications, such as giving up on a task or figuring out other solutions to the search problem (e.g., searching for a term on Google).

Too much content does not necessarily lead to enlightenment. You need to take away the overflow, use helpful resources if necessary, and look for ways to shrink the path. You can utilize various features, such as buttons, categories, and actionable icons, to facilitate visual recognition.

Another important tip is to review the website's taxonomy and consider creating categories, filters, or actionable features that are simple and convenient to apply. The more you exemplify, the more likely you’ll reduce the user’s mental overload. Consequently, he will spend less time being idle on the site, which will lower the bounce rate, assist him in locating the content, and make a second visit more likely.

Lesson #8

Design requires content, which needs context.

UX Case Study - Design requires content, which needs context

Image by Florian Klauer

To create a consistent design, the focus needs to be placed on the consistency of the message conveyed. A quality visual design does not support irrelevant content.

Better understanding the circumstances surrounding the user is the first step when it comes to content research. The analysis involves reading time availability, location, behavioural access condition, and expectations. User research can assist in understanding the user’s context and viewing issues to be addressed as opportunities to create relevant content.

The UX Designer is not directly responsible for producing the content, but they need to work directly with the UX Writer to make the work relevant. This will cause the interface to be even more user-friendly, offering a more fluid browsing experience.

Lesson #9

Request critique based on goals.

UX Case Study - Request critique based on goals

Image by Standret

Understand project constraints, assess technical feasibility, consider pros/cons from an execution standpoint, and evaluate design content from different perspectives. Embrace criticism as a learning opportunity. Avoiding bias is one of the main challenges of critiquing, as it is based on fact rather than opinion.

Read my article: Don’t ask for feedback: request critique based on design goals

Lesson #10

Keep it simple.

UX Case Study - Keep it simple

Image by Glen Carrie

Simplicity helps the user make decisions easily. Doing it less often means more work, but be sure that every effort will shorten the path between the user's wants and what is really essential.

Wrapping Up

UX Case Study - Government of Canada

Image by Jerome

I’ve listed ten lessons, but the reality is that we never stop learning. Challenges are excellent learning opportunities, which present themselves in different contexts in the UX Designer’s craft.

Lesson learned, lesson overcome… at least until the next iteration!

Interested to read more about other projects?

Feel free to hit me up. I'm looking forward to hearing from you.

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