This playbook was originally published in October 2016. Over the the past 5 years I’ve written about many subjects while researching, designing and delivering services to meet the UK government’s digital service standard.

This is a resource for anyone wanting to work using design-led and user-centered approaches. It’s built from my experiences of public sector design and the work I did previously in the private and 3rd sectors. I still use many of these links for my own reference and share them with delivery teams. This is my attempt to bring a number of blog posts together in one place.

My playbook.

Starting with the problem

Ask the right questions to frame the problem.

Think about how you use different types of evidence.

Don’t be scared. Get out the building. Talk to people.


Move your team(s) from “everyone wants to solve the problem” to “everyone wants the problem to be solved”.

Learn to enjoy the size of the problem. Make it fun.

Quality conversations over fixed design processes.

Raise expectations, or, don’t accept low expectations from the teams, clients, or the sectors you work in.

Prototyping and iteration

Start with one thing. But most importantly, start–don’t wait for ‘enough’ evidence.

Think about iteration and prototype to learn. Here are some design principles for better iteration.

Prototypes can be more valuable than specifications or documentation.

Make sure you give design feedback with feeling. How things feel is important. Push harder and ask better questions.

User research

Look for the most significant problems.

Watch out for “it seemed to test okay”.

Tell the user story.

Be deliberate.

Data-driven design

Everything is hypothesis driven design. Get to a shared understanding with your team(s) and write things down.

Understand the metrics that matter for your service.


Do less. Good design is about limits and constraints.

Strategic design

Don’t separate out strategic thinking from other design disciplines. All design is strategic unless you just see it as implementation.

Know what good looks like

What does a successful product or service look like?

Be bold

It matters. Be prepared to put sticks in the ground.

And finally, design is an opportunity to bring small moments of joy into the world.

Ben Holliday is an experienced designer, leader, writer and speaker. This is his blog (started in 2005). You can follow all of Ben's blog posts by subscribing to the RSS feed, or follow him on Twitter for more regular updates.