Thoughts from DWP Digital design Patterns meetup #1

Colin Oakley
3 min readJan 29, 2018


One of the parts of my job I enjoy most is getting to spend time with the wider team and sharing what we are doing.

Thursday, Craig and Simon hosted a patterns meet-up in Leeds. This work has stopped and started a few times now for various reasons, so it was great to see design starting to move this on.

The day started with an introduction to where we have been and where we are going, it was great to see what this wasn’t about. I love the slide below — because a lot of what we need to do is just expose design in services to each other.

Where we do that, mostly is irrelevant, this can come later, but we need some place that everyone can access and everyone is comfortable contributing to.

Slide: Today P̶a̶t̶t̶e̶r̶n̶s̶/̶C̶o̶m̶p̶o̶n̶e̶n̶t̶s̶ sharing designs

Part 1 — The Morning

The first task was to split off into teams, we had a few example of search from our GitHub repo to talk through in small groups.

It was great to get more context around how some of the services are using search and what the outcomes are for the user.

The group I was on was a front-end developer, two interaction designers and, a content designer.

As a group, it was great to get time to have an open discussion about how it was used, why some elements hadn’t been included — what was the intent behind certain fields. Below is an example of the search we were looking at.

Example of search from

We then presented back as groups to everyone to explain at a high level how each search was being used and what we had learned.

Tweet from Simon Wilson showing search presentations

Part 2— The Afternoon

We spent the afternoon talking a lot about if the designs we looked at where even search.

A lot of the time this seemed to be more how you framed the use, for example with a National Insurance Number search, we are getting a binary result of a person, this doesn’t feel like search, more like a look-up.

Where we have the ability for results — this felt more like a search. So maybe we define search in two stages.

  1. The ability to search on a number of attributes
  2. The ability to select a result from a list

This feels like the next step in the process after we have shared the design — we start to normalise and classify what they are.

We also spent a little time talking about how we contribute and where we contribute too.

When the GitHub repo was set-up, we used an issues template to try and give more of a prompt, this came with 5 questions.

  1. What problem does this design solve?
  2. Which service are you researching this design on?
  3. How have you approached the design?
  4. What have you learned from research?
  5. Have you tested this for accessibility?

We also tried to articulate our search as a user story, because we’d already talked about the user need and outcomes this was a natural progression from our first chats.

Take aways

Running workshops is never easy, but I think everyone got a lot out of the day, my takeaways where:

  1. Naming a thing is still very difficult (but we need to make sure we don’t get too caught up in this)
  2. We need to do this more regularly as a user-centered design team
  3. Search can be a really complex process and has lots of niche detail

I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next, and what else is shared by the wider community.



Colin Oakley

front-end developer in Government into html, css, node.js and a11y. Co-orginizer of Frontend North East.