Human-centered design (HCD) is a practical problem-solving method that involves a human perspective in an iterative process to develop solutions to real people’s needs. A typical HCD process includes discovery, design, delivery, and measurement stages. HCD is a flexible, disciplined method that draws on social science methodologies like behavioral science, anthropology, and psychology.  

In HCD research, teams engage in semi-structured conversations with customers to draw out personal stories, the biggest paint points, critical needs, and the moments that matter most. Teams aim to learn quickly and broadly through 4-8-week “Discovery Sprints.” The goal is to surface root causes, insights, and priority directions for a design stage. Discovery is an efficient way for government to focus time, resources, and energy on solutions that make service delivery effective and in tune with people’s needs.  

Customer stories and journey maps distill and summarize qualitative data into tangible references that align different audiences to the same frame of view. They help facilitate shared customer understanding, challenge area prioritization, and collaborative decision-making towards design and implementation.  

An individual facing a financial shock might engage with Unemployment Insurance (UI), Medicaid, and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at the same time. Government draws distinct boundaries between these programs as they are coordinated by three separate Federal agencies and administered differently by states, yet people navigate across them at the same time, creating tension between how the systems works and how people engage with it. Customer experience HCD work aims to find those tensions and design more integrated delivery systems.  


Discovery Insight Documents  

Customer stories  

Customer stories, also known as personas, are either single scenarios or aggregated narratives that represent moments that matter to key customer segments of a service experience or life experience. The details draw on real perspectives from customer research. Customer stories are evocative and memorable and bring the findings to life for teams, stakeholders, and the public. The stories personalize the pain points and remind us that we’re working to improve real people’s lives. Customer journey maps are grounded in customer stories.  

Customer journey maps  

Customer journey maps are a summary of the voices of actual people and illustrate the start-to-finish process a person or group navigates to accomplish a goal. In a single frame, a journey map defines the customer type, scenarios, interactions with services and systems, thoughts and feelings, the moments that matter, and critical pain points. Customer journey maps are not a statistically significant representation – they are a visual summary of insights and findings from peoples’ personal stories. The maps expand our perspective and allow us to see and have a common understanding of the seams between services and pinpoint common barriers. Customer journey maps help coordinate improvement efforts to design simpler and more seamless experiences across the Federal government.