Explore the challenge: what do you know already, and what do you need to know?

Gather information so that you can identify the challenge you will focus on. This will help ensure it is the right issue to focus resources on and that you have the data you need to make informed decisions and move forward effectively.

Explore the challenge through user research with people who provide, use and experience your service. Consider the wider range of people involved, including potential or non-users, and families and carers. Check if your organisation already has information that could be useful. Use desk research to access additional information and broaden your understanding.

Plan for ethical and inclusive user research from the outset.


Planning for discovery

Decide your discovery objectives and approach

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Key Topics

Make sense of the data and pinpoint the right problem before moving onto solutions

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Use this summary to see if you have what you need for this stage

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Start with the why, and then select the tool

There are a wide range of tools available for each stage of the design process. It is important to think about what you seek to achieve and then to find or create a tool that would help you to do that.

You can find a full list of tools in the Tool Directory, but here are some suggestions to get you started in Discovery:


Interviewing User interviews are a qualitative research method in which the researchers engage in a one-to-one conversation with a user of service/product.

Stakeholder Map

Make the people and the organisation who can help you visible to the team

Journey Map

Find opportunities for improving the service by plotting the highs and lows of the user experience


A tool that represents your service users by describing their backgrounds, beliefs, needs and motivations.

The personas are created based on common characteristics of certain people who are similar to each other, which makes the personas archetypes.

Systems Mapping

Systemic design integrates systems thinking and human-centred design, with the intention of helping designers cope with complex- aka wicked problems through design projects that foster system change


Stages of the Double Diamond:

Creating the conditions

In our programmes at Healthcare Improvement Scotland, we learned that it is important to build readiness for change, identify the right people to be involved, and to plan effectively.

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Develop insight to clarify what you will focus on.

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Co-create possible solutions that are visual and engaging to test with service users.

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Introduce the service in phases, optimising the design before full scale launch.

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Examples from practice

Midlothian observational research

The Partnership used a number of research methods to gather and make sense of information and knowledge to understand existing services and people’s experiences. An early part of the multi-stage research involved using observational research methods. Researchers from the DHI supported the partnership, and observed.

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Using pop-up research in Midlothian

Our DHI partners designed a pop-up engagement as part of the user research. The plan was to pop-up in selected locations across Midlothian where there were likely to be a high number of older people, although anyone could take part.

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Midlothian systems map

The Midlothian Pathfinder carried out a visual, interactive service mapping with professionals from health, social care and the voluntary sector who support people living with frailty. Using a three-stage process, they mapped the flow of information and documentation across the existing systems and visually mapped the knowledge flow for a person living with severe frailty.

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Don't start from scratch

The East Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership Pathfinder project aimed to use technology enhanced care to fully transform health and social care provision for people with long term health conditions living in the Irvine Valley. Taking a design-led approach, and focusing on place, we explored ways to support residents of the Irvine Valley to access relevant TEC solutions to support them to live at home.

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Last Updated: 23 February 2024