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Journey maps: discovery and quality

Sharing the user journey maps generated during our design sprint

Published onMar 25, 2022
Journey maps: discovery and quality

During our design sprint we carried out a number of collaborative journey mapping excercises.

Mapping can help clarify and combine the experiences of the representatives in the room. We collaboratively produced two maps exploring:

  • the possible journey of someone seeking access to data to use as part of a social change process;

  • the different journeys of data production and publication inside an organisation, starting from a range of triggers, and looking at both initial data publication, and data maintenance.

Combined maps

Maps like these can be codified into user journey blueprints. Drawing on these maps, we created blueprints that describe an example of a broken journey, and we explored how some of the potential solutions identified in the sprint could lead to more successful journeys.

The journey of discovery

When we consider civic engagement uses of data, the motivating trigger for someone starting on a data search is often emotional, whether rooted in concern, anger, or passion. Someone is motivated to find out more, or to use data to bring about an action in the real world.

The search for data might start with a quick internet search, which - as we hear from interviews - is often unsuccessful.

At this point, people often either reduce their ambitions, or look for help. Without data-savvy friends or connections, the journey often ends here.

Ultimately, there are three end-states for a civic oriented data discovery journey:

  • Success. Someone leave feeling empowered by knowing or being able to do something - even if their assumptions about the data that might be available have evolved.

  • Give up and file away any progress for another day - assuming the original motivation has not diminished

  • Shift focus to filling the gap: either by engaging with the organisation via FOIs or other means, or starting to planning alternative ways to answer questions, including through local data collection.

Building this map generated a number of “how might we” questions, including:

  • How might we move from a search paradigm to a discovery paradigm?

  • How might we better signpost engagement links and pathways?

  • How might we help people find their unknown unknowns?

The publishers journey

If a users journey is include discovering some open dataset, then at some point, someone has made that data available. We explored the journeys that might take place inside an organisation as decisions are made on when and how to make data available.

As this map shows, the trigger for publishing is often some kind of policy mandate or requirement: either through Freedom of Information rights, a commitment to transparency, or policies around data being open by default. However, these rarely make explicit a desire to proactively support particular active civic concerns.

This can lead to tick-box data publishing, rather than a focus on data quality. However, there are two important pathways to better data quality: (1) improved publishing pipelines including documentation and validation; and (2) user feedback loops of various kinds.

While some quality issues do have technical solutions, such as developing or enforcing standards or improving processes for collection and metadata, many quality issues involve (small-p) politics . It is important to recognise the organisational reality into which any solution needs to integrate.

If all data feedback mechanisms are mediated through a data portal, they often become seen as primarily technical issues, and the responsibility of the portal, rather than of data stewards (or even those responsible for the policy area that the data is about).

Meaningful participation is one important data improvement ‘engine’ through which people can influence, improve or enhance institutions, organisations and systems.

But without maintenance and feedback loops to improve data, the most likely outcome is that it sits unused and decays in its usefulness

Working through this map prompted “how might we” questions:

  • How might we close the loop between owner, publisher and possibilities for learning?

  • How might we redesign the portal as a data collection generated for, and used by, providers of services, not the other way round?

  • How might we engage communities in decisions around collecting, using and sharing data? 

  • How might we guide people who are disappointed by what they find towards ways of creating and improving what they were looking for?

From broken to better journeys

Using the persona profiles introduced in Day 1 of the design sprint, we’ve imagined two blueprints. The first of a broken journey, cut-short by failings in current tools and technology. The second, reaching clearer outcomes, and enabled by some of the potential solutions surfaced during the sprint.

A broken quality journey

The user: Shanti is a community organiser working in partnership with local doctors and housing authorities interested in addressing issues of loneliness. The local community centre records footfall in local community spaces, and carries out regular surveys about the wellbeing of local residents, which is not shared with mental health service providers ❌. The partnership would like to understand how to use their local community assets such as benches, cafes and greenspaces to support local walking groups. Data they find online is organised at the borough level, when they need it at the neighbourhood level  ❌

The publisher: Portia works for Southville Council, tasked with publishing details about mental health to support policy. The council uses proxy measures about income and density of health services to estimate wellbeing in order to target services. Portia suspects the data doesn’t capture local lived experience ❌

With services to bridge the quality gap

Portia wants to validate her assumptions, so she contacts Southville’s Engagement Coordinator for the Community who convenes a workshop with the neighbourhood partnership including Shanti.

Shanti tells the council that data needs to be filterable by ‘neighbourhood’ for it to be useful to the partnership. Collections of data are also too focussed on financial situation, Shanti suggests adding a register of community assets as defined by residents.

Portia reviews the data collection in light of the new information She uses the Publishers Toolkit process to improve the dataset and documentation, and the Data Service Standard to redesign interaction touchpoints with the council data team.

Shanti applies for a one year Data Fellowship to work with the data publishers and share community insights to improve data practices. Shanti works with local Engagement Coordinators, Data Guides and community organisers to collectively design a new data initiative to record and share data about local assets and resident’s surveys. The team use the Publishers Toolkit to design a microsite using web standards such as and DCAT metadata so the community group's data is more discoverable through Google Dataset Search and other tools.

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