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4. Consider potential change

In stakeholders

The design process strives to include all possible participants and stakeholders* in the Discovery phase. The thinking is that, if teams talk to all the people who work with a product, service, or system as participants as well as all those who administer, approve, or oversee it as leadership stakeholders and design with them, then the end result of the work serve the needs of all those people.

As we know, the ideal is to codesign solutions with everyone involved. Through having open conversations in safe spaces, design teams hope to hear the flaws in designs and revise the product(s), service(s), or solution(s) before they go to implementation. In reality, sometimes those open conversations don't happen often enough, or anxieties about potential flaws go unsaid. Design teams must champion the need for access and time with participants throughout the design phase as well as continue their empathetic listening from the Discovery phase during those conversations to hear anxieties or concerns that might be hesitantly offered.

In workflow

As they move through the design phase, teams need to evaluate how the proposed solution might change the workflow or unduly increase the workload for any of these groups. Teams can do this through talking with these impacted groups as the process goes on, testing with them, and listening to anxieties about being expected to do more with no more time allowances or, conversely, with being cut out of access or workflows they may see as key to their work. Finding these participants might seem difficult, but talk to your primary participants to find out who they think might be touched by these changes, contact those groups, and set up testing with them.

Defining Terms
In this Guide series' usage, we define participants and stakeholders in the following ways:

  • participants are people who work with a product, service, or system in the course of their normal public usage or workflows, such as entering information on a website page or pages or processing that information inside the organization.
  • stakeholders are people who may not use the product, service, or system directly but are responsible for administering those who do use it, approving funding for its development and maintenance, and understanding the greater organization in which it functions.

Case In Point

US Postal Service Package Delivery

A well-designed product or service continues to be useful even as circumstances around it may dramatically change. Back in 1775, the creators of the US Postal Service could not foresee that delivery planes, trains, and trucks would one day replace wagons and horses as the way of getting packages from here to there. Technology has radically changed, but the core service offered by the US Post Office remains relevant today, especially as the number of packages sent continues to increase.

In fact, much of the boom in online retail could not have occurred without a reliable, low cost shipping infrastructure already in place. From small, single-person shops to industry giants like Amazon, the US Postal Services' package delivery has allowed businesses of all sizes to engage in digital interactions that result in three dimensional goods showing up at customers' doors. This increase in scale, however, has not been without its challenges.

However, the new services that characterize current package services, like flat rate boxes and weekend delivery, cause a need for the consideration and design for other changes within the USPS itself. For example, in the age of Sunday delivery, how is personnel distributed and yet labor contracts still honored? How might an unexpected glut of packages coming from one USPS site be absorbed into the delivery system quickly and efficiently? Whenever a public-facing feature is added, all these questions and many more have to be designed for inside the organization. These are the types of changes that teams must consider when creating new products, services, or systems in the context of large-scale organizations. One change is rarely one change; in an organization of any size, considering the potential changes to workflow, personnel, et cetera, that will have to occur to support a new or evolved system is a crucial task of the design team.

5. Value new participants

And design for the newest-newbies

Your design does not exist in a vacuum. It will be integrated into an ecosystem of processes, all of which have their primary participants and stakeholders. For this reason, it is important to understand and anticipate the role of new participants in the your proposed designs.

New participants are people who are entirely fresh to the process, either from the public or from inside the organization. When the team is creating an entirely new product to offer to veterans, or a new system for school administrators to talk to one another, then everyone will be a new participant. Keep in mind, however, that new participants also come from inside the organization. Whoever will distribute or administer that new product is a new participant. Introductions, training, and a consideration of their current workload will all need to be addressed.

Case In Point

The USA Jobs website is well-known to many federal employees. Through this jobs application portal, one can find a position that fits with a desired career path, background, employment preference, and General Services level. In the past, this site has been run by the federal government as well as by private entities, but it has never gotten good reviews, either from new or experienced participants, in terms of experience or usability.

Navigating the site required participants to understand multiple points about their employment opportunities that they might only know if they had already had experience with federal employment. Even if applicants did have previous understanding of the federal hiring system, the site’s structure made it almost impossible to understand if they had successfully applied for a job or not. Applicants had no visibility into where their application was in the hiring process. In addition, unless someone explicitly reached out to them, they had no way of knowing whether their application was still moving through the system or if they had been dropped from consideration.

These pain points were considered during the massive redesign of the site from 2015-2018. Although still reflective of a maddeningly byzantine hiring path, both applicants and hiring managers are now able to interact through a more modern, transparent system. This improvement was made possible by constant testing both with new and experienced participants as alternations to the site design were proposed and built. No feature of this site appeared to the public without hearing from participants about their experience with it. This sort of large-scale change is possible only through a long-term commitment to change that is paired with a constant return to focus on the participants themselves.