DVSA: GDS service assessment passed

A mechanic performing an MOT test.
MOT tests are managed via a system used by mechanics in every MOT testing station across the UK. The system is maintained and managed by DVSA.

The system hadn’t been upgraded for 20 years and DVSA were working under huge pressure to re-launch a new service on a new platform.

With little room for manoeuvre and tight delivery schedules, DVSA asked us to work in parallel with their development partner Kainos to understand how the new service was meeting a complex range of user needs. They needed to be confident the service would pass the upcoming Government Digital Service (GDS) assessment.

Contextual research

We designed and ran an extensive programme of user research across the UK, interviewing and observing mechanics, managers and inspectors.

Garages authorised to run MOT tests come in all shapes and sizes. Some are national dealers with young mechanics pushing through 50 tests a day, while others consist of a local mechanic nearing retirement on first name terms with their customers (and their cars).

Clocking up the miles was key to success on this project. Lab-based user research was never going to be a substitute for visiting real users in their work environment to see how they interact with new versions of the system.

Digital Inclusion

The UK government has a digital inclusion scale designed to help service owners and designers think about levels of digital competency when creating a system. At one end are people who have rarely been online and are resistant to anything digital, while at the other are people who love technology. The MOT system needs to work for people at both ends of the scale.

We explored digital literacy and confidence but we also saw people experiencing difficulty in other ways. We watched mechanics struggle with capitals in passwords because of dirty keyboards and oily fingers. We observed people using paper forms in a completely different way to the way the designers envisaged.

None of these insights would have become clear without watching people use the system in anger, in real situations.

Passing GDS assessment

Our work gave the product owners at DVSA the confidence to iterate on the design focusing on features and functionality that would have a critical effect on MOT testers’ experience. The developers were able to deploy code to production confident that designs were usable, intuitive and meeting user needs.

Our work also fed into the product backlog as new ideas for features and functionality were uncovered.

The service passed GDS assessment, launched on time and now serves mechanics across the UK.

We have written more discovery research with mechanics here.