Case studies

We're experts in research and design with extensive experience across public, private and third sector.

  • Helping schools buy things: Alpha

    Department for Education

    The DfE launched the Schools’ buying strategy in January 2017. We began the work after a lengthy and tricky discovery which meant we had to reframe the Alpha quickly into something deliverable.

    We began to challenge the recommendations from discovery which were too solution-focused and lacked clarity on the problem we were solving. We translated the research into new user needs, focused hypotheses to test and rapid prototypes we could use to validate our thinking. We produced several very different prototypes to explore various aspects of purchasing and discounted those which weren’t meeting user needs (in 2-week sprints). We also made recommendations for how the programme should rethink how it measured research, and how the various teams should focus on one problem, and one need, rather than several, to join up the entire service.

    We narrowed our scope down to a select few ideas, to ensure we could help the department deliver their first digital service.

    Our service assessment also stated: ‘The panel was impressed by the teams focus on user research and the basis for continued development of the service prototype throughout alpha. The panel was impressed by the teams consideration of DfE’s structure and how this impacts on user experience. The team had an impressive understanding of the policy landscape around the service with good examples of communication between policy and delivery. '
  • National Pupil Database: Beta

    Department for Education

    Working with the Department for Education, we developed and iterated a tool in beta called 'Find and explore data in the National Pupil Database'.

    We designed and developed a ‘metadata registry’ including the taxonomy and relationships between data objects in the database, to describe NPD data more effectively. We researched with potential and existing users and replayed this research back to the wider team and key stakeholders within the DfE. We worked with a technology partner to provide specialist skills required by the DfE. We also introduced a technical architect who had specialist Rails and Azure experience (essential requirements) and a data analyst who identified and created pre-built extracts of data.

    We ran a private beta over six weeks, gathering really positive feedback. To ensure results weren’t skewed, participants with a range of NPD experience were selected, ranging from none to 10+ years. 75% of participants rated the overall experience the service as very good or excellent and 76% said the service would help them understand what data is available within the NPD.

    Paper helped bring coherence to a previously complicated and confusing service offer, by bringing in specialists to map out the as-is and to-be services. They could be relied upon to represent the Department well in all dealings with our users, and iterated a number of solutions so that the new service offer is coherent, easier for users, strategically aligned to DfE’s needs, and importantly cost effective and easy for us to run once the ‘project’ element closes. - Iain Bradley, Head of Data Modernisation Division, Department for Education
  • Get teaching experience in schools: Discovery & Alpha

    Department for Education

    The Department for Education has a clear strategic priority to recruit and retain high quality teachers. To help this, the DfE wanted to get a clearer understanding of the needs of teacher candidates looking for taster placements in schools, along with the needs of schools themselves who offer placements.

    During the 6 week discovery we spoke with 46 users; candidates, schools, universities, existing service providers, stakeholders and policy teams. We ran diary studies (a way for a user to give feedback over time rather than in a single research session) which provided really valuable insights into the experience both for the project team and wider DfE service lines. Our research showed there was a clear need for this service, along with identifying areas and ideas for improvement, and resulted in passing the discovery service assessment. The 12 week alpha prototyped and usability tested the renamed service: ‘Get school experience’. This new service aims to remove the pain-points for candidates and schools, improve the experience for users, and increase the number of schools offering placements. Our research was prioritised into two main user groups - candidates and schools - and we spoke with 45 users in face to face and remote sessions. The work we did passed the GDS alpha service assessment.

    Paper made an incredible contribution to our understanding of users and their needs, the depth of which was noted by GDS at our service assessment. Those insights have shaped the direction of all of our work. It was a pleasure to work with such a creative, dedicated and supportive team. - Jordan Russell, Product Manager.
  • User research for digital transformation

    Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

    As one of the largest law magic circle firms in the world, with offices around the globe, the people at Freshfields need to work with each other and their clients across time zones and jurisdictions seamlessly. To this end, Freshfields has started a Digital Transformation that includes a programme to modernise its end user ecosystem, devices and tools and thereby enable new ways of working. Paper was engaged to carry out the user research to inform the design of this new ecosystem.

    First we designed and published a global survey to try and understand the range of people working at Freshfields so that we could prioritise who we needed to interview. Over 900 people responded which demonstrated the massive appetite for change in the organisation. Then we designed our user research. We had a short amount of time so we split into two teams (bringing in Adrian Frost from ideasmiths), one team travelling to Frankfurt, and New York, the other team went to Brussels and Hong Kong, and both teams did analysis in London and Manchester. We also researched using video conferencing with Singapore, Tokyo, Beijing, and Washington. Stitching the research back together we produced insights into issues people have with technology, where there are frustrations and usability issues, how changes in the sector are creating new business needs, and areas where the culture and governance of the organisation conflicted with technology use. The user stories generated by this work then informed the solution designs.

    7 delivery teams are all working with the user stories from our research to prioritise tasks and qualify if the user needs have been met. The research also formed part of a successful business case to invest over £12 million in new technology over the next 12 months.

    Michael Paulson, Freshfields Global Head of Digital Transformation, said, 'Paper delivered high quality and comprehensive research in very challenging timescales which is now proving to be invaluable to us.
  • User research, coaching and introduction to Agile


    U is a current account service that is changing to make more decisions influenced by user needs while integrating Agile into their workflow. They needed help formulating their process, recruiting users and training to understand insight.

    We colocated with the team at their office to provide coaching and conduct research simultaneously. We introduced specific skills in Agile, User Research and Service Design to challenge and guide the team.

    We delivered U’s first ever qualitative research with actual users, and helped set policies and processes to deliver research so they could gain user insight ad-hoc. Our delivery directly influenced U’s strategy and they have since repeated research and are delivering more value quicker.

    Paper were brilliant at helping bring user needs into our designs. The interview sessions we held with our customers were a real highlight. The methods they used helped us to really understand how people use their money and how users feel about it continues to resonate. We learnt so much from Paper and they have set us on a better path to building the right things in the right way for our customers - Aden Davies / Faye Goodworth, Product Managers
  • Research to inform future strategy

    Sheffield Cultural Education Partnership - Learn Sheffield

    The Sheffield Cultural Education Partnership (CEP) engaged with Paper at a pivotal moment in their project. Before committing to significant investment in multiple strands of work the Sheffield CEP asked Paper to give them insight into the needs of their users.

    Paper conducted user research with 12 teachers from a mix of primary and secondary schools. We conducted the research with the teachers with the aim of gaining a qualitative understanding of how teachers gather resources and plan their lessons.

    Paper’s recommendations included a process to help prioritise resource creation and a common set of design principles.

    Stephen Betts (CEO of Learn Sheffield) says, - 'I suspect we will look back in five years’ time and say that Paper saved us a lot of effort, time and money!'
  • Student Loans Reimbursement Discovery

    Department for Education

    A big challenge for the DfE is the recruitment and retention of teachers. Some locations and some subjects are more difficult than others to recruit and retain for and so the DfE designed a policy aimed at financially incentivising those teachers to stay in the role by reimbursing their student loan repayments.

    Colocating is always helpful but on this occasion it was more important because (a) this was a new policy so the work needed to be out in the open for people to see and get their heads around and (b) this was the Product Owner’s first discovery project and we wanted to work closely with her to make sure she received the support and coaching she needed. Our research with teachers showed DfE how teachers consider applying for jobs, their commitment to the profession and how a financial incentive might affect them.

    The discovery met all the digital service standards which is always important, and will go live in September 2019. “I think the ethos you have as a company, the work you do and the approach you take is awesome (in the true sense of the word). It gives me real faith that there are people out there that can work in a way that develops people, respects well-being and also gets the job done to an exceptional standard – you should be really proud of what you have built; I am really proud I got to work with you.” - Rheanna, Product Owner

  • Prototype and test a new form of public engagement


    Doteveryone had a challenge. To find better ways of engaging the public around complex digital issues. Traditional methods (such as a citizen jury) are not always the right way. Our mission was to prototype new methods of engagement and test those with the public.

    Working closely with an in house team we used the manufactured dilemma; “Is access to the internet a right or a privilege?”. We created a set of different experiments that we tested with the public to see how different methods of engagement worked.

    We designed and developed some prototypes for testing at a library in London and a community center in Chesterfield. These will go live on the web to begin measurement.

  • National Pupil Database Discovery

    Department for Education

    The Department for Education (DfE) asked Paper to conduct user research into how people access the National Pupil Database. The database is used by a range of organisations including universities, other government departments, and some private sector companies who have a variety of different needs.

    The user research was part of a Discovery which included exploring a new way of providing the service. We divided the research into three streams of work: end users, policy makers, technology providers. We conducted one-to-one interviews with users and collated the research into themes, personas, and user stories.

    The research enabled us to explore a new end to end user journey and move into a design sprint. Richard Machen, Product Owner at DfE said, “Your structured, professional and methodical approach to user research, coupled with your collaborative and agile ways of working, has left us in a much better position to create a service that meets the needs of our users.”

  • Research how 70,000 colleagues work together

    Co-op (with Co-op Digital)

    We worked with Co-op Digital to research into how colleagues within their 5 different business areas work together while teaching an area of the business about user needs.

    We interviewed and observed 45 different job roles across 5 different businesses, analysed the information and worked alongside Group IT to help inform their spending on digital technologies for the next year.

    Our findings started some amazing dialog between the teams and affected how they moved forwards. Co-op Digital were so excited about the results they asked us to present to their team our findings to learn from our insight.

    Read more detail

  • User research for a digital transformation


    We worked with an Indian water pump manufacturer to do field-based research throughout India. We were interested in helping the client understand how existing, or new, digital products or services could increase efficiency, performance, sales, and users’ experience.

    After spending time at the head office and primary factories in Coimbatore in South India, we visited both branches and customers in Hyderabad, Pune, and New Delhi. In the six-day visit we interviewed, observed and recorded over 30 interviews and analysed our research back in the studio.

    Several key processes were mapped out and specific points within user journeys were identified that need improvement. Our research included observations, quotes from customers, service maps, and key timings.

  • mentorship event

    Research and Development

    Paper was founded with four principles, one of which is about making a positive difference. In 2017 we created, a free-to-attend mentoring event.

    Charities, social enterprises, and small businesses are paired with volunteer mentors from the digital community. It provides support to people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to access it.

    More than 150 people have attended to date (March 2018). We have seen many of our mentees go on to create growing, sustainable, and in some cases award winning businesses. The charities we have helped have used the things they learn to launch campaigns, raise money, and make positive changes to their ways of working.

  • Usability testing with people who have accessibility needs


    We’ve recently been usability testing a new digital service for SignHealth, a national charity that works to improve the health and wellbeing of deaf people.

    Paper were brought in as specialists to conduct usability testing on the new platform, prior to it being launched. We created a short captioned video presentation to explain the findings, to make the information easy to understand and share.

    The detailed insights, observations and recommendations use brief plain English descriptions with graphical representations to simplify the message for audiences whose first language is BSL, not English.

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  • National Pupil Database: Alpha

    Department for Education

    Working on the National Pupil Database alpha allowed us to explore solutions to the problems identified during our earlier discovery. We looked into two main areas; an end to end service allowing users to apply for NPD pupil level data, and an in-depth tool to help users to fully explore what data is in the NPD.

    For both solutions, we mapped the end to end service, including pain points identified in discovery. Using the GOV.UK Design System, we created and iterated clickable prototypes which were tested with a range of users and people with access needs, including people from the Royal Society for the Blind. Research methods included moderated and unmoderated testing, both in person and remote. We worked closely with a range of users; academic researchers, educational organisations, lobby groups, and DfE policy teams.

    Both solutions tested really well in alpha, but the second solution was prioritised as it had fewer third party dependencies and met key user needs from discovery. After presenting the alpha to the DfE Senior Leadership Team and Chief Data Officer, the project moved into a beta phase.

  • National Pupil Database (Design Sprint)

    Department for Education

    The Department for Education (DfE) asked Paper to conduct user research into how people access the National Pupil Database. The database is used by a range of organisations including universities, other government departments, and some private sector companies who have a variety of different needs.

    At the end of the Discovery stage we had a thorough understanding of user needs (internal and external) and we had highlighted a number of different ideas that the DfE could take into the next stage (Alpha). We took this opportunity to facilitate a short (3 day) design sprint to create a prototype of one of the opportunities and test it with users.

    At the end of the 3 days we had designed, built and tested an interactive prototype of a new National Pupil Database application process. “You’ve got through a lot in three days and having something to show us today was fantastic so a massive well done!” - Sam Morrison Service Owner.

  • Website redesign and delivery


    We helped Databowl reinvent their online presence by researching how their customers interact with them and redesigning their website to improve how potential customers see them.

    We spent time recruiting potential customers who met a specified criteria and tested our designs every two weeks with five users at a time.

    The new Databowl website was launched working alongside their internal developers. In just eight weeks we co-created new content, iteratively prototyped and tested with users, and brought in a freelancer for the graphic design and build of the site.

  • Usability testing a new way of working

    Co-op (with Co-op Digital)

    Which is more usable, Microsoft 365 or Google’s G-Suite? As Co-op got nearer to making a decision about the office software they would need amid a 5 year transformation plan they asked Paper to conduct usability testing on the two market-leading office packages.

    We designed a usability test that simulated the working day. We had 45 minute sessions in which users were given a laptop and a mobile phone and asked to complete tasks they would typical do. We intervened by sending real time notifications and new tasks during the test to simulate the disruption of the working environment.

    In time for a steering meeting where the final decision about software would be made we delivered a report that highlighted insights and themes, helping Co-op to evaluate the usability of each package and the potential impact to the business in disruption and support.

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We have a diverse portfolio of work. In addition to our usual clients our team also works on leg up or charity work and we actively encourage R&D projects which allow us to learn new skills.

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Introducing Faye

Another Paper newbie! Hi there! 🙋‍♀️ My name is Faye and I’ve just joined the Paper team as a Content Designer. My background isn’t in design At university I studied languages. I got myself a completely useless but SO MUCH FUN Master’s degree translating Spanish children’s books into English. After that I worked as an English Language Consultant at a translation agency, then a copywriter on the marketing team at a digital bank.

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