Danny Hearn – Deeply Human Design Ltd

Heat Networks with Ofgem

This is the story of how I rapidly created insights to inform the design of a new service while influencing the policy thinkers at Ofgem – The U.K’s Heat Network regulator.


Design agency

3 months

My role
Lead User Researcher

User Research,  Generating Insights, User Testing,  Surveys, Client presentations

The impact

Completed Alpha Assessment

Completed GDS assessment, presenting and showcasing user research.

Insights that influenced policy thinkers

Generated insights that went beyond design feedback, influencing the language and thinking of policy makers.

The problem to solve

How can heat networks become compliant with new policy and regulations?

The approach

  • Co-created a range of key research questions with the team
  • Established base understanding of sector through desk research and depth interviews with key industry contacts
  • Created open research web portal to capture consent and manage 1-2-1 interview scheduling 
  • Weekly cadence of research activity and playback
  • Working side by side with service and content designers to give insights back for them to iterate prototype 

Co-created assumptions & research goals 

Co-created research questions

Participant recruitment portal & consent

Prototype feedback from testing

Depth interview script

High level user journey with research scope

Setting up a Research cadence

When I joined, the team were a few weeks into the Alpha phase with limited insights gathered from discovery and urgently needed more clarity about the users in order to design the registration process.

  • Regular checkin with team to align on research objectives for each sprint
  • Developed relationships with industry leaders for in-depth interviews to understand the sector
  • Conducted a total of 27 rolling interviews over 6 weeks, with a range of organisations and individuals from the UK Heat Network Sector. 
  • Interviews blended open discussion with prototype testing

Broad research plan / cadence

Managing daily tasks with junior researcher

Developing insights

  • Developed core and secondary sets of personas
  • Detailed extensive list of user needs
  • Deep insights into sector perception, language and behaviours
  • Presented back to Senior Ofgem leaders and project team

Reporting, with insights, personas and quantitive data anaylsis

Final reflections

As the team had lost the initial user researcher before I joined, I was short on time, therefor there was an emphasis on rapid and lean research.  The approach to focus heavily on 1-2-1 interviews worked well, although it did take a few rounds for me to feel orientated within the deep sector language. 

The frequent user testing was critical in providing regular and iterative feedback to the service and content designers.  In order to ensure we focused on the biggest risk (understanding & positioning in the sector) we tested using low-fi prototypes.  This ensured we didn’t get distracted with interaction design but rather on the fundamentals of the service and proposition.  Unfortunately the GDS alpha assessment team felt that without having tested using the prototype kit we would fail the assessment.  This was disappointing but was remedied with 2 sprints of additional testing using the prototype kit which helped the team develop their understanding further. 

The biggest indicator of success for me was not the initial GDS assessment but rather the feedback and strength of relationship with the client.  They were happy and had the insights they needed to feel confident enough to proceed.