Sharing our user research method cards

We believe that much of the best work we do in the Ontario Digital Service is done by building upon the ideas and work of others. Digital government teams around the world have been sharing their work openly, and many have released products using open licenses so that we can copy, share, and reuse them here, too.

As we work across government to help embed the ideas on human-centred design, we’ve been thinking about how to share tips, tools, and resources in easy-to-use and easy-to-understand ways across the public service.

We were inspired by the GDS’ Digital Inclusion Scale and 18F’s Method Cards, and created a small set of tools that we’re also calling method cards to help our colleagues across government as they embark on their own journeys in user research.

For now, we’re starting small: we have four methods in our set. We definitely plan to add more tools to the mix, but in the meantime, these four method cards provide a simple and easy way to tackle small projects. They also act as an appetizer for more human-centred design approaches in Ontario’s policy-making community; we hope that people reach out to us at the ODS Lab to learn more about the process once they see these initial cards.

Method cards, as a concept, was born out of IDEO back in 2003. Even prior to that, a deck of cards has long been used in various disciplines to present a collection of tools, ideas, or processes: flash cards, recipes, etc.

Leaning on the work of others is not new in the world of design. Designing is the process of synthesizing and iterating on existing ideas; the work of others has always been a launching point for further innovation.

This concept of borrowing from others is especially relevant in the era of digital government, because there is no inherent competition, but instead collaboration. Since everyone is allowed to copy from existing players, later movers can learn from the lessons of pioneers and early adopters.

We’re not shy to admit that we’ve borrowed heavily from others as we’ve made our method cards. In fact, we’re proud to be building upon the great work done by those who inspire us, and we hope others feel free to take our work and build upon it, too.

This set of cards is our first iteration at creating modular tools. We are open to feedback and suggestions — please get in touch if you have any ideas.

Huge thanks to the summer co-op students from the University of Waterloo Global Business and Digital Arts program who led the research, wrote the initial copy, and designed the visuals for this first iteration of the method cards.

You can download the whole set of cards as a PDF.

(The InDesign source files are also available for download.)


Xiaopu (pronounced “shao-poo”) Fung is a user experience designer in the Ontario Digital Service, a professional photographer, and an aspiring kungfu master.