10 principles for design in a crisis

Design is vital in a crisis, without it we make mistakes, risk lives, and ultimately, waste valuable time that we don’t have. But making the voice of design – and user needs – heard at a time when everyone around us is sacrificing speed for haste can be difficult.

This year I published Good Services containing 15 principles of good service design, and whilst the principles are hugely relevant to services undergoing a crisis (people still need to find your service and understand what to expect!) there are a new set of needs emerging when an entire nation, and the world, are plunged into a survival situation.

How do we help users to make informed decisions about their safety? Or act collectively? And how in a world of rapidly changing demand, do we triage users fairly?

Now more than ever we need to pool resources and share our collective ideas on what works and what doesn’t, so last week I held a zoom call to talk about how we design services in crisis scenarios to answer these questions.

200 people joined from over 20 countries around the world to create a set of principles for how we design services in crisis situations quickly.

The output was incredible.

Thank you to everyone who contributed (and sorry to everyone who tried to but couldn’t because we were oversubscribed!)

The principles are here – with more detail than below, and open for everyone to contribute to and develop.

Design for crisis principles

1. Do no harm
Do not take actions that actively put your staff or users in harm’s way

2. Speak the truth
Be open and honest, using only verified facts from trustworthy sources

3. Be clear, and actionable
Give your users clear, actionable instructions on what to do

4. Go to where people are
Understand where your users are accessing information and how they are able to access your service

5. Prioritise the most vulnerable
Make sure that people who are most at risk, or most in need, can use your service

6. Give power back
Provide people with the tools to enable them to support themselves

7. Encourage the right behaviours from users and staff
Help your users and staff to work in a way that benefits themselves and those around them

8. Respond to change quickly
Respond to the changing crisis and your user’s changing needs quickly

9. Scale responsibly
Make sure you’re able to meet demand by planning affordances in the way you scale

10. Remove barriers to ask for help
Make it easy for your users to ask you for help, when, where and how they need it

Here are the co-written notes that led to the creation of these principles, the video of the zoom call and a written transcript of it (thank you to Oliver Lindberg for the transcription!)