I have to admit, weeknotes seem harder since joining CRA! If I consider the role weeknotes play in my life, they’re often a way for me to process something going on. Something that’s weighing on me, so I turn to an empty screen to work through it.

Yet since starting at CRA a month ago, I haven’t had as many thoughts eating away at me. I looked back at the post I wrote a month into my time at Transport, and I was worried about how much I had on my plate, and how to prioritize it all.

At CRA, I’m on a team of a dozen smart, like-minded folks who support each other, so I don’t have to resort to writing out my feelings to get them out of my head. I can actually talk to my colleagues! Good for my stress levels, perhaps not so great for my body of writing :-) At least for now, as I’m still quite new and playing more of a supporting role on my teammates’ projects! …

Weeknotes #25: Nov 9–13, 2020

This past Monday was the Code for Canada Showcase, where the Cohort 4 fellows presented their work with their government partners. Unlike previous years, they presented via video conferencing. (Recordings from the sessions are available as a playlist on the C4C YouTube channel).

It’s very strange to think about Cohort 4 wrapping up and presenting their final work. Our own showcase as Cohort 3 fellows was March 10th of this year, when we gathered in Toronto as a group. Behaviours had already started to change (there were elbow bumps rather than handshakes, and plentiful hand santizer). …

Weeknotes #24: Nov 2–6, 2020

On the User-centred design team at the Canada Revenue Agency, we prototype a lot. We conduct baseline usability tests on users’ top tasks, then we design possible solutions to address any problems, and run a follow-up test to determine how successful our revisions were.

Having a way to explore and mock up options is critical to our ability to move quickly, and there are numerous tools and philosophies about the best way to approach prototyping.

Weeknotes #23: Oct 26–30, 2020

If you’ve read some of my other posts, you know I’m a fan of qualitative interviews and discovery, where the interviewee can attempt to uncover ‘why’ someone does something. This is in contrast to looking at behavioural analytics and focusing on the ‘what’, and ‘how often’.

In my new role at CRA, we perform a lot of unmoderated usability tests, with an aim to measure and report on task success and time-spent-on-task on our public-facing web content. …

Weeknotes #22: Oct 19–22, 2020

This week I started a new position over with the Canada Revenue Agency, in their User Centred Design Division under the Digital Design and Production Directorate, in the Public Affairs Branch. Phew, that’s a bit of a mouthful!

Being on a UCD team will be a bit of a return to my roots; I was first exposed to user experience as part of the Design and Usability (later renamed User Experience) department at LexisNexis, over 15 years ago! At LexisNexis, we worked on prototypes and tested the usability before anything went over to the development teams to build “for real”. This is where I was exposed to the thoughtfulness and consideration that went into good design. …

Weeknotes #21: Oct 13–16, 2020

Note: I skipped from weeknotes #19 — #21 because I was on vacation last week. So it’s the 20th note, but the 21st week since I joined the Government of Canada as a public servant.

This week I spent a lot of my time documenting things, and meeting with a new researcher on my team. Knowledge transfer is always difficult, and although I’ve spent some time trying to aggregate research notes and findings in Notion, we always hold more information in our own minds than we can hope to effectively transfer to someone else.

This is because we each bring our own biases and framing to situations, so even if we all have access to the same data, we may incorporate and interpret things differently. …

Weeknotes #19: Sept 26–30, 2020

These weeknotes are a little late: I was working remotely from my parents’ house this week, and then promptly took a week off for vacation. For those wondering, I got a covid test before I travelled. :-)

Usability testing is a common “introduction” to user research. Rather than releasing something widely to the public and hoping it goes well, a team may first run usability testing, where someone who is similar to the target user will be asked to perform a certain task. Their ability to complete the task is used as a measure of how usable the solution is. …

Weeknotes #18: Sept 21 — 25, 2020

Last week, I had a new user researcher start on my team. This brings us to a designer, a part-time researcher/designer, a researcher, and myself. Until this point, we had weekly meetings, but we were more or less working on our own activities. This week I started really thinking about how we could be sure we were working together; sharing information and not duplicating efforts.

I’ve already mentioned Notion on this blog; I set up a research repository that would make it easy for researchers to search across the transcripts of previous interviews to identify related topics or content. …

Weeknotes #17: Sept 14–18, 2020

The Government of Canada Digital Standards call for ‘designing with users’ and ‘iterating and improving frequently’. These are fantastic guidelines for delivering great work, but I worry that too often we’re blindly following these standards without truly understanding why we’re doing things this way, or how to do so appropriately.

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Government of Canada Digital Standards

Don’t get me wrong, the appetite to involve users is fantastic. There have been efforts to define usability and user research as distinct from public opinion research so we can work more closely with the public. But my concern is that we are wielding “we talked with users” as a weapon not to learn, but to confirm what we were already planning to do otherwise. That may help us sound more persuasive (maybe?), …

Weeknotes #16: Sept 8–11, 2020

“It’s easier to hold your principles 100 percent of the time than it is to hold them 98 percent of the time.” ― Clayton M. Christensen

This will probably be a short post — I’m feeling pretty foggy-headed with the rainy weather here in Ottawa. But I said I would write a post every week, so here I am.

After feeling a bit mentally stretched last week into areas that aren’t my expertise (project risk, program development, enterprise architecture), this week I found myself recoiling back a bit into areas I’m more familiar with. …


Andrea F Hill

Sr UX Specialist with Canada Revenue Agency, former web dev and product person. 🔎 Lifelong learner. Unapologetic introvert. Plant-powered marathoner. Cat mom.

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