A small multi-disciplinary team at the Co-op have been working to rethink Wills. Mike promised at the AGM that we would talk openly about what we’ve done. This is a post about our 10 weeks working on an ‘Alpha’ prototype and what we’ve learned.
Wills are interesting
I never thought I’d be writing those words but Wills are interesting.
Over half the population die without a Will and these people don’t get a say over what happens to their property, possessions and children when they die. No Will means a mess for family and friends to clear up at a time of stress. At best this leads to confusion and at worse family breakdown.
And even though people know a Will is worth doing and most people say they’ll get round to it, procrastination is normal. In other words, what people say they’ll do and what people actually do are completely different.
Why do people do that?
Part of the reason behind this apathy is that people don’t like to think about their own death – which is understandable, but there are other factors too.
Most people do not understand the language and concepts used in a Will. Even those people that sit down and think “I’m going to do this” end up baffled by, and lost in legalese. They start the process, then stop when they come up against a barrier.
Then there’s the practicalities. Overwhelmingly people want to speak to someone to get advice and the reassurance that they’ve done it right. Usually that means trips to the local solicitor’s office, maybe some time off work, form filling, and a couple of hundred pounds for a document that gathers dust in the filing cabinet upstairs. That doesn’t feel like a good use of people’s time.
These make for some really interesting service design challenges and there’s a lot that can be improved about Wills. By applying the culture, practices, processes and technologies of the Internet-era we hope to do just that.
10 people, 10 weeks to build an Alpha
For the last 10 weeks a small team of developers, designers, lawyers and user researchers were given space to explore Wills. We used agile ways of working to build an early prototype version (an Alpha) and test it with real people.
The purpose of creating an Alpha is to learn about the problem space, learn how to work together as a team, test our assumptions and to build confidence in delivery.
Designing for humans
Every two weeks we delivered working software and put it in front of six or seven people (in the market for a Will and not connected to the Co-op) to observe what they did with it. We asked them questions like “what do you think happens next?” and where we reached the edges of what we’d built we used paper prototypes or mocked-up service.
This helped us better understand people’s actual needs, fears and motivations – even when they were only using a partially developed service. Our user research taught us things that we would have missed had we specified a solution up-front. For example, we learned:
- People want advice when they need it. They want a Will that is right for them, not just any Will. This may seem obvious, but it is visceral and trumps convenience. People want to talk it through and in this respect, conversations are reassuring and remove some of the fear of Wills.
- Some people want a Will immediately, others want to go away and think about something or ask some questions. In other words the service needs to be designed to go at people’s own pace.
- People’s expectations have changed. People no longer understand why they can’t update a Will when they want to, or why it is such a long winded process described in arcane terminology. People want the process to be robust but also more modern and accessible and for it to change as their lives change.
Onwards to Beta
Agile ways of working allow teams and businesses to experiment with new service ideas quickly and cheaply without needing to specify the problem and the solution up front (you can’t and you shouldn’t) or needing to commit to plans based on big, up-front assumptions. Our sponsors gave a small multi-disciplinary team a problem to solve and allowed us the space to work it out. They empowered a team to learn and experiment. This means happier team and we think, better product.
We’ve now been given permission to develop a public Beta of the Co-op Wills service so you’ll hear more about this in the next few months. We’ll share more about that as we go along.