The assessment of meaningful outcomes from co-design: A case study from the energy sector

Although co-design is a well-accepted approach for designing to meet user needs, there is limited study of what influence it has on design outcomes. This paper, as a case study, presents how a co-design process used to develop the information content of a prototype energy advice service was evaluated over time. This longitudinal study demonstrates: (1) how co-design generated insights to inform the design of an energy advice service, and (2) the benefits and challenges of employing a co-design process to design and develop meaningful content for future ‘information-intensive’ services. A theoretical framework, plus a 'think aloud' approach and systematic data coding, enabled assessment of the evolving design qualities over time. The co-design process, based on collaborative meaning making, enabled user needs to be uncovered, and those needs to be iteratively addressed within the prototype advice service. As the content of the reports became increasingly tailored and the householder’s familiarity with the topic increased, the process highlighted further evolving and underlying information needs. This confirmed the value of adopting a content first approach when designing information intensive services and also the value of foregrounding meaning making within the complex energy demand reduction context.