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

Even though co-design is a well-accepted approach for designing to meet user needs, what influence it has on design outcomes remains unclear. This article presents the co-design process of a prototype energy advice service. We evaluate the impact this process had on the outcome over time, demonstrate how co-design generated informative insights, and identify the benefits and challenges of employing a co-design process to design and develop meaningful content for future ‘information-intensive’ services. A theoretical framework, a “think aloud” approach, and systematic data coding, enabled us to uncover user perceptions of the evolving design qualities. This meaning-making co-design process enabled user needs to surface and be iteratively addressed. As the content of the reports became increasingly tailored, and the users’ familiarity with the topic increased, the process highlighted further evolving and underlying information needs. This confirms the value of adopting a content first approach when designing information intensive services and foregrounding meaning making within the complex energy demand reduction context.