A public service design and rapid prototyping project
at Ontario Digital Service


Finding Employment and Training Services (FEATS) is the search tool that the call center agents at Employment Ontario are using to help unemployed or underemployed Ontarians find happier career options and training.

Project Partner: Ontario Digital Service (ODS), Rapid prototyping lab
The province of Ontario established an independent organization, Ontario Digital Service (ODS), to address the trend of digital transformation. The rapid prototyping lab practices agile methodologies to improve digital service in a short period of time in order to keep the government moving forward efficiently.

Overview: The current presentation of information prevents agents from filtering program information efficiently. Additionally, management at Employment Ontario requested that the new version of FEATS be available to the public users for self-support as well as the client support officers. In order to extend the users of FEATS, we included test and prototype iterations with Ontarians from the general public.

Primary users: Client Support Officers; members of the public who are searching for a new career.

Timeline: Six 1-week sprints, June-July 2018

My role: Interaction and service designer and user researcher.


“Client Support Officers and Ontarians need a better tool to find employment and training services efficiently. “


Pain point:

  • The current presentation of information prevents agents from copying and pasting information into Livechat immediately.

  • Agents mentioned that the demographic filters do not work well and they would like filters to make their screening process more efficient.

    Most recent prototype

    We prototyped in six sprints and mainly focused on redesigning the filter layout and presentation to help agents and public users to browse through program information more efficiently. We conducted over 25 user testings with agents and the public, from tech savvy to elderly.


    Iteration overview

    Proof of concepts

    • Checkbox can indicate that multiple selections are possible
    • Collapse the search bar to provide more space for results
    • Provide the icons showing different types of program providers and disability friendly programs

    Future consideration

    • Program summary page
    • Sort programs by frequency of use
    • Add “former convict” as an audience filter
    • Mobile version: one page for the search function, and one for the map and results list.
    • French version


    I practiced service design to identify potential opportunities beyond our project scope for making FEATS more useful and to truly reduce the unemployment rate.

    User Journey Map

    By making journey maps for the FEATS search tool, I observed that after being given a program’s information, there are a lot of unknowns around the improvement of skill sets, the quality of programs, and the outcome of having a new career.

    One suggestion was that Employment Ontario client support officers could act as caseworkers, making them be able to help unemployed people find training programs and regularly track the outcome. When people finish the training program, they can contact their officers to help them find a job. This provides continuity in the service experience.

    Service Blueprint

    Through this service blueprint, future service providers can have a clear picture about how to manage or implement FEATS. In order to make FEATS more accessible for citizens, Employment Ontario (EO) needs to create different channels to raise the awareness of FEATS. Moreover, EO needs to consider which pages on Ontario.ca need to link to FEATS. From the ODS end, we have to build a better database shell for FEATS to pull data from.


    After 4 months of working at Ontario Digital Service and conducting several expert interviews with senior ODSers, I learned that service design doesn't play a striking role in the ODS, since it is too new to be understood by ministries and public servants. Therefore, in ODS we seldom mention that we are practicing "service design", saying instead that we are doing user research and user testing. Research and test sessions are performative demonstrations which allow non-designers to participate and experience outcomes and changes in a short period of time.

    Practicing service design methods and rapid prototyping back and forth not only allows service designers to keep moving forward with tangible designs but also slows down the process of rapid prototyping, allowing time to think about other possibilities in a broader picture.This practice inspires me to include both macro and micro perspectives as part of the best way of practicing public service design.

    From micro to macro perspective

    My proposal is to rapidly prototype a digital service as a starting point and then consider other touchpoints at the same level during each iteration. For instance, while redesigning FEATS, prototyping teams can consider how to connect FEATS with job profile services, job banks and physical service centres allowing us to sew together other services which are provided by the same ministry. After that, we can try to consider touchpoints at the upper level or different stages. When rapid prototyping with service design thinking becomes a nature of improving public services, it will be the tool to accelerate the speed of implementing service design in the public sector.

    From macro to micro perspective

    The second best process of public service design is that governments start with practicing service design from a macro picture so that stakeholders can understand users’ journeys and identify which ministries need to solve social problems. Doing service design in this way is more ideal but the possible solutions usually stay at the ideation stage and get ignored as time goes by.

    As a recommendation, we can rapidly prototype solutions by using different types of prototyping methods. This way, as a designer in the public sector, we not only can consider more possibilities and have a comprehensive understanding of service components at the beginning but also divide our effort and time to prototype different touchpoints to ensure that the government is moving forward.