Prototyping is an effective technique to determine whether a product or service works for the end user. We use prototyping in our audits mainly to improve the match between knowledge products – factsheets, dashboards and infographics – and a user’s information requirements.
Why do we use this method?
We use this method for two reasons: firstly, to see whether a product is right for the user and, secondly, to involve users and other interested parties in our audits. Visualising information and making it concrete also help us discover new questions and angles to clarify complex issues.
What does the method involve?
Prototyping is solution-oriented, iterative, people-focused and visual. At the Netherlands Court of Audit, a lot of our work is concerned with public accountability and many of our prototypes relate to the communication of complex information or knowledge. Our goal is to make information more specific Two examples are given below of audits in which we used prototyping.
Our audit of revolving funds mapped out the relevant landscape. Revolving funds are relatively new financial instruments that are increasingly being used by public authorities. We designed factsheets to collect information on revolving funds and inform the House of Representatives about them. We first put a prototype of the factsheets to a group of policy makers, academics and experts. They responded from a functional angle: did the presentation of information increase understanding of revolving funds? The factsheets we eventually published drew on their responses.
Guide to the Social Domain
At the request of the House of Representatives we audited information management in the social domain. We also investigated whether the House of Representatives received information in the manner laid down in the relevant legislation (the Youth Act, Participation Act and Social Support Act) and how the provision of information could be improved. We designed an interface to improve the information’s coherence and structure. We tested the interface’s prototype twice with the staff of the House of Representatives and then released a final design. The design, Guide to the Social Domain, provided the government with a tangible example of how it could improve its provision of information to the House.