Caption: What GOV.AU could look like
Back in October we announced we’d start working on a way to make it quicker and easier to access government services online.
Our mission is to explore ways to present government information and services based around the way people look for and use information - rather than around the way government is structured.
We wanted to test a hypothesis: that it’s possible to design an approach to structure information that is based around the user, and could potentially scale across government information and services.
Since then, we’ve been hard at work undertaking a Discovery and starting to build an Alpha prototype to demonstrate how this might work. In this quick timeframe our aim was not to create a working service to show you just yet - that will happen in the Beta stage - but to create a prototype that tested our hypothesis.
To explore our hypothesis, we looked at a range of common experiences that people have with government and the types of information and services they need. This included needs around tax, education, registering to vote, superannuation, registering a business, accessing benefits for older people, applying for permits to serve food and alcohol, importing goods to the country and more. We then focussed the prototype around two particular journeys, starting a business and the experience of coming to Australia to work.
After 4 weeks of user research and 5 weeks of designing and building a prototype, we devised an approach which has done well in concept and usability testing so far.
Today marks 9 weeks since we started this work. It’s a big milestone for us because we’ve now had the first opportunity to present our research and design work to stakeholders across the public service. Feedback was positive and supportive and we thought we’d share with you a snapshot of our work so far.
So what have we learnt?
We learned people often struggle to get a ‘mental model’ of everything that government needs them to know and do, because this information is often spread over several websites. They feel they’re finding out what they’re required to do in just the nick of time, often through asking someone in their personal or professional network.
We heard it was easier to pay for professionals to deal with the complexity of government. This was true for both young people and experienced professional across a range of domains including taxation, importing, and people looking for grants.
Many of these processes are perceived as very complex and people are very concerned about making a mistake in their dealings with government.
From small business owners to migrants and retirees, and there was a common theme: people feel frustrated with the many different government processes across federal, state and local levels that they have to undertake. They call them ‘obstacles’ and ‘hoops’. They understand there are obligations they need to meet but they feel that government is not making it easy to do so.
The prototype begins to explore how collaborative and consistent approach to the design of services could radically improve usability. We have looked at how this might apply to a range of government content.
We’ve also explored a pattern that allows users to tell us a little about their circumstances and then we present relevant content and information in a way that helps them to create a mental model of what is involved and to keep track of this over time.
We have iterated this approach over the past few weeks in response to user research and this will continue in the beta stage.
Caption: The GOV.AU team working through the Discovery stage
It’s been a massive team effort across all disciplines; design, user research, content design and development guided by our product manager and delivery manager.
Just as importantly, we’re working with a number of key stakeholders, including the agencies that are responsible for delivering the services, digital SMEs, and of course the end users. An essential part of our approach is engaging directly with the end users - doing the right research at the right time - to make sure we have a true understanding of the user needs and can design the right thing.
We have more work to do - including an independent assessment to ensure we meet the Digital Service Standard before we can move onto the next stage of development - the Beta. We’ll publish the results of that Alpha assessment early next year.