Putting the user at the centre of everything

The first design principle of the Digital Service Standard is “users first”. To support this we are working to better understand what users really need, expect, prefer and actually experience when interacting with government.

There is no whole of government approach to understanding users. We are going to change that. Today there is a mountain of agency specific research but these results are often not shared and don’t take a whole of government view. The DTO has been collecting this research, analysing it and identifying key insights about user needs to share with the people designing and delivering government services.

Some of the key insights that we’ve found so far include:

  • Whilst people currently prefer digital channels and are using them, they still want to be able to interact with a human if they need to, but this doesn’t need to be face to face or via phone - they are open to newer technologies such as web-chat and Skype.
  • Whilst digital government services are getting better, experiences still vary across agencies, services and channels, and there is much room for improvement.
  • Finding information and services online is still particularly painful for people.
  • Continual changes in policy and compliance requirements are frustrating for businesses, which means they rely heavily on intermediaries to help them manage this complexity.
  • Barriers to self service exist and these are often due to infrastructure, cognitive barriers or attitudinal barriers. ‘Status Quo bias’, which is the tendency to stick to one’s current position, can hold powerful sway over choices and behaviour. This is particularly true in the small business market who are time poor.
  • Overall people are choosing to do more online. According to ACMA, the top 4 things people are doing online include using the internet for research, email, general browsing and banking or paying bills. Accessing and using Government websites ranked in at ninth.
  • Whilst people are doing more online, their expectations are being set by the private sector.
  • A survey of online shoppers by Capgemini (PDF 4.1 MB) showed people are looking for consistency and convergence amongst different technologies and channels, and they have no pre-set views about what belongs in which channel but will use whatever channel or device is most relevant to them.
  • Consistent with this, Accenture concludes that as our digital experiences across devices becomes more fragmented, there are four types of gaps that we need to address: the gap when we lose bandwidth, when we move between devices, when we’re handed over between different services, and when our data has changed and needs to be updated.
  • There will always be people in the community who are unable or unwilling to adopt digital services and expect traditional channels or additional support. Higher complexity interactions also warrant human interaction. There are also user segments such as larger business and intermediaries that expect a strong relationship with the agency.
  • Self service technologies are being increasingly adopted when they are perceived to be useful, specifically: convenient, flexible and functional. However, if those technologies are not seen as easy to use, they are unlikely to be adopted, irrespective of their usefulness or potential benefits.
  • There is a lot of trust in government and the services it provides. Along with this trust is an expectation that we will respect privacy and keep information secure. So government must effectively balance these requirements with usability.

These are just a few preliminary insights but we will share more as we continue our analysis.

What do you think?

We would love your feedback! We will continue to provide our thinking through blog links with the individual ideas and designs. We’ll be holding a number of public consultations and consultative events over the next few months – so subscribe to the DTO mailing list or the RSS feed to stay involved.

Also, a question for agencies. What’s been your experience with user research? What does your agency need to efficiently and effectively conduct user research? Get in touch if we aren’t already talking to you.

A person with four text boxes reading: 1. I do use digital government channels, but want to talk to someone if I need to. 2. I am doing more online and my expectations are being set by the private sector. 3. I’m impressed with all the information – but finding what I want took too long and was difficult. 4. I want my experiences to be seamless, simple and secure.

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