Show ‘n tell (and listen) at the Dept of Comms & Arts

Loaded up with laptops, sticky notes and textas, the GOV.AU team visited the Department of Communications and Arts (Dept of Comms & Arts) last week for a research workshop with their staff.

DTO Content Designer Michael Hugill explains how GOV.AU weren’t just there to present to staff, but to listen and learn from them as well.

Why is the DTO working with the Dept of Comms & Arts?

Caption: Dept of Comms & Arts staff engaging in an activity to discuss and record pain-points for users and staff, as well as ideas to fix them.

We’re currently in the Beta phase of making GOV.AU the place to find out anything to do with the Australian Government.

The Dept of Comms & Arts have joined us to help build a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that we can test with the public. Other departments will be added to the site later in the year.

In other words, the Dept of Comms & Arts is a very happy and willing guinea pig or the first cab off the rank, depending on which metaphor you prefer.

We even have one of their staff members, Nicholas Keilar, Director of Digital Services, embedded in our team and we do daily check-ins with their digital staff. But as DTO Service Design Lead Jo Hill put it:

‘There are lots of other staff members who care about the website and what’s happening with it, so a workshop felt like a great vehicle for taking more people on the journey with us.’

Uncovering Discovery

Caption: Writing a note about user pain points.

As you might know from Nicholas’ earlier blog post, the walls of the DTO are covered with sticky notes related to our research, but also posters reminding us of our design principles.

‘Show the thing’ is one of those principles and we started the workshop by doing just that. We presented what we’ve learned so far in Discovery phase about the Dept of Comms & Arts website and its users.

Discovery phase is a time to research the real needs and problems faced by users. Here’s a small, simplified selection of what we discussed:

  • A survey placed on the website has revealed about half the visitors to the current site are in the wrong place.
  • Most of the content those users come for is actually on other government websites such as ACMA and NBN.
  • Users often don’t realise which government site they’re on when browsing for information.
  • Media and policy-related stakeholders generally prefer contacting the department directly rather than using the website.
  • Many interview subjects revealed they use Google over in-site search or navigation.

We soon learned that some of these findings validated what was already suspected, while others were completely new to some people in the department.

Staff are users too

Caption: DTO and Dept of Comms & Arts staff working together to complete an activity.

The second half of the workshop involved an activity in which all staff members, working together in small groups, discussed and then recorded:

  • What they know about user pain points (eg ‘how current is the information’)
  • What they’ve experienced themselves as pain points (eg ‘information not always current so misinformation occurs’)
  • Ideas to improve the user experience (eg ‘implement a culture of continual content improvement’)

The activity gave us greater insights into who we’re designing for (internal and external users) and what they need, but also gave Dept of Comms & Arts staff a chance to work outside their own teams.

‘It was interesting to note that many of the pain-points identified during user interviews were already known to the department,’ said Jo, ‘which isn’t typically the case.’

Workshop ‘we’-flections

Caption: Aside from being an effective way for Dept of Comms & Arts staff to contribute to the process, the workshop activity was also fun.

Pardon the pun, but many of the workshop reflections I heard were more like ‘we’-flections — the workshop brought individuals from 2 departments together and gave them a chance to work as one team or one ‘we’.

‘I saw some great conversations happening in the room,’ DTO Content Design Lead Libby Varcoe told me. ‘Staff from different teams figuring out user problems together by seeing what the user might be struggling with and the role their department might be playing in that. It felt really authentic.’

Nicholas said he ‘really enjoyed talking with people who usually work on different topics, all working together for a moment, sharing their experiences, knowledge and insights.’

‘It was good to see a high level of engagement from a variety of areas across the Department,’ said Ben Galdys, Director of Creative Services ‘which validates the interest and importance that staff place on what the DTO is doing.’

With all these thoughts in our collective head, we have now returned to synthesising and analysing the observations and insights ‘we’ recorded, with the ultimate aim of delivering a better experience for all Australians (including Dept of Comms & Arts staff).

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