A new shopfront for the DTA

Noni Hollonds

Last week we released the beta of our redesigned website. We wanted to share our process and how we got to where we are now.  

A user navigating the home page of the DTA beta website on a laptop computer.

We know from talking to you — our users — that you’re keen to learn more about the Digital Service Standard and the service design and delivery process (discovery, alpha, beta, live), and how this all works in real life. So we wanted to share our own experience of redesigning our agency website and meeting the standard.

We hope it helps you to understand the process a bit more.

In a previous blog we described how we went about designing the new information architecture. That blog has some great info about user research and working with distributed teams. It’s worth a read.

Why build a new website?

To set the scene for you, all our projects follow the service design and delivery process and aim to meet the Digital Service Standard.

There are a couple of checkpoints to make sure that we’re on track to meet the standard — the first one is at the end of the alpha phase. It’s a chance for the team to sit down with experts and talk through challenges and ways to address them.

We built our current site in 2016 as an interim site. We were busy delivering other projects and helping other agencies with theirs, so our own corporate site became a bit overlooked. It didn’t get the love and attention it deserved.

This was an exciting opportunity that gave us focus and dedicated resources to spend time understanding our users and designing improvements.

Discovering our users

Before committing budget to redesigning the site, we needed to understand what our users needed, whether we were meeting those needs, and what kind of iterations would be possible.

In the discovery phase we did a bunch of research that included:

  • interviewing internal and external users
  • gathering a better understanding of business needs
  • conducting a survey of website users
  • understanding possible technical solutions
  • researching other corporate sites and what they’re doing

We carried out a website survey to find out what people were looking for and if they found what they needed.

In the website survey we asked:

  • I am looking for information on (open text)
  • Finding what I need will help me to (open text)
  • When looking for the information I need (select one) I found it easily/I found it, but it wasn’t easy/I didn’t find it at all

It became clear that 54% of respondents didn’t find or had difficulty finding what they were looking for. (That’s pretty high!). We also got contextual information about what was hard to find or just non-existent on our site.

More than just a survey

The survey gave us great insights but it wasn’t enough on its own. So we went on to do face-to-face research to get a more in-depth understanding of the issues our users have when they’re on our site.

The face-to-face research helped us to build empathy for our users and understand people’s journey to and from our site.

Prototyping in alpha

Based on our research in discovery we identified the core user needs to focus on when prototyping in the alpha phase.

We saw that we could improve the way we tell our own story. So we created content that helped explain what we do and why we do it. We designed better pathways for people to learn about our projects and, importantly, created easier access to our guidance and support.

This was a great chance to showcase the Digital Guides, Design System and other great tools our teams have developed. All these tools help people in government build better digital services so it was important for them to be clearly signposted.

Essentially we wanted our agency website to be the shopfront to guidance and support for government digital transformation.

Our prototype focused on:

  • findability — giving people easy access to the right information
  • usability — creating easy-to-use content and design
  • usefulness — providing content that helps people get things done

This focus would then help us measure whether or not any changes we made to the site were successful.

The assessment

The checkpoint assessments for the Digital Service Standard sound far more difficult than they are.

Really, they’re a great opportunity to get advice and support from experts who’ve been there before. The assessment team helped us to focus our efforts on the right areas early. This meant we had everything ticked off by the time we did the assessment.

We can proudly say we passed the alpha assessment and will soon be completing our public beta assessment. Once we’ve done this we’ll publish both assessment reports — so keep an eye out for them.

Beyond alpha

We’re now well and truly into the beta phase. We’ve released the public beta of the new website. This was exciting but daunting for the team — something we’d worked on for 6 months was being let out into the world.

The whole point of releasing a public beta is to get your feedback so we’d love it if you could let us know what you think. This is a service for you so we want it to meet your needs.

You can read the article on the launch of our site — plus the Digital Guides and Design System — on our news page.