Start smaller to build better

In the world of agile product development, the metaphor that it is smarter to build a skateboard than it is to build a car is well-known.

4 people looking at the design of a scooter into a bike then a car

Building a car requires a lot of time and energy. Even if you have 4 wheels, a chassis, seats, exterior, and all the parts, the user can’t drive the car until it is completed.

If you were to build a skateboard for the user first, it might not be as nice and comfortable as a car, but they could get from point A to point B sooner. You can then iterate on the skateboard, make it into something more comfortable, like a scooter, but the principle remains — start small, then build more powerful solutions.

The gov.au Observatory has been around in different forms since early 2018. Some people may have attended our analytics training sessions to learn how analytics can improve service delivery. Others may have seen our own analytics work. We have visualised the possibilities of a unified, privacy-preserving view of user interaction with government services. This was our version of the skateboard. But now we want to build the next stage.

Building better services with analytics

The Observatory team set out to realise the possibilities for improved government digital services using the power of analytics. We conducted user research and heard that access to whole-of-government analytics data would be valuable to agencies and product teams looking to make their services better.

Individual website product teams currently collect and review usage data, and teams across government regularly review data internally. There has been no combined, whole-of-government view of this data — until now.

In the first experiment of many, we built and released a prototype dashboard that uses 6 key metrics:

  • unique visitors
  • time of visit
  • browser
  • operating system
  • device
  • screen resolution

This shows for the first time the technological demographics of all .gov.au visitors.

This analysis is valuable because it tells agencies exactly what kinds of tools and technologies people are using when they engage with government services. It also shows whether more could be done to better support and improve the user experience, and how to adapt to emerging technology trends.

analytics graph shows mobile users have increased from 36% to 54% for the first time.

Analytics shows mobile users now outrank desktop users since COVID-19 emerged. Mobile users have increased from 36% to 54% for the first time.

The prototype dashboard is limited. Users can view data but not interact with it. There is no way to filter or refine the data, and it cannot easily be compared to your own website data. But this prototype is the next iteration on our skateboard — our scooter — and the experimentation and iteration will continue over the next 6 months.

Our goal is to learn what people like or dislike about the product to iterate and make things better. As our research continues, we want to hear from the widest range of voices possible.

Whether or not you work in government, please email the Observatory if you:

  • use or produce analytics data
  • have interests in privacy or security of data
  • are interested in whole of government data and visualisations

Help us build the future of whole-of-government analytics, unless, of course, you would prefer the scooter.