One site to rule all: gov.au beacon for citizen-centric service

By Stephen Easton

Friday December 18, 2015

The project to build a single website for all interactions with the federal government is now at the alpha prototype stage, bang on schedule.

At the end of a nine-week process, Digital Transformation Office head of service design Leisa Reichelt has released images of the gov.au website and blogged about where the project is up to.

“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,” she writes. Feedback has been “positive and supportive” from public servants who’ve seen the research and design work.

Before it can produce a working beta version of gov.au for the public to try out for themselves, the next step is an independent assessment of the DTO’s prototype against its own Digital Service Standard, which itself is still at the beta stage. The results of the assessment are expected early in the new year.

Reichelt writes the purpose of making the alpha prototype was not to make a working service:

“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.”

The DTO service design team looked at common experiences of people trying to find out how to meet their legal obligations in regard to tax, education, registering to vote, superannuation, registering a business, accessing benefits for older people, applying for permits to serve food and alcohol and importing. “We then focussed the prototype around two particular journeys, starting a business and the experience of coming to Australia to work,” explains Reichelt.

The new gov.au will be a new beacon for citizen-centric services. In many cases, the experience of finding out about various fees, licenses, registrations, grants and taxes is complex, confusing and time-consuming.

The solution is turning it around to allow people to describe their specific circumstances and then telling them everything they personally need to know at once. This should also include information about services required by government for compliance with its laws and regulations but provided by the private sector, and ultimately, all levels of government.

The 'discovery' phase of gov.au design, prior to making an alpha prototype.
The “discovery” phase of gov.au design, prior to making an alpha prototype.

When a citizen goes to gov.au they will do exactly this, and be presented with “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”, according to Reichelt.

The DTO alpha design process found that people commonly struggle to get the whole picture of everything the government needs them to do because the information is found in multiple locations.

“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,” writes Reichelt.

“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.”

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