A digital standard for local governments focusing on the user experience

By David Donaldson

June 1, 2016

Local councils wanting to deliver digital services should employ agile, iterative and user-centred methodologies in their development, according to the UK’s Local Government Digital Service Standard.

When testing, you should ensure you test the service end-to-end in an environment similar to that of the live version, and ensure senior managers are involved, it suggests. And make sure the service is designed to be iterated and improved based on customer feedback.

The 15-point checklist suggests a common approach for local authorities to deliver good quality, user centered and value for money digital services.

It was created by LocalGov Digital, a network for digital practitioners in local government led by council personnel from around the UK, which argues digital services should be open by default and digital by design.

The standard was released in April following input from more than 60 councils.

  1. Understand user needs. Research to develop deep knowledge of who the service users are and what that means for the design of the service.
  2. Ensure a suitably skilled, sustainable multidisciplinary team, led by a senior service manager with decision making responsibility, can design, build and improve the service.
  3. Create a service using the agile, iterative and user-centred methods set out in the Government Service Design Manual.
  4. Build a service that can be iterated and improved in response to user need and make sure you have the capacity, resources and technical flexibility to do so.
  5. Evaluate what tools and systems will be used to build, host, operate and measure the service, and how to procure them, looking to reuse existing technologies where possible.
  6. Evaluate what user data and information the digital service will be providing or storing and address the security level, legal responsibilities, privacy issues and risks associated with the service.
  7. Use open standards, existing authoritative data and registers, and where possible make source code and service data open and reusable under appropriate licenses.
  8. Be able to test the end-to-end service in an environment similar to that of the live version, including all common browsers and devices.
  9. Make a plan for the event of the digital service being taken temporarily offline, and regularly test.
  10. Make sure that the service is simple enough that users succeed first time unaided.
  11. Build a service consistent with the user experience of government digital services, including using common government platforms and the Government Service Manual design patterns.
  12. Encourage maximum usage of the digital service (with assisted digital support if required).
  13. Identify performance indicators for the service, incorporating existing indicators and publishing to a performance platform, if appropriate.
  14. Put a process in place for ongoing user research, usability testing to continuously seek feedback from users, and collection of performance data to inform future improvement to the service.
  15. Test the service from beginning to end with appropriate council member or senior manager responsible for it.

The UK council standard provides a similar range of points to consider as the Digital Transformation Office’s own Digital Service Standard, which went live on May 6 with slight variations from the beta version. If you’re interested in the evolution of the DTO standard, a blog post talks through the changes made in the progression from beta to live.

Follow LocalGov Digital on Twitter here.

Photo: Manchester Town Hall, from Wikimedia Commons.

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