Steps to improve User Experience for Government
In my daily work I’m constantly confronted with developments for government sites. Often I hear confusion in what needs to be achieved, who needs to be served and especially why it should matter.
Listening into a Webcast by Human Factors International (download white paper on Designing the e-government experience through citizen-centered usability, March 2008) gave me additional insights that I want to summarize and present here:
Goals of eGovernment
The web offers governmental sites the potential for increased operational efficiency and cost reductions while improving access to information and services for their citizens.
Levels of interaction between these two actors (government & citizens) include:
- Connect citizens with legislative offices
- Communicate faster and more targeted
- Leverage access to public services (enhanced productivity with reduced effort)
Steps to improve eGovernment
Traditionally the government has three main functions:
What can be done to improve these functions/processes?
Get it out there
- What information is interesting?
- What is already available?
Make it useful & usable
- Pre-digest the information (e.g. into charts, comparisons, …)
- Understand the citizen’s needs (e.g. Spanish language, search, text size, …)
- Assist citizen’s in finding the information (sometimes they don’t know it exists)
- Avoid: limited business focus, internal focus, lack of shared resource
- Assist citizens to walk through business logic (avoid unnecessary pages, forms, fields, …)
- Establish a baseline (best practices review, scorecard, usability testing success rates, web analytics, call center volume, server logs, …)
- Validate improvements (success rate, task time) & seek for support within your organization for doing this
- Continuously track usage
- Why? Avoid falling back in national ranking, reduce costs for service calls, …
Make it engaging
- “Will? Can?” Will citizens use the service? Can they find it?
- Make it exciting
- Use experiences or technologies that are current and up to date (videos, gadgets, …)
Embrace the future
- Become creative to engage citizens in governmental issues (using the citizen’s language), e.g. upload a photo of the damaged street (http://www.fixmystreet.com/)
- Encourage citizens to interact through social tools
- Integration of “Report”, “Transact” and “Interact” means to remove the disparity between organizational structures of governments and the mental models of the citizens
- Understand and channel the motivation of citizens to use online services
- Integrate offers from multiple agencies into one comprehensible user experience
Start a movement
- Create a community by involving State & Agency Leadership, Agency CIO’s and Webmasters
- Recognition and adoption are key aspects
- Embrace the chaos
- Provide useful & usable tools
- Reward contributions & demonstrate progress
- View webmasters as a partner, not as recipient
- The user’s perspective of the organization and the actual organizational structures are mostly very different. Citizens should not need to know how an agency is organized or be familiar with its terminology.
- Focus on the citizen means to understand how they look for information!
- Integrate internal processes into one intelligent solution (iGov = integrated Government)
- Understanding the level of literacy is key to success. Easy language assists citizens in filling out bureaucratic forms.
Government must view itself as a business
- Attract and satisfy citizens. Beware of competition and consider concepts like ‘brand loyalty’. Effective interaction adds benefits to citizens.
- Convert visitors into customers meaning that citizens become active online users of the services.
- Broaden the focus onto international audience which is important to attract entrepreneurship and investment capital and is a good indicator of a strong technology market and research and development environment.
Assistance through technology, tools and continuous improvement
- Support CIO’s and webmasters through tools like design templates, standards, guidelines and an effective means of governance.
- Adjust technology to changing market conditions, population demographics and the user’s level of expectations.
- Create a culture and long-term commitment (=institutionalization) of usability within the agency!
- Establish a baseline of improvement and continuously validate and improve through benchmarks.
I’d like to hear your feedback and if you have applied one or many of above techniques in your agency and what your experiences were.
- Straub, K., Gerrol, S.; Designing the e-government experience through citizen-centered usability; Human Factors International, Inc.; White paper; March 6, 2008