In designing and researching new eGovernment services
The push by the UK government to use more free and open source software for its eGovernment services is helping to get citizens more involved, says Bernard Tyers, a user experience researcher working for the UK’s Home Office. “Everyone can see how the design and research process works, and users are helping to test our prototypes.”
To meet the 'Digital by default’ objectives of the Government’s Digital Service (GDS), user research, user-centred design and open source technologies are central, says Tyers. At FOSDEM, Europe’s largest free and open source software developers conference, which took place in Brussels at the end of January, the Senior User Experience Researcher at Home Office Digital talked about the role of open source tools in the design process for eGovernment services.
The UK’s Home Office Digital is following GDS’ thinking of putting the users first when it comes to designing eGovernment services, says Tyers. For the Home Office, he is helping to build an Electronic 'visa waiver' service. He also worked on the ‘cancel a lost or stolen passport’ service, used by the UK Passport Office.
Tyers and his colleagues use Wiki’s to open their research process. These explain how they use various methods and includes advice from researchers of other parts of government. “It's not that the research is open sourced, but the user research process is opened to everyone”, he explains. “Reading the user research wiki, the design wiki and the service manual, would give those interested a good idea of how user centred design in government works.”
Taxed by Bitcoin
He comments that, while the process is open, this won’t allow any UX designer to submit changes to eGovernment services, “unlike someone contributing to an open source project.” However, the researchers read all the feedback from users.
Feedback can point out that some of the language is insufficiently clear; researchers and designers will then try to clarify those parts. However, if a 100,000 users suggest: ‘I want to pay for my car tax with Bitcoin’, Tyers explains; “it is up to the project’s stakeholders to decide if that is an aceptable policy or not.”
To get citizens and users involved in eGovernment services, it is important that governments use open source software where possible, and share their software as open source, including accepting contributions, says the UX researcher. “This might make it a bit more challenging, to think about how things are done”, he comments. “And it will challenge colleagues, hesitant about opening-up government. Citizens will now be able to see how eGovernment services are designed and built. And so they will expect better services. This is, however, a good thing.”