Designing for nextgen government portals MENA region

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Design Thinking and User-Centred Design practices have recently gained the spotlight in the service design industries and businesses across the globe. Enterprises big and small have accepted the significance of design and the immense business potential it brings. What's interesting is that the governments of the world have acknowledged the design revolution too, and are working proactively in allocating budgets for serving people well through design. We as a design studio had an opportunity to work with the Governments of the Middle East, and we were fascinated by their belief in design. Through this blog, we would discuss our experience of working on various govt projects, and how design is accelerating their expedition of empowering common people.

As the world of digital products leap forward and become increasingly accessible, the users have certain benchmarks when it comes to using digital products. In this typical and ever-evolving scenario, governments have struggled to keep up with the evolving needs of users. However, in the last few years, we have witnessed a reform government's approach of delivering values to the end-users, which is more oriented towards user-centric design principles. For public administrators worldwide the user-centered digital transformation transcends the ways govt digital services are offered.

The users in these regions are accepting the digital transformation rapidly, and designing for usability and accessibility becomes the key performance indicators of a successful transition.

The vision for a digital government is to create a system for 'anytime, anywhere' access so all individuals and businesses will benefit from connecting online.

In countries like Qatar, where 88 percent of the population comprises expats, designing for diversity and accessibility through the availability of multiple language variations and a content structure that is simple to understand and navigate is beneficial. Service portals maintained by the government are frequented by average users for only 5 to 10 times a year, according to MIRI, for events like getting married, moving to a different country, starting a business, obtaining social services, or registering a car. This tells us how specific the user requirements are while using government-based service offerings. Hence it becomes essential for such portals to have a navigation system that can lead the user to the specific content they are looking for.

6C Strategy for an Optimal User Experience for Govt Service Portals

1. Customer-centric

The customer profiles should be placed at the centre of every interaction happening on the portal. The structure, order, information catalog and the curation of the content & services must so that the user can easily find what they look. Audience based navigation, intent-based curation & personalization must be the foundation of government service portals.

2. Context-Driven

Since users arrive on government portals either to explore/learn or carrying out a very specific task. Identifying such user cases & behaviors will allow the design teams to provide an experience that will align with consumer behavior and sequentially satisfy the user intent.

"User validation is also critical in designing a better experience, which is why agile design is so helpful. Testing prototypes with actual users at every step helps gauge how well a problem has been addressed."

3. Capability Enhancement

An omnichannel experience would help users to easily access the service anytime, anywhere. Also using a mobile-first approach will allow the governments to expedite the whole communication process.

4. Catering to Diverse engagement models

The reasons for any user to come on to government portals are multitude. Some may come for searching information, some for applications, and some for tracking queries to name a few. The portal should be prepared to offer the users various ways in which they can accomplish their goals. Providing assistance in ways such as digital assistant or chatbots, voice search, kiosk or contact centres will instill trust and dependability on the service provider.

5. Channel integration

The concept of ‘One portal, One world’ for government services via the web portal has gained traction for years. This ‘One-stop’ structure organised the entire government framework around key constituencies or service needs. This framework depends on making as many forms and documents available online as possible so they can be easily accessed by the members of the public anytime, anywhere.

6. Content Transformation

Inclusion of components on the government portals which enhances user e-participation like polls, surveys, policy documents, approval ratings, etc. This will ensure that the user feels included in the governance of the society, implementations of policies, and the overall development of the country.

4 Key Components for any government Service Portals

1. Search & Navigation

A faceted search approach suits the best while exploring or looking for information in a vast content system. Users are able to navigate through multiple filters, one for each different aspect of the content. Thus a faceted search and navigation are more flexible and more useful. Because a faceted search describes many different dimensions of the content, it also provides a structure to help users understand the content space and give them ideas about what is available and how to search for it.

2. Content structure

As they say, content is the king. Today this statement is as relevant as it could be. Having the content curated as per intent makes it more contextual to the users.

3. Help & Documentation

There are cases when the users might make some error which would not allow them to finish an intended task. The service systems should have easy to understand documentation and messaging which will guide the users to fix the problem on their own even before contacting the customer care. This not only empowers the user and boosts their confidence in availing government services but also reduces the workload on the customer support teams.

4. Dashboard

An extremely important asset to any service provider, the dashboard helps the user to keep track of the progress or log of any transactions made with the government service providers. The dashboard should allow to view status or pick up tasks left midway.

The WCAG 2.0: Accessible design is Good Design

The designers should strictly follow the WCAG 2.0 guideline to ensure that services reach to each and every person of the country. Building user-focused services are, in its most basic sense, about making sure there are no barriers that prevent anyone from accessing a service. WCAG guidelines measure the accessibility of web services at 3 levels: A (Beginner), AA (Intermediate) & AAA (Advanced). Under each level, specific guidelines are starting from providing alternate texts for non-text content to the contrast of the text and colors.

The contrast ratio between the text and background should be 4.5:1.

WCAG 2.0 creates a foundation for standardisation of web accessibility. It is practical and well documented which provides the opportunity for the government and the designer to follow a unified approach.

Conclusion

Governments provide vital information and services that affect people’s daily lives. They have the responsibility of responding to the needs of their citizens, running as effectively and efficiently as possible, and being timely and accurate with their information. By putting people first and embracing a User-Centric approach, governments improve the quality of their information and services by making them more useful, usable, and accessible and saving money long term through making iterative improvements.

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