Friday, August 14, 2015

Government digital service designers need to start thinking with their stomachs

Traditionally governments have taken cues from banks and social networks for innovative ways to design online services to make them easier to use.

However it may be time for public servants to think about online service design with their stomachs.

I don't know how many public sector digital design professionals have visited McDonalds lately, but the new 'Create your taste' service provides an interesting approach to digital design.

Using relatively new touchscreens deployed in a number of stores, the interface used for building hamburgers employ a number of innovative navigational and selection approaches to create a usable and enjoyable experience.

I've taken several colleagues in and bought them a meal just to watch how they learn the interface and interact with the menu while designing their perfect meal.

None have needed any support to get started, with the menu providing a simple and intuitive way to progressively select ingredients.

All have found the experience a pleasant one - to the extent where one colleague recently went into a McDonalds seeking a 'create your taste' experience, but left when it didn't have a touchscreen.

Sure the McDonalds experience is just about designing a meal (although designing salad could be considered 'rocket' science), but the lessons around ease of use and delivering both a usable and enjoyable experience are consistent across all kinds of service delivery.

Yes many government services may be complex, but that doesn't justify delivering a complex user experience. It simply means that more work is required to break down the process into easy steps, drop any unnecessary questions and make it clear upfront what people need in order to complete the process in one go.

If government can make online services appealing and remove the need for people to switch channels to complete a process, there's the potential for vast cost savings in face-to-face and phone transactions, plus the potential to reduce error rates.

Of course, the McDonalds example isn't the only one government service designers should be considering.

Dominos has taken a very interesting approach to real-time pizza tracking, from being made, through cooking and delivery to the customer's door. The example, highlighted by The Mandarin, is already being taken on board by the federal Department of Human Services, which hopes to make more Centrelink services just as simple to access and just as clear to their clients.

So if you're designing digital services for government, you may wish to take a long lunch or two to check out some of the digital service design being pioneered across different food establishments.

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