news The Digital Transformation Office (DTO) has revealed the “Alpha” prototype of gov.au – the new governmental web platform that aims to present information and services based on usability, rather than the structures of government.
According to the DTO’s Head of Service Design, Leisa Reichelt, a team of developers, researchers and designers was given nine weeks to bring the project through “Discovery” and up to the Alpha phase.
“Working collaboratively and co-located, the team rapidly built and iterated the prototype,” she said.
The prototype (see it online here) has been built to meet the Digital Service Standard – a set of criteria that Australian Government digital services must meet to ensure they are simple, fast and easy to use.
The purpose of the work to date has been to explore aspects of design that could be used widely across government, and to demonstrate how the platform could help people have a clearer understanding of what government requires them to do.
Ideally, users will receive the precise information they need to complete a task, without having to wade through unnecessary information.
“We wanted to use these patterns to test a way of guiding people through complex tasks – for example, starting a business – so they can get things done quickly and easily,” said Reichelt. “We know that people don’t want to have to work out which tier of government or which government department to deal with, they just want solutions to their problems. That’s what the prototype addresses.”
The prototype also provides an early stage design of sub-sites for departments and ministers to show how these types of sites could share similar templates and visual style.
Reichelt cited colleagues at the British equivalent project, gov.uk, as saying: “The best way to understand a product is to try to build it. Prototyping is an essential process to get a feel for the shape and edges of a product, to begin to estimate the work involved and to provide something you can quickly test with real users.”
Further, while the DTO does not release alpha prototypes for every project, gov.au is a “pretty big” change in how government information could be made available to the public, she added.
“In the spirit of sharing our experimental approach we have decided to publish this prototype so that everyone who it affects (both in and out of government) can see what we are thinking. We believe that making things open, makes them better. It’s one of our design principles,” Reichelt explained.
The alpa prototype has been optimised for ‘mobile first’. Since its completion the DTO team has been working on improving the accessibility of the code and making the platform workable on a wider range of devices.
A beta version of the gov.au site is expected be made available to the public in late 2016.