MyGov verdict: functional (just)


Last weekend’s myGov makeover has improved the troubled website but has the federal government missed an opportunity to cheer up myGov users after all the past frustrations they have endured?

In a joint announcement last week, Digital Transformation Minister Angus Taylor and Human Services Minister Alan Tudge, said the website overhaul made myGov easier to navigate, less information dense and more responsive when accessed on smartphones and tablets.

The government claimed that it was now easier for users to sign in and to unlock their own accounts when they had been suspended, reducing incorrect logins by 37 per cent.

The changes were ostensibly in response to the rapid expansion of the numbers of people using myGov, around ten million, while log-ins doubled over the last two years to 242,000 per day.

The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) said it had conducted ‘hundreds of hours of research’ into the experiences of users and responded to their complaints, including that myGov used difficult language, complex instructions and frequently left them locked out of their accounts.

Joe Russell, Director of User Engagement at Victorian company Buzinga, which specialises in web and mobile app development, acknowledged the changes were positive but said that the government had missed the chance to speed up and really improve the experience for users.

“It is basically functional: finally. Before it was hard to do any of the core things it was meant to do,” Mr Russell said. “It’s easier to use, yes, but there are still major issues. I wouldn’t call it a huge leap.

“Reducing incorrect logins by 37 per cent. I wouldn’t have thought that was something to brag about. Being able to log in is an assumption you make when you go into any site.”

While the DTA website talks about ‘reimagining’ the user experience and putting users’ needs first, Mr Russell said this had not been done to any great extent.

He said simple fixes that could have streamlined things for users had been ignored, such as not having to enter the same data twice and the cursor automatically moving to the next field to enter data.

Another deficiency was the lack of loading indicators after users submitted a form, so they were unsure of whether the form was loading or not. This often led to users hitting the back button and resetting and clearing fields they had already completed.

Mr Russell questioned whether the project had carried out sufficient usability testing. This is where an ‘average’ user is given tasks to complete while they are timed and any difficulties noted and comments taken on board to measure their experience and suggest improvements.

“It does what it claims to do. It’s an improvement, I will give them that” but he said the DTA had missed the chance to speed up user interaction with myGov and make data entry easier and faster.

“Usability testing could have solved these small things. This is basic best practice,” he said. “All these little annoyances can be resolved and hopefully will be next time.”

The DTA has said the website changes were a result of extensive research conducted in more than 20 metropolitan, regional and rural locations. The agency’s website says this research included usability testing, as well as visits to shopfront sites, support staff interviews and testing with users of assistive technology.

A DTA spokesperson said that any changes needed to be carefully considered and tested with users.

“A sensible approach, and one that’s consistent with the Digital Service Standard, is to make iterative improvements based on user research,” said the spokesperson. “The latest release builds on changes made last year. User research is continuing and will guide future improvements.”

But just as myGov’s usability had not come on in leaps and bounds, Mr Russell said the look and feel of the website had changed slightly but was not ground breaking, “It’s basically black text on a white background. It’s as vanilla as you can get”, he said.

Nor was replacing service icons with text a positive change for people who were visually impaired, elderly or dyslexic and he disagreed with the assertion that member services logos and the Australian Government crest were more prominent.

MyGov was launched in 2013 to provide a single access point for ten different agencies providing services including Medicare, tax, Centrelink, the National Disability Insurance Scheme and My Health Record.

The rollout which occurred last weekend, was a joint project between the Department of Human Services, the Digital Transformation Agency and the Australian Tax Office.

It seems that the question posed on the DTA website, ‘what could good look like’ has morphed into ‘what could barely adequate look like’?

Further comment from DTA and DHS to follow. 

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