Overcoming hurdles to UX best-practice

User experience (UX) is important from a business point of view, but many Australian government agencies are lagging behind, according to a report.

The report, Australian governments’ attitudes towards the application of user experience principles, commissioned by GIS software vendor Esri Australia, was conducted through one-on-one interviews with senior personnel from government.

The interviewees worked in different customer experience and technology roles, including Chief Information Officer, Director of Technology Services and Manager of Digital Customer Experience.

UX best-practice involves merging multiple disciplines to produce services and products to meet the needs of end-users, the report says.

“Something that has been designed through a UX lens will invariably meet the needs of a user without fuss or bother and will also go beyond a user’s conscious wants or checklist of features.”

UX planning and design became a buzz word due to the popularity of companies such as Apple, and rapidly flowed through to the public sector.

“This new consciousness has resulted in users of government products and services comparing their experience to that provided by the private entities that they interact with daily,” the report says.

Nearly all of those interviewed for the report believed that a focus on user-centric design was the only way for government agencies to successfully align their products and services with public needs and expectations.

Government agencies lagging behind

However, many government agencies are lagging behind in implementing UX. The report identified 11 obstacles that affect the adoption of user-centred thinking.

“Ingrained sceptics” who insist on sticking to a single, tried-and-trusted methodology constitute one of the greatest barriers to UX adoption.

“Change is rarely sought or embraced when the status quo has worked,” the report says.

“In these instances, a commitment to systems-centred or process-driven practices thrives – along with scepticism around the benefits of seemingly ‘untested’ delivery models.”

Bureaucratic processes within government agencies can also be an obstacle.

“Agency workflows can be siloed, cumbersome and process (rather than outcomes) driven. This makes any kind of across‑the‑board change difficult,” the report says.

Interviewees suggested a possible solution could be establishing an independent specialist unit to provide UX services across the entire agency.

The application of UX methodologies are also often project-based, rather than being incorporated into UX research, planning and design a whole-of-organisation perspective, according to the report.

“Embedding UX into the culture of an organisation rather than viewing the discipline as a set of tasks to apply to specific projects can lead to better, holistic outcomes.”

Insufficient budgets also get in the way, with digital projects often not budgeting for UX research and design.

“A lack of funding for UX programs is especially prevalent in agencies, jurisdictions and sectors that are fiscally constrained,” the report says.

Benefits of UX

There are many benefits of UX, including better return on investment. “Every dollar invested in good UX has the potential to return between $10 to $100,” according to the report.

A positive user experience also plays a part in driving high adoption rates.

“It is well known within the design industry that a good user experience personally endorsed and shared with friends has a direct role in influencing others to try a product or service,” the report said.

User expectations are currently being driven by the private sector, but governments can lead the way, the report said.

“Citizens are accustomed to interacting with slick, customer‑focused digital services created in most parts of the private sector.”

As a result, they expect the same seamless experience when dealing with government.”

11 obstacles to best practice UX:

  • Ingrained sceptics
  • Leadership void
  • Disengaged stakeholders
  • Bureaucratic processes
  • Insufficient budgets
  • Time constraints
  • Limited capabilities
  • Misunderstandings about the user
  • Misunderstandings about UX research and design
  • Siloed projects
  • Short-term thinking

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