Wednesday, September 08, 2004

e-Government and user centered design

In my list of subjects to write about, I forgot one aspect. This aspect applies to all subjects (UCD methods, deliverables, etc.) and changes it slightly. It is:


e-Government, and especially the Government-to-Citizen (G2C) part of it, helps citizens be good citizens by informing them about their duties and opportunities, helps them find out how much they need to pay the government and even helps them pay their taxes.

It is what I do for a living now: As Senior Information Architect with EzGov I design e-Government transactional web applications that help government transform the way they do business (see:

Designing for this market is three steps up from your garden-variety user centered design:
  1. often it's about web applications; suddenly there's a lot more functionality that needs to be designed, implemented and explained to the user than in, say, a brochure website, or an e-zine's archive. A consistent user interface style, help system and multi-page, wizard style interactions will need to be designed.

  2. it's about transactions; there is confidential information that gets entered, transformed, transported and displayed back to the user. Elements of trust, security and confidentiality come into play. These elements need to be reflected in the interface.

  3. it's for everyone! Any citizen could decide to file their taxes online, walk up to the internet kiosk in her local library and expect to be served without any previous training with the system. In some cases we can determine a better defined target group, for example where we design for employers or even tax agents, but more often than no we have to design our applications to be used by everyone. Again, a consistent ui-style and help is important, but also extra support for both novices and expert users can make our lives easier.

It would be interesting to see if other markets, for example the online banking and insurance industry, have come up with user centered design methodologies and deliverables that are tailored towards transactional web applications. Do they have a "trust style guide"? Or a "transaction diagram tool"? Or...?


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