The federal government’s “timely revamp” of the myGov website rolled out over the past weekend was a dramatic improvement from its existing version, but remains far from a highly intuitive and engaging user experience.
The joint project between the Department of Human Services, the Digital Transformation Agency and the Australian Tax Office ultimately failed to live up to its potential as a vital tool facilitating simple and easy to use digital experiences.
Whilst the site has progressed to a functional level post-update, there are long but simple strides to be taken before the site can truly be user-intuitive.
What myGov was, pre-update
Signing into myGov was a difficult and lengthy process – the government acknowledges this – with users requiring an 8-digit username and verification code sent to their mobile phone to sign in.
Navigation on the site between services and links was confusing. Member services were not prominent, making it difficult for users to identify appropriate links. Linking and logging into these services also required users to submit their details again, despite the portal having – and displaying (see below) – these details. No load indicators were displayed to notify the user that their submission was in progress.
What myGov is now, post-update
Within just a few days since the update going live, sign-ins have already increased by 37%, which according to the government proves just how difficult the previous sign-in process was. The new process gives users the additional option to sign in with their email. Passwords are also now easier to recover, but the site still requires mobile verification.
The government has made the explicit effort to make the member services logos more prominent, but this is only partly true. Whilst the logos are more prominent when an account is already linked (see below, left), when trying to view a new account only black and white text indicates the users’ options, with no logos to support.
Consequently, while this site has been built for the entire Australian population, they’ve completely removed any visual cues. Those visually impaired or dyslexic will struggle more than others to identify which service they are trying to link.
Furthermore, data-duplication is still evident, as are the lack of load indicators.
What myGov could be
It’s important to get myGov right for a number of reasons, the most predominant being the amount of users; 10 million users making 242,000 log-ins every day - twice as many as two years ago, according to the government.
There a number of ways the site could be improved – the most predominant being:
1. Removing data-duplication to ease the sign-in process
MyGov is a task-focused site. Therefore, the government’s goal should be to reduce the time spent in the portal. Data entry double-ups demonstrate a lack of prioritisation of completion and efficiency. Most online banking portals are able to securely remember usernames for simpler and easier sign-ins, and myGov should follow suit.
Removing mobile verification from initial sign-in will not compromise security and could be moved to access more sensitive information, like ATO details. This barrier also fails to take into account those who do not own a mobile phone, therefore completely disrupting their seamless experience with the portal.
If the government were to have a mobile application for the myGov portal, they could use simpler sign-in processes such as a fingerprint.
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2. Providing load indictors to prompt users
One of the primary functions of the portal is to submit forms, yet there are no helpful prompts (like the one pictured below) to notify the user that their submission is in progress.
The government claims to have spent hundreds of hours researching and conducting focus groups with the ‘average’ user, but even they might be tempted, out of frustration or unawareness, to refresh the screen or press back during a submission and lose all of their data in the process.
Ticketing sites, for example, have this basic function to ensure customers don’t disrupt the payment process. Implementing a loading indicator can save users from further frustration, and save preventable government intervention.
3. Improving interface for accessibility and usability
In Australia, there are over 4 million people who have some form of disability and face significant barriers in their day-to-day lives, including the use of the web. As an Australian Government initiative, we would hope to have seen designing for accessibility a core focus of the user experience and user-interface design. All services should be displayed the same way it is shown for linked services, with the logo prominent and easily identifiable.
Verdict: Satisfactory, with room for improvement
The government had an awesome opportunity with the millions of dollars it had to spend on this product to build something for the Uber and Airbnb generation – the future of Australia. Other ways myGov could be improved include:
- Evidence of proper usability testing
- A more engaging user-interface
- Adhere to web standards and best practices
- Skip Patterns (cursor skips to next field automatically) to make data entry quicker
- Simple to access language translation
User experience (UX) best practice employed on the myGov website will mean more problems solved online by the customers themselves, and better satisfaction and sentiment towards the government. Ultimately, this means better use of taxpayer money.
Joe Russell is director of user engagement at Buzinga, an Australian user engagement-focused app agency, specialising in user engagement and the strategic development of immersive mobile experiences. Russell previously co-founded successful mobile startup DreamWalk back in 2009 where he developed innovative mobile solutions for high profile clients such as Coca-Cola, M&C Saatchi, State Library of Victoria, BP and Melbourne University.