November 16, 2023

Thoughtful UX Design Is Key to Serving All

The future of user experience (UX) in digital government is about creating a transparent, inclusive, and efficient environment that respects user preferences. By understanding and adeptly navigating these complexities, we can unlock the potential of UX.

The following Q&A is based on a panel discussion of industry leaders at the 2023 Georgia Digital Government Summit.

Panel Digital Summit
The panel was moderated by Brian Cohen, Vice President at the Center for Digital Government, and included Nikhil Deshpande, Chief AI and Digital Officer at the Georgia Technology Authority, Angela Fultz Nordstrom, Vice President of Strategy and Growth at Tyler Technologies, and Matthew Thompson, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Public Sector Solutions at Socure.
Digital Services & Solutions

Why is UX important in the design and development of digital services?

Imagine trying to incorporate blueberries into muffins after they're already baked. Or think about designing a room and only considering the placement of air vents after construction. Sounds absurd, right? That's what it's like when UX isn't prioritized from the beginning of a project.

When we talk about the future of digital services, especially in the public sector, we envision easily accessible, high-quality services securely delivered on a variety of platforms. This vision only becomes reality when the user's perspective is integrated into the design process from the outset.

What does it mean to have a well-designed UX?

A room with just the right temperature is so comfortable that you don't consciously notice it. A well-designed digital service should give the same feeling. However, if the UX is poorly designed or not considered during the design phase, it would be like being in a sweltering room -- the discomfort is all you can think about, leading to a frustrating experience.

In an ideal digital world, UX is not an add-on or an afterthought. Instead, it's "baked in" from the start,ensuring our digital services are as imperceptible as a perfectly temperature-controlled room.

Is there a way to quantify the return on investment with UX?

UX is a strategic investment. The returns may not be conventional, particularly in digital governance, but the value it brings is substantial. A well-conceived UX design reduces error rates and the need for additional support, thereby saving both agency and public resources. The effectiveness of UX can be measured in factors like user satisfaction, accessibility, and engagement, offering insights akin to traditional ROI metrics.

How can we cater to diverse user preferences in UX?

As we navigate the complexities of UX in the public sector, we are met with a fascinating dichotomy. On one hand, there are users who crave a personalized experience, tailored specifically to their individual needs and circumstances. They appreciate the convenience of having a system that “knows” them and can predict their needs. On the other hand, there is a substantial group of users who value their anonymity and prefer to stay “off the grid.”

Addressing this diversity among users is no small task. One approach is to engage with them actively, by posing questions such as "Would you like to know other benefits you're eligible for?" Responses to these inquiries can provide valuable insights into each user's comfort level with personalization and data sharing.

The success of a digital experience lies in its capacity to accommodate a wide range of user preferences. We need a UX design that respects this diverse user base, those seeking personalization, and those prioritizing privacy.

How do you measure success? 

Organizations commonly gauge success by the reduction in helpdesk or customer service phone calls. However, it is crucial to remember that for some users, success is defined by the ability to connect with a live person over a phone call. 

As a public agency, we need to balance these different measures of success and ensure that our service delivery meets the diverse needs of our users. Some members of the public just prefer to talk with a person on the telephone, and that preference should be accommodated! By understanding and designing for this diversity, we can create a UX that caters to a wide range of users. This not only improves user satisfaction but also promotes inclusivity, ensuring that our digital services are accessible and useful to all users.

“Ultimately, this all boils down to trust,” Nikhil said. “If users trust their government, they are more likely to be comfortable with predictive analytics and proactive service provisions.” They might even welcome the idea of the government saying, "Based on your case, here's what we recommend you do."

Embracing this approach does not merely mean leveraging technology for predictive analytics but also fostering a sense of trust and reliability. After all, if we possess the capability to deliver a more efficient, personalized service experience, why not strive to achieve it? By doing so, we can harness the power of UX to transform public sector services and truly serve our constituents better. 


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