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The landscape of user experience (UX) in government

August 16, 2023

Scott Pelham

Video Transcript
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Traditionally, government services have been associated with complex process and bureaucratic hurdles. However, with an ongoing focus on digital transformation, there has been a growing emphasis on providing citizens as well as government employees with streamlined, accessible and user-friendly experiences. While many government agencies are trying to adopt and integrate UX principles and methodologies, they still appear to have trouble exploring, developing, and implementing them, with some researchers citing a "lack of attention to UX"[1], as well as a failure to implement many usability elements.[2][3][4][5]

From reviewing previous research we saw three key issues: Social, Economic and Technical.[6]


Challenge 1: The audience is diverse

Government agencies strive to ensure that their digital services are accessible to all individuals, including those with disabilities. On top of accessibility and inclusion requirements, their services are often created with the entirety of the general public in mind, as opposed a specific sub set of users that a private organisation may target. So while foundational UX practices can still be utilised, it's more difficult to tailor the overall experience.[7][8][9]

Challenge 2: Bureaucratic influence

Internal communication between individuals, managers, teams, and other government departments have been cited as factors that influence the success of UX in e-government projects. For example, project or UX changes could be made based solely on bureaucratic influences, and not on analytical or user based research, therefore missing the mark on what's actually best for the product. Furthermore, misunderstandings between teams or agencies in regard to different elements of the project like scope, or function would lead to higher costs and less effective resource utilisation.[10][11][12][13]


Challenge 3: Lack of technical infrastructure

By far considered one of the main challenges in providing a good user experience, was the use of legacy, outdated or incompatible systems. For example, some government agencies would use old software as a means to make use of a previous investment, despite not meeting security or privacy requirements. It indicates that governments can have specific requirements for a project but at the same time be reliant on infrastructure that is not fit for purpose, or that has been retrofitted in order to meet the new project requirements, as opposed to using the most relevant and high performing infrastructure to start with.[14][15][16]


Challenge 4: Lack of funding

Finance plays a major role in the implementation, maintenance and longevity of e-government projects, with most researchers agreeing that funding is a key factor for its success and can result in project either not being planned properly, limit their potential or even fail. It was also found that it had a critical impact on project implementation and adoption by the target users. [17][18][19][20]

What's interesting to note is that, despite it's importance for success, what was found in case studies and research by those working with government organisations was a common theme of budget concerns, lack of funding or lack or resourcing. Therefore, on restricted budgets, even teams that are proactive in including UX methodologies to their project are likely to have implementation or maintenance issues at some point in the project's lifecycle.[21][22][23][24]

It is important to note that while the challenges discussed here are prevalent in the adoption of UX in government services, they may not apply to every project, and each project may face a unique set of challenges. The key to successful UX implementation is to approach each project problem contextually, considering its specific constraints and requirements, and strive to create the best experience within the defined parameters. Flexibility and adaptability are crucial to address unexpected issues that may arise during the project's lifecycle.

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Scott Pelham

Digital Director

Scott is a user experience (UX) professional currently undertaking a research PhD on the use of UX in government.

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