a picture of a long, straight road disappearing into the distance, which is a tenuous metaphor for a simple user journey
It’s a metaphor for an easy user journey. Also, it looks nice. Let me have this one.

‘Digital transformation’ is everyone’s favourite buzz phrase at the moment, with more and more public bodies jumping on that particular bandwagon.

It’s more than just moving an analogue paper-based process on to a computer, though. Good digital change involves intelligent service design; that is, designing a process with the user in mind. A great example of this is applying for a passport via GOV.UK: it’s beautifully simple and takes just a few minutes. The Government Digital Service (GDS) incorporated good service design principles across the whole of GOV.UK: consistent branding, simple language, linear and uncomplicated user journeys and accessibility principles as standard. It’s proof that digital government processes can remove unnecessary bureaucracy while still being effective.

Which is why it’s frustrating to see organisations – including several central UK government departments! – making a lot of noise about the importance of digital yet who still consult on important policies by uploading a PDF to a remote corner of their website and asking for responses via email. The wonderful thing about the internet is that it can move us away from time-intensive, inaccessible analogue processes. There’s no need for people to spend hours reading a dry document! There is a better way!

Consulting on policy needs a service design approach, too. That means engaging in a way that’s mindful of audience and has a ‘path of least resistance’ principle behind it. No burying consultations in a website whose search function doesn’t work; no promoting a consultation by sticking a laminated piece of A4 to a singular lamp post. By making the user journey as painless as possible, you:

  • increase response rate
  • raise the likelihood of responses being well-informed, and therefore more valuable, and
  • don’t leave respondents feeling such depths of despair and frustration that they may never respond to a consultation ever again.

If it isn’t obvious by now, Delib is Very Serious about service design. We’ve built such principles into all our tools.

With all that in mind, here are some organisations who’ve incorporated these principles really well into their consultation activity on Citizen Space.

The Scottish Government is consulting on proposed Circular Economy legislation

Why it’s good: Firstly, it’s chapter-based, which means respondents can see up front the different types of topics covered, and get an idea of how long it is. The information presented in the body of the consultation is plentiful but it’s written in plain English and equips the respondent with enough knowledge to answer questions on the topic. There are links to external information sources, but the key here is that they’re optional further reading rather than essential to responding.

The Isle of Man Government is consulting on a Bank Recovery and Resolution Bill

This is directed towards stakeholders as well as members of the public, so it gets a little more into the nitty-gritty of ensuring the IOM don’t have a repeat of the Global Financial Crisis wherein public tax money was used to bail out failing banks. Why it’s good: this is an intricate issue so reference to policy papers is required. However, the relevant sections of policy are embedded for each question, so the user never has to leave the consultation and doesn’t have to go hunting through the policy document for the relevant section each time they answer a new question.

The Northern Ireland Government is consulting on a Troubles incident victim compensation scheme

This is a hugely emotive and impactful consultation so service design is essential here. It affects a huge number of people so accessibility and reach is key. Why it’s good: it very clearly sets out background information, what format the consultation takes, and what’s needed from the respondent, all in plain succinct language.

Citizen Space is a citizen engagement platform trusted by government around the world. Government organisations and public bodies use Citizen Space to connect with more citizens, increase engagement and improve processes.

To learn more about what Citizen Space can do for your organisation, book a free demo and we’ll walk you through it.

If you liked this post, check out an interview we did with Andrew Greenway, previously of GDS and who now works at digital transformation consultancy Public Digital.