Designing for people who don’t want to use your service

by @edent | # # | 5 comments | Read ~336 times.

I’ve been building digital products and services since the dial-up era. I spent many years working in the private sector. Good design is seen as a necessity. Customers will switch to another service which is easier to use, has a better app, or offers a nicer experience.

I now work in the public sector, where things are a little different.

Most people who are arrested, probably don’t want to be arrested.

Generally speaking, people don’t want to need to go to a hospital.

People may or may not want to pay tax. But they don’t get much choice in the matter. And there’s only one entity you can pay.

Government is, mostly, a monopoly. Traditionally, that means crap services, atrocious design, and an unwilling attitude. That’s changing. I see dedicated public servants around the world realising that they have to change the way the state and the citizen interact. Paying your taxes should be as simple as buying something online. Registering to vote should be no more complicated that registering on a social network.

But those are willing transactions. OK, you may not want to interact with the tax service – but you do so because the alternative is a monetary penalty or a criminal record. It’s not much of a choice – which is precisely why we should make it as easy and pleasant as possible.

(Side note – I don’t use the word “delightful”. That usually means cutesy graphics, chummy language, and a fake bonhomie which irritates most normal people but is beloved by marketing-folk. Transactions with Government are serious business, and probably don’t need to be festooned with emoji.)

The private sector also uses length of engagement time as a key metric. How long does a user spends on your site? The longer the better, right?

Well, not for our sites. A user doesn’t want to send a single nanosecond longer than necessary with us.

Plain, simple, fast. That’s what we’re aiming for.

5 thoughts on “Designing for people who don’t want to use your service

  1. Quite like the VOSA services. Saves storing old MOTs like in the 90s. Handy when you can’t remember when your MOT is.


  2. Lucy D says:

    Absolutely agree @edent – and its the same for our comms! Making it simple means people can get the info they need, and then get on with their lives (as much as possible)! There’s some great work on government services right now!

  3. Delight is a high bar. Me not wanting to throw my computer out the window is today’s low bar for software design.


  4. Tim Chase says:

    An interesting spin on usability. I hope this is the beginning of a series with more tangible tips to implement the higher-level points made in the article. 👍

  5. Isabel says:

    Registering to pay tax as an art form in hoop-jumping, with little numbers being sent through snail mail and allsorts of other silliness. I really hope this process can be vastly simplified.

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