Pausefest 2016 - Re-building a government website.

What

On Saturday 13 February 2016, we packed into the ACMI cube with a group of willing, keen and excited participants from a wide range of backgrounds, ready to help tackle some of the common problems we have all experienced with government websites. For this session we wanted to focus on kickstarting the redesign of the Neighbourhood Justice Centre's website to be citizen focused, from the ground up.

The Neighbourhood Justice Centre is currently Australia’s first comprehensive community justice centre, and a key member of the global community justice movement. A strategy of the justice system, community justice  brings together therapeutic, restorative and problem solving approaches to rehabilitate individuals, reduce harmful behaviour, and regenerate local neighbourhoods.

The NJC enhances community life by collaborating with the people and neighbourhoods within the City of Yarra, which we do through our multi-jurisdictional community court, 20 independent but coordinated treatment and support agencies, Crime & Conflict Prevention programs, Justice Education programs. We also find solutions to reform the justice system more broadly. Located in Collingwood, the NJC serves the residents of the City of Yarra, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and people experiencing homeless who have ties to the area.

Inspired by the DTO, the challenge was simple "What if a government website could be designed for its users, and by its users?"

The problem

Government websites often contain a sea of information, we like to believe that we know what our users would like, we know all the information that they need to carry out their tasks and that we have structured it into a logical set of categories, that are easy to navigate.

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Image location

Unfortunately, in reality, for users of government websites, this can end up looking more like a difficult to navigate web of departmental jargon, pdf documents, links and dead ends.

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Image location

One of the many reasons for this, is that it is easy to exclude the very users we are trying to help from the process of designing a new service or website. Leaving government to guess how users really navigate their information, the kinds of tasks they want to achieve and their goals and motivations for using these websites and services.

How

So we decided this might be a good opportunity to get some outside perspectives and learn some lessons about the current NJC website, what the NJC does and how some of the future services the NJC hopes to provide might fit into all of this.

Participants were divided into a series of groups and given a set of cards containing current information and services the NJC provides as well as some upcoming services. Each group was also given a series of personas covering some of the community members the NJC interact with

The participants were asked to first, look over their cards and personas to begin to understand some of the reasons why community members need to use the NJC website.

Next, within their group, participants were asked to explore the cards, discard any they didn’t fit with their personas, add any new cards where they thought appropriate and rewrite existing cards if they wanted to. The groups then clustered the cards together based on what they had learned about the personas, asking questions along the way and then eventually labelling these clusters.

Finally, the participants were asked to focus on a key service or area they had started to think about during the previous activity and sketch out this new service or website, focusing on what kind of community member it could serve, their needs and the outcomes this new service could have