5 things that lead to bad outcomes for digital public services

The business

Referring to a government department/organisation as a business, or another part of the same organisation as ‘the business’ — as though people making public services, in ‘agile’ teams are somehow separate to the decision making process. It means that the thinking still is that there is a masterplan at the top, and bits of that plan are handed down to the team a piece at a time (command and control thinking).

Happy path and Edge cases

Only thinking about one simple scenario, or doing the simple work first. This leads to designing for a few people, and in only simple scenarios. Inclusive design is hard, right? Public services are for everyone, and peoples lives and situations are far from simple — you dont come to goverment for fun — you come to solve a problem, or because you have to.

Happy path — this isn’t what the user would call their journey through the system (especially if they knew their journey was called unhappy path inside the org). All paths should lead to a good outcome for the particualr user in their situation.

Edge case — again not user centered — your circumstances are not on the egde — they are everything to you.

A book apart — Design for real life, is excellent on this subject.

Managing expectations

Probably my least favourite ‘management phrase’. I wont rant fully about it here. The TL;DR is - I’ve only every heard this said when someone is going to be spun to, to swallow something negative.

Error messages

We’ve decided to stop calling them error messages. They are help information. When someone does a thing that the system doesn’t understand — we try to help. No more — Error. But information that helps people proceed.

Thats my 10 minute article. Brain dump, of my current top 5 bugbears, that I’m trying to change.