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Following the DTA’s standards

The DTA’s Digital Service Standard and Design Principles are great starting points for any digital project.

Alfred D 15 February 2017

The DTA’s standards

The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) has some great standards and guidelines to help create better government digital services. Probably the two most important standards are the high-level Digital Service Standard and the Design Principles. Supporting the Standard are a lot of really useful guides that cover everything from agile delivery to open data.

The Digital Service Standard

There are 13 criteria government agencies are expected to meet:

  1. Understand user needs — Knowing more about your users will deliver a better solution.

  2. Have a multidisciplinary team — A broad mix of skills in your digital team will maximise project deliverables.

  3. Agile and user-centred process — Agile means you can adapt quickly, and a user-centred process ensures your users’ needs are met.

  4. Understand tools and systems — Research the technology to ensure you understand what will best meet your needs.

  5. Make it secure — It’s simple: “If a service cannot guarantee confidentiality, integrity and availability of the system, people will not use it.”

  6. Consistent and responsive design — Designs should be consistent across all devices (desktop, tablet and mobile).

  7. Use open standards and common platforms — Using open standards and common platforms will save time and money, and deliver a more consistent user experience.

  8. Make source code open — Reusing code will eliminate duplication and save you time and money.

  9. Make it accessible — Everyone needs to be able to access and use your service.

  10. Test the service — Thorough testing will ensure the service is ready for users.

  11. Measure performance — Metrics are a good way to ensure constant improvement and that the service meets users’ needs.

  12. Don’t forget the non-digital experience — Transition between digital and non-digital channels should be smooth to improve the user experience.

  13. Encourage everyone to use the digital service — The digital channel is often the preferred channel for citizens and is cost-effective for the government, so it makes sense to promote the digital channel.

The Design Principles

The DTA presents 10 design principles:

  1. Start with needs: user needs, not government needs — Identify the users’ needs to help you create the best solution.

  2. Do less — Use shared services and solutions to ‘do less’.

  3. Design with data — Use data and analytics to drive design decision-making.

  4. Do the hard work to make it simple — Make sure your digital services are easy to use...even if it’s hard to deliver on!

  5. Iterate. Then iterate again — Start small and make refinements to deliver the best digital experience possible.

  6. This is for everyone — Make sure your service is accessible to everyone.

  7. Understand context — Think about the context of citizens’ use of your services and design around that.

  8. Build digital services, not websites — Think about the service you’re delivering.

  9. Be consistent, not uniform — Consistency helps users navigate multiple sites, easily.

  10. Make things open: it makes things better — Sharing code, designs, ideas and plans will deliver better services and save you time and money.

What about state and local government?

While the DTA is officially a federal agency, the Standards and Design Principles represent best practice in the digital world and both state and local agencies would benefit from following them. In fact, there is often a crossover between the DTA’s guidelines and those issued at state and local levels. If you’re more familiar with your state’s standards, you can probably see the similarities.

If you haven’t checked out the DTA’s Standards and Design Principles before, we strongly suggest looking them up for lots of great insights.

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