As a UI designer, it is pretty easy to find yourself encountering bad UX design examples.
Last February I had to file my taxes, not an easy task given my status as a non-resident. I filled out the standard tax form and received money back from the government, only to realize later after a little research that I had submitted the wrong form and needed to file an amendment.
I spent the next month in limbo, thinking that the tax center hadn’t received my amendment. Nothing on the website was telling me I had to look up a status check specific to amendments instead of using the main portal. I ended up finding the link to this lost page through a forum that had nothing to do with the government.
It was almost as if the appeals process was designed to be counter-intuitive and painful to the user! Government interfaces have a nasty reputation for being everything but user-friendly, leading to delays, mistakes and frustration for all involved. And guess what? A good UX would actually lead to less mistakes by the users, a considerably shorter process, and less unintentional fraud. When users see a task as a burden and don’t feel they’ve been provided with the necessary information to complete a task, the likelihood that they fail to complete it or enter incorrect information skyrockets.
A good User Experience could actually help the working relationship between the people and their government!
One government website is actually a great example of user-friendly design: gov.uk. In fact, the site won the Design of the Year Award in 2013 following ten design principles:
- Start with users’ needs.
- Do less.
- Design with data.
- Do the hard work to make it simple.
- Iterate. Then iterate again.
- This is for everyone.
- Understand context.
- Build digital services, not web sites.
- Be consistent, not uniform.
- Make things open: it makes things better.
Among these design principles, the fourth one sticks out to me:
Do the hard work to make it simple. Making something look simple is easy. Making something simple to use is much harder — especially when the underlying systems are complex — but that’s what we should be doing. Don’t take “It’s always been that way” for an answer. It’s usually more complex and harder work to make things simple, but it’s the right thing to do.
The UK government took a good first step, but it’s now time for all of the government services (and their designers!) around the world to follow this example. And as UX design becomes more and more involved in our lives, I am positive that these services can one day become the helpful tool they were intended to be.