User research and govCMS viability
Salsa Digital recently partnered with Folk to run user research and take a look at how govCMS would work for the Australian Financial Security Authority (AFSA).
The AFSA provides services and information to consumers, businesses and the wider community in the areas of: bankruptcy law; personal property securities laws; the regulation of personal insolvency practitioners; and trustee services.
Salsa Digital was excited to have the opportunity to work with AFSA through a user research study and govCMS viability assessment of the AFSA corporate website.
To rigorously plan the migration, AFSA wanted to better understand the business and technical requirements and their fit with govCMS. The first step, however, was to review the current site, focusing on:
- What’s working well
- What’s not (pain points)
- Unmet user needs.
Taking a step ‘back’ to review these items would also provide a more strategic approach, by delivering a list of requirements that could be mapped to govCMS (using the Software as a Service (SaaS) option). As a Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) compliant project, the AFSA web project also needed to satisfy certain criteria — to justify spending taxpayers’ money to build a new site, government agencies need to confirm they’ve adequately consulted a minimum number of reflective internal and external stakeholders to identify their experience and pain points to justify a change. This is in line with the very first point of the DTA’s Digital Service Standard, which is to “understand user needs”. This aligns well with Salsa Digital’s project methodology and our commitment to creating truly user-friendly websites.
Our first step was to partner with user research experts, Folk, who led the user research and stakeholder consultation phase of the project.
The project was broken into four stages:
Project establishment and research planning — align all stakeholders on project goals and success criteria and finalise the user research methodology.
User research and stakeholder consultation — conduct user interviews with key internal stakeholders and representative external user groups to develop key insights into pain points, what’s working well and overall needs.
govCMS readiness assessment — determine how well govCMS out-of-the-box will address the user’s needs and pain points, and improve the overall user experience.
Findings and recommendations — collate, analyse and document findings and recommendations, including ‘candidate requirements’ and how they can be applied to govCMS to improve the user experience.
User research and stakeholder consultation
Folk conducted one-on-one interviews with internal and external stakeholders to discover user pain points. The focus of the survey was: content, navigation and the user experience for the main sections of the AFSA website.
The research focused primarily on three user types:
- Insolvency practitioners
Each user type was analysed for:
- Content segmentation — how a user digests information and intuitively navigates through the AFSA website.
- Pain points — areas where users are having most difficulty within their user journeys.
- User expectations — information the user expects to see based on their user type.
We also looked at content management requirements, interviewing staff members and/or sending them a survey that focused on the effectiveness of the current content management system (CMS) and what they’d expect to see, use, or learn to be able to best manage the content streams of the website.
One-on-one interviews (run by Folk with Salsa Digital personnel sitting in) were conducted with 13 participants and lasted approximately one hour each, providing an opportunity for the specialist interviewer to get an in-depth understanding of the site users.
Qualitative research is about listening to people and finding common themes. The aim is to reach a point where you’re no longer learning very much from each subsequent interview. This point is called saturation. For a particular group, saturation often occurs between 12 and 15 participants. So while a sample size of 13 may sound small, because of the in-depth nature of the interviews (qualitative research), the findings provide an excellent insight into all users.
govCMS readiness assessment
Salsa Digital ran a reverse-engineering process on the current AFSA website to produce a list of the CMS requirements. This was combined with the outputs from the user research to come up with a final list of requirements.
Salsa then created an analysis matrix and each requirement was assessed by a Salsa govCMS expert to classify the compliance level with out-of-the-box govCMS SaaS platform functionality and a rating for the complexity to customise.
Findings and recommendations
The key findings of the user research were presented in a final report and presentation. While the user research discovered many positive things (e.g. most of the information required by the different user groups is available on the website), it also highlighted areas that needed to be improved. Key areas for change were:
- Terminology — industry-specific language (jargon) is making it harder for users to find the content they’re looking for and to understand it.
- Site structure — high-value content can be difficult to find in the existing content hierarchy.
- Additional features — support tools/widgets such as calculators and reminders would be useful.
In terms of the govCMS viability assessment, mapping the key requirements to the govCMS feature set found that the envisaged website would fit well into the govCMS SaaS offering. The majority of the requirements are either available out of the box or with some simple configuration, some are deliverable via customisation to the theme layer, while a few items appear to be outside the capabilities of govCMS SaaS. (However, all these items can be achieved in govCMS PaaS (Platform as a Service).)
Based on the findings and drawing on our digital expertise, Salsa Digital made several recommendations for the migrated AFSA website:
Better journey support: A series of key user journeys should be identified and systems put in place to guide users through the applicable content.
Immersive content to further guide user segments: For example, invest in digestible short videos and audio content as part of a more general content strategy.
Re-organise site structure and information architecture (IA): Rethink the site’s IA with a view to support a more intuitive journey. The new site structure should be validated through feedback during the project.
Ensure the CMS solution has a process of peer review and workflow management to ensure a high content quality: govCMS has workflow moderation and can be configured to support this recommendation.
Ensure site content is structured to support the user’s understanding of consequences, next steps, benefits and options: For example, what happens after a person is made bankrupt. Clearly communicate next steps, benefits and options for various user contexts and allow users to easily navigate to information on next steps. Improve terminology, using language that’s more logical to the user.
Invest in help tools: Identify an effective help technology based on prime help topics for the planned site. Ensure help content is part of the content strategy and validate help approach via a working prototype.
Clear content/context on timeframes: Emphasis on timeframes and process for various user journeys e.g., bankruptcy. Have an infographic lead the user to understand a clear time frame and steps they may expect depending on their user type (debtor or creditor). Test the effectiveness of this during any feedback sessions.
Form design review: Review site forms and classify into each user type and importance, then redesign any forms necessary and ensure IA makes them easy to find.
The govCMS fit
Salsa Digital found that govCMS is a strong viable platform to support AFSA’s requirements and strategic objectives. While there are some gaps from the out-of-the-box offering, the robustness, benefits and build saving from the core govCMS offering makes it a compelling platform choice.
The likely benefits of user research and viability assessment
Conducting user research and a viability assessment is a forward-thinking strategy that will deliver many benefits. It puts AFSA in a strong position to move forward — they are now better informed about their user segments and how to structure a new site. This delivers many benefits, including:
- A reduction in the volume of calls to the call centre because users will be able to more easily find and understand the information.
- The ability to make informed decisions on business benefit, costs, and priorities when planning the initial project and subsequent phases.