It seems hardly fair to compare the usability experience of a 700 billion dollar company like Apple to say, your parks and recreation system, but it’s being made. Whether it’s frustrations uttered to friends on Facebook about the hour they wasted trying to get their kids signed up online for swimming or the epic hunt they had to undertake on your website to file a service request for a pothole -- you’re being evaluated and compared.
As you look at implementing new software that is public-facing it is important to give careful consideration to the experience you’re offering citizens. Here are four things your citizens want you to think about when evaluating public-facing software:
Citizens want to do it themselves.
Online services is status quo. Citizens want to be able to pay for taxes and utilities, licenses and program registration online. A trip to town hall to pay a utility bill followed by a trip to the pool to enrol kids in swimming consumes a precious commodity for citizens: time. It could take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to make both stops. They could accomplish the same task in two minutes online -- and avoid lineups.
Citizens expect it to be fast and easy.
Usability is king. If your system isn’t fast and easy adoption will be slow and painful or non-existent. Remember, these people are trained to have the sum of the world’s knowledge in the palm of their hand through virtual assistants like Siri, Google Now and Cortana. They don’t have the patience to figure out why their online account can’t be created without phoning your team for an account ID.
Citizens want to do it while they’re mobile.
The features you deliver on mobile should match the functionality of a desktop. A reduced screen size is no excuse for a reduced or crippled mobile experience. Touch devices create a whole new medium for interaction and public-facing software should take full advantage of that.
Citizens want one experience to rule them all.
If you’re like most towns and cities it takes multiple software systems to provide the plethora of online services citizens are demanding. One for parks and recreation, another for online taxes and utility payments, and yet another for business licenses. The problem is each of these systems requires citizens to have a separate account. Remembering one password is difficult. Remembering six is frustrating and unrealistic.
Look for software that utilizes single sign-on especially with popular social media like Facebook or Google. This makes the account creation process fast and easy and it helps keep your citizen data up-to-date. Think of it as giving your citizens passports that let them go anywhere using one set of credentials that they never need to remember.
Give your citizens the gift of time this Christmas.
Each of these points shares something in common: they all save time. Online services that are fast, easy, mobile-friendly and offer a consistent experience means citizens can spend more time doing things they love. Technology can radically improve the way we engage with citizens but it requires intentional consideration about the kind of experience we want to deliver.
By offering your citizens a simple solution that perfectly meets their expectations adoption will be higher. That translates into less manual requests by phone, e-mail or in-person visits and ultimately less support on your front desk. Citizens are happy: check. Administration has less work: check.
Trends and expectations are rapidly evolving and it can be challenging to keep up. I hope these tips help you choose partners and vendors focused on helping you build great relationships with citizens through positive experiences. Merry Christmas!
2Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Buyers
Brad Leitch is the Director of Product Delivery and Strategy for PathFive and former CEO of Dreamstalk.