Design for life - a government design system

Creating conditions where people can easily use familiar, tested, trusted patterns interacting with government services.

Posted by Mark Kirkpatrick on December 20, 2017

Looking at government as a digital service from a user point of view, you could argue it is disjointed in parts, and does not inspire trust in terms of design consistency and consequently consistency in experience across its many use cases.

various button interface elements from various New Zealand government applications - all visually, compositionally strikingly different Button interface elements from various NZ government applications - all different

It’s a common problem – not just of government digital services, but also of many enterprise sized organisations.

It is a problem we are currently looking to address in exploring the validity and viability of a design system for New Zealand government - so users can use familiar patterns to achieve results in interacting with government, no matter what vessel(s) of government their interaction touches upon.

Government pattern library

In the ethos of starting small, we are currently exploring building out a common design pattern library – solving some user problems such as:

  • inconsistent experiences ‘getting stuff done’ with government
  • User Interfaces of varying quality (lean, accessible etc.)
  • no standard wordings (user confusion, not ‘making it easy’, transparency)

There are of course also other benefits for already stretched digital teams across government including:

  • less ‘reinventing the wheel’ in building common interaction interfaces (resource implications)
  • baking in quality – e.g. semantic, accessible code bases meeting obligations and user expectations
  • speeding up ‘time to market’ - prototyping quickly
  • freeing up time to focus on personalisation , digital marketing etc.
  • faster on-boarding for new team members

Next steps

Work is in its early stages, but already we’ve had some really interesting discussions with government agencies, looking to reuse some initial work already done.

Next steps could include building out a current sub-set of patterns on - refreshing, adding to this library so it is valued and used, sponsored and promoted.

It is important that active communities across government are part of this process. Our ultimate focus will remain on ensuring that users in different contexts can ultimately access, use and engage with government services – and that interaction can be ‘delightful’, easy and seamless where it needs to be.