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Making it easier to engage with Auckland Council online

Setting up Auckland Council for digital success.
Auckland council website

The challenge

The Auckland Council website is often the first and most relied on place for Aucklanders to find out information about the council and its services with 15 million hits per year - whether it’s dog licensing, public events, rubbish collection, noise control, paying rates, information on civil defence, or having a say on a public consultation.

Our objective was to set the Council up for successful delivery of a new site that made it easier for people to engage with Auckland Council and ‘get it done’ online. 

The project’s expected 12–18 month lead time made it impractical for DAN to be involved for the entire project – our value, therefore, was in setting up Auckland Council for success – set the vision for the site; create the tools and process needed to deliver it, and importantly, up-skill Council teams in a learning-by-doing environment to allow them to confidently carry on the project once we had stepped away.

Understanding user and business needs

Over 14 weeks we collaborated with a cross-disciplinary team of key stakeholders including – constituents, Council leadership and Digital team plus design and build partners.

Customer intercepts helped us paint a clear picture of the customer experience

The discovery phase identified the role of the site – a navigator, informer and interpreter for all things Council. A place for customers who come to the site for a single purpose – to ‘’get it done’ online. Identifying key user journeys, pain points and unmet needs through data analytics, customer and staff interviews and service-centre observation and intercepts, helped us paint a clear picture of the customer experience when interacting with Council. 

From key insights to future vision

Our strategy focused on assisting customers who visited the site to get a specific job done and required clear, step-by-step, information to support their interaction. From insights we formed the experience vision statement: ‘Arrive confused, leave confident’.

Scenarios were critical in designing for future content needs

We grouped the council’s multitude of tasks and services under eight user scenarios that guided the design phase. These eight scenarios helped us focus our design and test tailored content experiences with customers ranging from dog owners, homeowners, restaurant owners – with the express purpose of evolving the experience to have them leave confident that they got what they needed.

Prototyping a new digital experience

Designing, prototyping and beta testing in rapid cycles in user research labs allowed us to completely rethink how people discover information and move through levels of detail. For example: to cut down browsing time for customers who knew exactly what they were looking for, we provided a tasked-focused information architecture and a filtered search option, and for customers who were still unsure or needed a range of options, we provided a guided self-service experience option. 

Having the client voice in the room allowed us to calibrate against business constraints and risks in real-time and still deliver a better user experience. It also exposed the business to the value of the human-centred design approach and helped obtain buy-in to a new way of working.

Prototyping allowed us to remodel how people discover information

Keeping scenarios central to the design phase was critical in anticipating any future content needs. We were able to surface and validate a wider range of content types, functionality and interaction patterns that could be repurposed for future scenarios that the Council could design too. The resulting toolkit of validated design patterns and standards reflected both the brand and the customer’s voice. 

A toolkit for ongoing future delivery 

Recognising that the website is a living breathing entity that requires constant evolution – we created a toolkit the Council could use to continue to build the site over time. Essentially, we mapped the patterns of the new site and codified them into a design system that could be handed over with a user experience prototype to be used by the Council to support the evolution of the website. We also created a robust delivery and content strategy framework for council teams’ and technical partners to deliver a live site.

A design system supported the ongoing delivery of the new site

Arrive confused, leave confident

We moved Council from a sprawling desktop-only, jargon-heavy website, comprising 10,000 pages of content, 25,000 pdfs, 50 microsites that users struggled to navigate and make sense of – to a simple, task-focused, mobile-first experience that made doing day to day tasks easy. The new Auckland Council & Libraries site shows significant improvement in accessibility - up to 95% conformance improvement across pages. And the redesigned Auckland Council site was a UX Category Finalist at the BEST Awards 2017.

Over 14 weeks we:

  • Set Auckland Council up for success – developed a pathway for design and development partners to deliver a live site on time and on budget.
  • Build the digital services team capability in human-centred design to ensure continuous improvement.
  • Codified design principles for partners to roll out build effectively

One of the highlights of the project was the upskilling of our team so we can reduce our reliance on external vendors. Our people are now skilled in new ways of designing and managing online content, ensuring customers are front of mind and part of the design. These new skills will allow our people to continue to iterate and improve our website as we continue to enhance the online digital experience for our customers.

- Wendy Beban – Head of Digital Customer Centric Transformation – Auckland Council