50 services for 1001 municipalities
Making services accessible online for citizens
By German law, more than 500 services need to be accessible online by 2020. Most of these services are delivered on a municipal level, where the expertise and skills needed to redesign services to match online formats are not widely spread.
Instead of leaving each individual municipality alone with the responsibility to develop their own version of a service, the federal state Baden-Württemberg stepped in to support its municipalities. We were brought in to help shape an approach for how services can be redesigned together with municipalities and citizens, and easily adopted and scaled by others across Baden-Württemberg.
Public service professionals practising interview techniques for our initial user research
Together with our partners, we worked on three services as examples to show how human-centred design, in the context of digitising services, and collaboration with various municipal stakeholders to align services, can work.
The three services we redesigned were:
- applying for a pass for people with disabilities (Schwerbehindertenausweis beantragen)
- changing a residence permit for non-EU citizens (Aufenthaltstitel ändern)
- applying for a craftsman parking permit, a special permit for tradesmen and certain technical service providers and their teams (Handwerkerparkausweis beantragen)
During the discovery phase, user research helped us explore the current experience of our three different user groups: people with disabilities, foreigners living in Germany and tradesmen. Building on research that had been done in Hamburg, we trained and supported public sector professionals to conduct and analyse the research themselves, looking at the experiences of using existing offline services.
Parallel research with different municipalities, done by our partners, showed that even if municipalities are delivering the same services, everyone does it in their own way. Comparing municipalities, we discovered variations in the way user data was captured, the order and numbers of steps users have to go through and the information needed by frontline staff.
All insights were shared during a co-design workshop with frontline staff from various municipalities. Together, we mapped what an online service could look like. We challenged frontline staff to rethink their internal processes, looking for opportunities to simplify and align the service. Together, we refined the results, improved the language with legal experts and supported the IT provider to create prototypes for each service.
After training in how to do usability testing, we lead municipal public service professionals through the process of testing the prototypes with different user groups.
Feedback from user testing was directly used to adapt the prototypes
Human-centred design and agile ways of working – the right approach to deliver great digital services
The newly developed example services demonstrate the advantages of using agile and human-centred approaches.
Working in this way led to better digital services for citizens, who now have the ability to navigate processes by themselves intuitively, with less risk of confusion or need for clarity from the citizen centre. Frontline staff also feel in control of how “digitalisation” will impact their everyday practice, as they had a major role in co-creating what the redesigned online services will look like.
The collaborative alignment of services builds the foundation for other municipalities to adopt and adapt the designs instead of having to create their own versions. As a result, the co-creative approach tested proved to be successful. Baden-Württemberg decided to embed human-centred design, agile ways of working and co-creation further in their strategy to develop 50 services for 1001 municipalities.