Usability in Government Systems - User Experience Design for Citizens and Public Servants

Elizabeth Buie & Diane Murray (eds)

Published by

Morgan Kaufmann





Reviewed by

Dr Mick Phythian MBCS CITP - Independent researcher


8 out of 10

Given the effort being made by governments worldwide to shift users onto the theoretically cheaper digital channels, this book makes a welcome appearance.

If the citizen or the public servant is to happily move to the digital, the experience of them when used needs to be worthwhile. With five sections made up of 24 chapters the editors have brought together a range of highly experienced authorities in the various fields involved to make a comprehensive guide.

The book is not just about websites; consideration is there for social media and Gov 2.0, proceeding from open data to how to present it visually. It also covers defence systems such as RPA (drones).

Some of the stuff is the common sense that many of us have been trying to get across for years to the wide range of people that hold some responsibility for government services, including the politicians - but here it is in a single, if hefty (407 23x19cm pages), volume.

Given my background the penultimate chapter by Neil Sanford and Angus Doulton on service design and channel shifting was a particular favourite, highlighting the ‘archaic processes and incoherent decision making’ that has plagued electronic government.

The key messages overall from the book are about delivering things in plain language, getting usability into any contract, along with employing standards and considering requirements engineering - most of which have little to do with technology and probably precede it.

Overall I can see the book ending up on the shelves of university libraries, mainly due to the volume of material covered. This is not a bad thing - it may help produce a new generation who design systems with minimal experience of using them.

It has a wealth of useful references and links, so could benefit a group of developers but overall, as Sanford and Doulton recognise, real usability comes end-to-end and it’s the policy instigators that introduce poor user experiences.

Further information: Morgan Kaufmann

December 2012