26 September 2023

DTA observing the digital domain

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The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) has launched a new resource to support Government product owners and policy-makers find their way online.

The Agency’s gov.au Observatory represents a new stream of quantitative research. It supports the DTA’s other well-established research methods, which are all aimed at helping the Government to build the services that users need.

Acting Product Manager of gov.au Observatory, Patrick Drake-Brockman said it used data from Google Analytics, Google Search Console and the gov.au web crawl to quantify and visualise the Government’s digital domain.

“Through these data sources, the Observatory has visibility of over 1.16 billion website interactions per month and 9.5 million Government web pages. It also draws on insights and methodologies from similar international partners in the United Kingdom and the United States,” Mr Drake-Brockman said.

“The gov.au digital domain — the websites and services run by Government Agencies — is an intangible and multi-faceted environment.”

“Although Agencies create paths for users with structured websites and services, users move through these services using their own pathways,” Mr Drake-Brockman said.

He said search engines and external links let users move through sites looking for the outcomes and information they needed, but made it difficult for decision-makers and senior officials to understand the complex interactions between their services, other Government services and the broader community’s needs.

“The Government used to design its online services with a supply-driven mindset. We thought we knew what people wanted and we built our online services how we thought they should work,” Mr Drake-Brockman said.

“However, these kinds of services don’t usually meet users’ needs. They give users limited choice, they are difficult to build, and we need to spend a significant amount of money and time to generate demand after we build the services. This is where the Observatory comes in.”

He said it analyses and shows how users move through services, also helping to shift Agencies to a demand-driven service mindset.

“The Observatory uses modern data science methods, like natural-language processing and network analysis, to explore where users experience problems with Government services,” Mr Drake-Brockman said.

“We can then compare how Agencies design services with how people use them. We can also identify where pain points exist or where they might develop.”

The image is a graphic visualisation of two weeks of user traffic across 38 .gov.au websites from May 2019.

More information about the gov.au Observatory can be accessed from the DTA website at this PS News link.

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