Towards a new generation of public services: Designers Italia’s design kits

Designers Italia presents the new kits to help design modern, simple digital services without having to reinvent the wheel every time
Towards a new generation of public services: Designers Italia’s design kits

Questo articolo è disponibile anche in italiano

Our lives are becoming more and more digital and we expect the public services we use every day to be digital as well: booking a medical examination, receiving a pension, paying the waste tax, obtaining an authorization or a document. Moreover, we would like for all digital public services to have standards of quality comparable to the best private services we use to inform ourselves, make purchases or reservations. When using a digital public service, we would like to have concrete advantages, in particular: higher quality and ease of use, better accessibility, more flexibility and speed.

As the Three-Year Plan for Digital Transformation explains, this is a unique opportunity to design a new generation of public services making citizens and businesses the starting point rather than simply complying with rules and ordinances. We need the right professionalism, the right skills and the right tools: this is why we created Designers Italia and it is also why today we are launching the new design system.

Along with these guidelines we will be offering a set of practical tools available to all the Public Administrations to help rethink the services that don’t work, to improve those that already exist and to create new ones.

The Public Service Design Kits introduce a method of work based on user research, the rapid exploration of solutions and the development of effective and sustainable products. Also, the Public Service Design Kits also strongly push towards higher standards, providing interface components and codeso that the country’s thousands of administrations don’t have to waste time “inventing the wheel every time.”

The fourteen kits we provide cover all aspects of a service design process, from research to user interface, from prototyping to development and each kit offers different advantages.

  • They are common tools to be used in hundreds of projects and to implement hundreds of different services: everyone can use them and everyone will have the opportunity to learn from the examples of others. This makes the design system sustainable.
  • They are open tools: everyone can build and improve upon them. Each new Public Administration service will be able to contribute towards enriching the design system available to everyone. This makes the design system expandable.
  • They are designed for public services: they include specific examples and are tailored to fit the typical application needs of a public administration (and are often documented on the blog of Designers Italia).
  • They are updated: they constitute the complement to the design guidelines and are maintained and updated accordingly.
  • They are put to the test continuously: Designers Italia professionals are the first to use the kits on a daily basis. In doing so, they are able to measure their effectiveness and completeness.
  • They are tested with actual users: because they are used in different projects, they benefit from tests and from other feedback we collect every day. This makes the design solutions adopted in the design system effective.

Where we started from

The Ministerial Declaration on e-government signed in Tallinn last October commits member states to the implementation of the principles stated in the e-Government Action Plan 2016–2020. As stated in the the EU action plan: “By 2020, public institutions in the European Union should […] provide end-to-end digital public services […] in line with the needs and demands of citizens and businesses.”

Not only the policy framework but also common sense highlight the need for creating a new generation of services. and therefore present a great challenge to the design of public services, discipline that designs digital environments to meet the concrete needs of users.

The UK Government Digital Service, our brilliant British colleagues, provided this definition:

Government services are sometimes split into tiny pieces: lots of isolated transactions, products, and content provided by different parts of government that need to be used together by a user to achieve their goal. Service design is the activity of working out which of these pieces need to fit together, asking how well they meet user needs, and rebuilding them from the ground up so that they do

When we decided to accept this challenge, we immediately thought that what was needed were not a handful of experienced designers but rather the world of design. This is why Designers Italia immediately took the form of a “system” project.

Tailor-made services for citizens, a designer community is born
Designers Italia calls upon the world of design, both inside and outside the Public

In the months following the launch of the project, we had the opportunity to describe the working model we had in mind: multidisciplinary teams, the use of prototypes to quickly explore solutions, a results-oriented mindset, and continuous improvement based on user feedback and data in general. This model is made possible by the adoption of a participatory approach and the support of digital tools, as we explained in the Designers Italia blog.

While we were defining our working model, we were also able to create a team capable of adopting this method of work. We developed three lines of activity. The first, the object of this Post, is related to the design kits and the expansion of the guidelines; the second relates to the dissemination of a culture of service design so to encourage participation from the world of design, in particular through a blog that publishes case studies of best practices; the third involves the creation of new digital services for Public Administration; right now, for example, we are working on the user experience of PagoPA, the digital payment node, and on the design guidelines related to SPID, the digital identity system, on the construction of a model for Italian school websites and on a prototype for a new ID card appointement service.

>em class="markup--em markup--p-em">*all Designers Italia Kit are in Italian

After about a year of work, we are now ready to present the new Designers Italia design system; the kits represent our work philosophy and they can be adopted easily and quickly; the guidelines outline and expound what can be done with the kits. The project responds to the indispensable requirements to change and innovate a system as broad and complex as the Italian Public Administration: efficacy, expandability and sustainability.

Here is the complete list of kits.

User interviews – Interview service users to identify their needs, motivations and frustrations.

Usability test – Observe how users interact with a digital service to make it more usable.

Web Analytics – This kit, which completes the web analytics guide published last year, supports the process of creating a dashboard.

Ecosystem map – identifies the subjects involved in the provision of a service and analyzes their connections.

Personas – Take on the user’s perspective to design valid solutions based on concrete needs

User Journey – Analyze all parts of any service’s user experience and identify the opportunities for intervention

Co-design workshop – Generate ideas by involving users and service stakeholders

User stories – Describe the user experience to identify requirements and functionality more easily. 

Information architecture – Organize the content structure in a clear, effective and consistent way. >em class="markup--em markup--p-em"

UI Kit – Designs a public service interface in a simple and coherent graphic style, using components that cover all the main interaction patterns to create an interactive prototype. >em class="markup--em markup--p-em">This kit, already made public, is enhanced monthly with new components and new use cases

Content kit – Manage content and organize the editorial strategy in a collaborative way. 

Web toolkit – Build the frontend of websites, applications and web services in absolute simplicity by directly integrating standard libraries. >em class="markup--em markup--p-em"

Wireframe kit – Define the interaction model and the organization of information and contents on screen. >em class="markup--em markup--p-em">A preliminary version of this kit has already been published. A full version will be published by June 2018

SEO – Design and optimize site content based on the needs and priorities that users express during web searches. >em class="markup--em markup--p-em"> the SEO guidelaunched last year, will be published by June 2018

To learn more:

How to participate
How to use Designers Italiaby Matteo De Santi and Lorenzo Fabbri

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