Principles of service design (forms)

For government lightning guide!

1. Plan digital from the start

Print (PDF) forms should only be made when absolutely necessary, for example if legislation requires a ‘wet signature’ for an application to be valid. Digital signatures can be considered. When major updates to existing PDF-only forms are required, use the opportunity to make them digital, and remove the PDF.

2. Use a multidisciplinary team

You can’t succeed without all stakeholders on board—sharing and collaboration is key.

Assemble a multidisciplinary service design team that can design, build and operate the service, led by a skilled and senior service manager with decision-making responsibility.

3. Research your customer

You should have a clear understanding of who your customer is, the task they need to complete (i.e. their goal) and how they will engage with your solution. (What does success look like to them?)

  • Compile customer research/feedback and analytics to date (if any)—ask the service owner for this.
  • Test how forms (paper and online) are used by your customers—you’ll gain valuable insight by watching the user research in person; note any difficulties experienced.

4. Gather key information about the service

Conduct a stakeholder workshop to understand the service—don't just base your designs on existing forms:

  1. Collect service transaction volumes (benchmark data).
  2. Map current customer journey(s) and business processes.
  3. Identify pain points and opportunities for service improvement.
  4. Determine end state, including ‘blue sky’ ideas.
  5. Determine the minimum viable product for first release (and future MVPs if time allows).
  6. Identify key performance indicators for the service—what are you trying to change, and measure this against your benchmark volume data.

5. Be agile, iterate and improve frequently

Build your service using agile, iterative and user-centred methods—follow the QGov Service Integration Methodology (ask

  1. Collaboratively design a low-fidelity, customer-centric prototype with key stakeholders.
  2. Test your prototypes with users, learn, change and test again.
  3. Release quickly and frequently—where customers will benefit most.

6. Assign security classification and align with privacy principles

Information requested, transmitted and stored by an online service is an information asset owned by the agency. The Information security policy requires that all agency information:

7. Design inclusively, for everyone!

Accessible design is good design. Everything you build should be as inclusive, legible and readable as possible. This is also a legal requirement by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

8. Help your customer complete their task

Make it easy for your customer to complete their task and reduce the cognitive load of a long form.

  • Fail early, fail fast—tell your customer at the start if they will need particular information or supporting documents.
  • Don’t expect them to read eligibility criteria before they start. Build these questions into the form (e.g. Are you a Queensland resident? At the start!)
  • Use progressive disclosure—present the minimum number of questions to reduce clutter and confusion (i.e. If you don’t need it, don’t ask for it).
  • Structure questions with decision-making in mind—help your customer make decisions and/or choose their course of action.
  • Don’t ask your customer to answer questions about your business (e.g. who should receive their request or enquiry).

9. Do as much as possible online

Aim for as much of the transaction as possible to be completed online:

  • remove duplication
  • pre-populate forms with information already entered, or that you already have.

10. Monitor and review

  • Set up goal-tracking metrics—track how often your service is used (e.g. form submitted), and if people are dropping out, where they abandon the form (Google Analytics has useful metrics such as goals, funnels and events).
  • Review user feedback—ensure a feedback mechanism is in place and review regularly.
    • Don’t make a change based on isolated feedback—investigate and test the problem: it may be further upstream; or making a change for one customer may make things worse for the majority.
  • Do ongoing user research—plan for ongoing user research and usability testing to continuously seek feedback from users to improve the service.