beta.australia.gov.au goes live

Author: 
Sharyn Clarkson
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Online Services Branch is pleased to announce the launch of our new test environment - beta.australia.gov.au. It signifies the next phase of the redevelopment of australia.gov.au in keeping with the Department’s move to a more user-centred, evidence-based and iterative development culture.  Receiving approximately 2 million visitors a month, australia.gov.au is a critical pathway for users to find Australian government information and services online.  

To keep the site relevant, responsive and aligned to the broader trends in digital government, we gathered user analysis and embarked on benchmarking with other government agencies both here and overseas.  We then conducted many rounds of research and user testing that helped us understand and prioritise needs from a user perspective.   We came up with a prototype (or Alpha site) to demonstrate the concept.  Critical areas for improvement were identified, including interface, interaction and information architecture.

Now with our first iteration of the Beta site live to the public, we are seeking general feedback, ideas and recommendations from people who use the site and people from the wider digital and design communities. When viewing the site, please be aware that the depth and breadth of content is such to provide enough to cover on our most popular topics and is understandably less than what is provided on its parent site.

How you can help

We welcome and encourage feedback from the public. We’re interested in your experience with certain aspects of the site. These are 1) ease of access and use from the device of your choice, 2) the logical order of content and navigation, and 3) the contextualisation and presentation of the information.

Simply visit and navigate through beta.australia.gov.au either on a computer, tablet or smart phone. Feedback can be provided on the site or via email to govdesign@finance.gov.au.

Regards
Sharyn Clarkson

Comments (3)

Hi Sharyn

On behalf of everyone who works on the GOVT.NZ site here in New Zealand, please pass on our congratulations to your team. We're rather chuffed we've been an inspiration for the new australia.gov.au site - and we're really looking forward to learning from you as the journey unfolds.

Following an alpha - beta - live approach has been totally successful for us, and I know you've already seen the benefits iterating quickly through design variations as you collect more evidence of user needs.

One of the things we will be watching closely is your approach to content. Just how detailed will the content on australia.gov.au need to be to be useful to users, while maintaining a smooth hand-off to other agency websites. This is something Govt.nz is still assessing.

We'll do what we can to drum-up lots of feedback for your beta, there's enough of us ex-pat Aussie's over here that I'm sure will have lots of good feedback.

Talk soon!

Nathan Wall
Information architect
Government Information Services | Department of Internal Affairs (New Zealand)

Great work on launching the beta website.

My initial 20-second review is that I noticed that the search function does leave some to be desired - it currently mimics the existing public website in which the search results list the title of the content node.

However I believe a 'Fuzzy' search would be better to satisfy the user intent, because people have different search habits that may not necessarily fit the information architecture formally structured in the website's taxonomy. A fuzzy search would be simply to set-up in Drupal and would definitely help drive the users to find the content they were looking for if the search results were more contextual to their initial query.

I look forward to all the great feedback you get when users tackle the beta website.

Regards,
Peter Macinkovic
Digital Strategy Consultant / Apex Action

Hi Peter,

Thanks for your comment and we really appreciate you taking the time to provide feedback. We have gone with a very basic Drupal search with our first release of beta.australia.gov.au - just something to get us up and running - but over the next few weeks we will be working to get something better in place.

We completely agree that this sort of site users need more than just a basic search of website pages. We do a number of things with search on our main website (www.australia.gov.au) to help people find what they are looking for. I am not sure if you would describe this as fuzzy search, but some examples are: searching metadata as well as content pages, having relevance rankings and dealing with truncation, synonyms and misspellings.

We hope to carry some of these features over to the beta site, and also try out some new features like curated query completion. Keep watching and letting us know what you think as we progress.

Regards,
Vanessa (from the beta.australia.gov.au team)

Last updated: 24 August 2016