https://hmrctransition.blog.gov.uk/2014/01/31/collaborating-to-improve-how-users-contact-hmrc/

Collaborating to improve how users contact HMRC

My name is Julie White and I work in the Contact Portfolio team of HMRC Digital Services.

Over the past few weeks we've been collaborating closely with GDS on the contacts application for GOV.UK, to help our users find the right HMRC contact to answer their questions.

The contacts application is a new feature for GOV.UK and will replace the HMRC Contact us tool on our existing website. It will also provide a single place for anyone to find contact details for any government department or agency. HMRC has led on the development of the application, working with the HMRC transition team in GDS.

We have some exciting ideas for how this feature could develop in the longer term, but our immediate aims are to:

  • provide a single place for all contact details, making it easier for customers to find a phone number or an online form, and to avoid duplication of contact details on GOV.UK
  • offer customers alternative or better contact methods so that they find the best option for them, eg using an online form instead of picking up the phone

It’s been very interesting to see how the contacts application has developed through each stage, and to experience working within an agile environment.

Having direct input and working together with GDS has not only given us a sense of ownership over the project but has also allowed us to influence it. GDS has really welcomed our team's input at each stage. We've participated in design and planning workshops, as well as observing external user testing sessions.

These sessions took place in the users' own homes, using their own devices. This was a new experience for us having previously conducted user testing in a more controlled lab-based environment. It proved to be a unique opportunity to see how our customers use our content.

The workshops and user testing sessions also gave us some important insights into the application’s functionality. We found that users experienced difficulty navigating it, identifying work to do to improve the design.

Overall, users liked the idea of a single access point for contacting HMRC, which was encouraging to hear.

The next stage is to use all the useful feedback to redesign and refine the application, and then we'll start testing all over again.

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2 comments

  1. Comment by Ezra Campo-De'Ath posted on

    Hello Julie,

    Interesting blog post. Can you give more details?

    Screen shots of the early iterations?
    What database software powers it?
    Is it built on open source protocols? If not, why not?
    Will APIs be available so external developers can use what will be a vast database of Govt contacts? If not, why not?
    Will GDS be building any mobile 'contact a Govt Department' apps?

    Thanks

    Ezra

    Reply
    • Replies to Ezra Campo-De'Ath>

      Comment by Nick Cammell posted on

      Hi Ezra

      Thanks for your comment. The team are just finalising the new designs for the contacts application on GOV.UK and are aiming to get the application onto public beta in a few weeks so that anyone can see it and try it out. We'll let you know as soon as it's available and we'll be blogging with a lot more details about it.

      The code will be opensource (this is one of the principles in the service design manual) and available on github. The data will not be available through an API initially, but it is our intention to make one available as part of the wider GOV.UK work to make more data available through an API.

      See Action 6 in the Government Digital Strategy: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/government-digital-strategy/action-6-case-study-encouraging-third-parties-to-develop-services-on-top-of-our-apis

      I will ask Matt Ford, the developer leading the project, to write a blog about the technical infrastructure behind the application. In the meantime, the developer community in GDS have their own blog that you might be interested in: https://gdstechnology.blog.gov.uk

      You also asked "Will GDS be building any mobile 'contact a Govt Department' apps? It's unlikely that GDS will be producing a mobile app for this. GOV.UK is designed to work on mobile browsers so a mobile app is not generally necessary. You can read more about this approach to apps from Tom Loosemore: https://gds.blog.gov.uk/2013/03/12/were-not-appy-not-appy-at-all/

      Reply

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