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Transform 16: Redesigning the Citizen Experience, Dana Chisnell

As we approach the first Web Directions conference of the year, Transform 2017 in Canberra on 29-30 March, we’re going to remind you of the talks from the first Transform conference in 2016. These extracts are taken from Wrap magazine, the free digital magazine we publish after every conference that summarises every presentation (and a bit more). You are welcome to download this and every issue of Wrap. Transform 2016 took place at Old Parliament House in Canberra, 18-19 May 2016. 

Redesigning the Citizen Experience

Dana Chisnell, Design researcher, US Digital Service

Dana Chisnell

Key points

Authentication is a serious problem for users, a major obstacle to getting things done, yet is a requirement for interacting with government online.

In 2013, healthcare.gov was launched, a centrepiece of the US President’s health insurance program. On the first day, 2.8 million people were unable to sign up because the user authentication system failed. The US Digital Service was established as a result.

Healthcare: Dana Chisnell

The 20th century notion that it’s less risky to define the system completely upfront, to know everything and then make it, no longer fits.

Online services have to be designed to be agile and iterative to respond to changing user needs.

Governments need to stop using technology as a tool for supporting the administration of government, and start being a user-focused service delivery mechanism that’s infused with technology.

“Authentication might be the most despised form in information technology.”


Government is in the business of building and maintaining systems for service delivery.

The service is actually a designed experience, whether we intentionally designed it or not.

We need to deliver better small things, which – when combined – make better overall systems.

The way that government delivers value is through continuous delivery and continuous improvement of digital and information technology phased services.

Redesigning the citizen experience happens at every single layer, and reusable open-source components make development and delivery faster and more reliable.

There is an obvious, immediate and achievable goal in coordinating user authentication across government departments.

“Start digital transformation with the back end first.”


It’s not (only) about money. US federal agencies spend $80 billion a year on IT. That should deliver amazing service, but anyone who has interacted with government knows this isn’t true.

Transform 16 Dana Chisnell

Hope is not a strategy for launching software.

Managing user authentication is not just a tech issue, it’s a people issue.

Don’t tell people about the value of design – demonstrate it.

It turns out that democracy is actually a design problem.




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