Transform 16: Transforming Government Communication and Content, Dan Hon

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, 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. 

Transforming Government Communication and Content

Dan Hon, Director of Content, Code for America

Dan Hon

Key points

40% of Californians eligible for the US food stamps program were not receiving the benefits they were entitled to.

62% of people signing up online gave up because the process, requiring answers to 100-200 questions that can take several hours, was too hard.

After all that, most applications were not approved, often due to errors or omissions in the application.

Even though everyone agrees food stamps are a good thing, the process for obtaining them denied those who were often the most needy AND the least able to handle a complex online process.

Government lags behind the commercial world: 17 minutes on hold to reschedule an appointment versus the Uber’s onboarding process.

“Government really matters because it’s the last resort.”

Dan Hon, Transform 16


Service content needs to be purpose-designed, taking into account specific user needs.

Compassionate design is empathetic and understanding of users’ needs, limitations and aspirations.

The low income users who rely the most on government services use more mobile devices than desktop or laptop, yet the websites are not responsive.

When we talk about meeting user needs we should mean real user needs, not made up marketing messages.

The hard work is on us to make their lives easier. That is the deal we made when we decided to work in government.

The battleship approach has to be broken down in an agile, iterative way that addresses researched user needs.

“Just slow down and take the time to write simply, clearly and in plain English.”

Dan Hon, Transform 16


When users put in the effort and are not rewarded with outcomes, they give up. Even when it comes to entitlements.

Content isn’t just a thing that is written. It’s something that has to be designed.

Writing is part of the content design process but it’s not what you start with.

Policy and delivery must sit together.

Digital transformation is hard work: really, really hard work. But not impossible.

Dam Hon, Transform 16




Dan Hon tweets

Dan Hon tweets

Dan Hon tweets

Comments are closed.