Australian Government Architecture

Digital Service Standard v1.0


The Digital Service Standard v2.0 was released on 4 December 2023. For the 2024-25 Budget process, agencies going through the DCAP Assessment will be required to meet the Digital Service Standard v1.0.

This page outlines the Digital Service Standard v1.0. Click here for guides and tools on how to meet the Standard.

1. Understand user needs

Research to develop a deep knowledge of the users and their context for using the service.

Why it's in the Standard

You need to understand the people who use your service (your users) and what they want to do (their user needs) in order to build a service that works for them. You need to understand users and their needs from their point of view and not solely through the lens of the project you have been tasked with.

To do this, you will need to really understand what users are trying to do when they encounter your part of the service and you need to design services that address that context. This will often involve understanding things that are not ‘in scope’ or part of your responsibility so that you can design better services.

You will need to understand all aspects (end to end and across channels) of your users’ current experience. You should include as users everyone who is involved in the service delivery: end users, public servants delivering the service and other intermediaries who support end users to access the service.

Your user research needs to cover a wide range of users and show that you understand how different user scenarios may impact service design and delivery. You must include from the earliest stages users who may need assistance to interact digitally, or are unable to interact digitally at all.

2. Have a multidisciplinary team

Establish a sustainable multidisciplinary team to design, build, operate and iterate the service, led by an experienced product manager with decision-making responsibility.

Why it's in the Standard

Good government services are built quickly and iteratively, based on user needs. Your digital delivery team must be set up in the right way to do this.

They need:

  • a broad mix of skills and roles from the start
  • quick decision-making processes and the ability to change and adapt as the service evolves
  • to be adequately resourced and empowered to deliver the product or service

3. Agile and user-centred process

Design and build the service using the service design and delivery process, taking an agile and user-centred approach.

Why it's in the Standard

Designing services in a user-centred way means that the services you deliver will be easy to use and convenient for the people who need to use them, helping them to stay in the digital channel.

Designing using agile methods allows you to be more proactive and respond easily to change, both in technology and government policy. Services should be improved frequently; they will be cheaper and more accountable to users.

4. Understand tools and systems

Understand the tools and systems required to build, host, operate and measure the service and how to adopt, adapt or procure them.

Why it's in the Standard

The technology you choose to build your service must help you respond quickly and regularly to the needs and expectations of users. This criteria makes sure you:

  • consider all the risks and constraints associated with the technology you choose
  • avoid contracts that lock you into particular solutions and limit your ability to make decisions to improve the service
  • build a sustainable system that can be easily managed once live
  • identify the required infrastructure to successfully and continuously deliver the digital service
  • have a procurement approach that will not restrict, inhibit or limit ongoing and future service delivery
  • consider existing tools and systems and avoid unnecessary fragmentation and/or costs
  • consider appropriate tools and systems already in use in government
  • embed measurement tools at the start of development

5. Make it secure

Identify the data and information the service will use or create. Put appropriate legal, privacy and security measures in place.

Why it's in the Standard

People who use government services must have confidence that:

  • any information they provide is confidential and stored appropriately
  • the system they’re using is safe and secure
  • they know how their information will be used by government
  • they can easily retrieve information they provide

If a service cannot guarantee confidentiality, integrity and availability of the system, people will not use it.

6. Consistent and responsive design

Build the service with responsive design methods using common design patterns and the style guide for digital content.

Why it's in the Standard

Using responsive design, following common design patterns and style guidance for digital content, and making sure the service is accessible means it will be user-friendly, inclusive, adaptable, and measurable. It will also be available on the platforms and devices that users choose.

Consistent design that is responsive to different devices helps you to save time and money by re-using something that already exists that follows better practice, and is based on data and user research. This means you can concentrate on the unique things your service needs to do.

Responsive design ensures that users can interact with your service regardless of their device size or type, and browser or device processing power. The service should follow mobile-first design principles, consider users on slow internet connections or 

with limited download data, work well for both mouse and touch devices, and use front-end technology that works well regardless of device processing power.

Writing and designing content so it is consistent, plain and in the language of your users helps people gain trust and confidence in using different services. By providing information they can easily understand they may be less likely to use alternative websites that could be misleading.

7. Use open standards and common platforms

Build using open standards and common government platforms where appropriate.

Why it's in the Standard

Using open standards and common government platforms helps you to:

  • meet the needs of your users by building with proven solutions
  • make users’ experience of government more consistent, which generates trust
  • save time and money by reusing things that are already available
  • be more efficient by sharing data appropriately
  • move between different technologies when you need to, avoiding vendor lock-in

8. Make source code open

Make all new source code open by default.

Why it's in the Standard

It’s important to share your source code so others with a similar need can reuse it.

Open source helps to:

  • reduce costs for your project and others’
  • avoid lock-in
  • stop duplication
  • increase transparency
  • add benefits, from improvements by other developers

9. Make it accessible

Ensure the service is accessible and inclusive of all users regardless of their ability and environment.

Why it's in the Standard

You need to make sure everyone who needs your service can use it. This includes people with disability and older people, and people who can’t use, or struggle with, digital services.

Your service must be accessible to users regardless of their digital confidence and access to a digital environment. This includes users in remote areas and users with different devices.

You also have a legal requirement to ensure your service is usable and accessible to people with disabilities (see the Disability Discrimination Act 1992). Australian Government agencies are required to meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Level 2.1

10. Test the service

Test the service from end to end, in an environment that replicates the live version.

Why it's in the Standard

All government services should be user-friendly and easy to use, regardless of the technology your users use, their expertise with the subject matter, or their level of digital skill.

You cannot wait until the service is live to discover problems that stop people from using the service. You need to rigorously and comprehensively test every part of the service during development.

11. Measure performance

Measure the performance of your service and understand what outcomes it is delivering. Report results to your stakeholders openly and regularly to encourage continuous improvement.

Why it's in the Standard

Every service should aim for continuous improvement. Metrics are an important starting point for discussions about a service’s strengths and weaknesses. By measuring performance, you can help answer questions that people care about.

  • what is and isn’t working?
  • what value or benefit does this service provide to users?
  • where can a service be improved? (time, cost, ease of use)
  • have we achieved what we set out to achieve?

There are a few common problems to avoid in performance measurement for government services:

  • the achievement of targets or outputs becomes more important than meeting user needs
  • reliance on what is easy to count, rather than what should be counted
  • failure to adjust to social, demographic, and economic factors that impact performance data
  • measuring after something has changed, without getting a baseline to compare to first.

What is a performance indicator?

A performance indicator is a signal used to monitor a service or system. These signals can include:

  • inputs/outputs – such as money, headcount, physical resources, human resources, time
  • activities – such as calls responded to, units delivered, reports completed
  • outcomes – the result a person experienced because they used a service.

Input and activity data provide only part of the picture of how a service is performing. This is where user research can help you learn more about why something is performing the way it is.

By using a combination of qualitative and quantitative indicators, you will be better placed to understand what is happening for your service and why.

Key performance indicators

Identifying and capturing the right indicators can ensure all your decisions for new or existing services are evidence-driven. The following key performance indicators are a strong start to monitoring your service:

  • outcome – what outcome happened for a person because they interacted with the service?
  • value add – what are the user benefits of this service? What is the return on investment?
  • completion rate and time – how easy or fast is it for a person to move through your service? How many people drop out and do not complete, and why?
  • cost per transaction – how cost efficient is your service for the user and for government?

There are other metrics your service can use to understand how it is performing, such as:

  • error rates
  • uptime – including cloud service performance
  • response/load times – use global standards to compare your results (current best practice is 2 seconds or less)
  • content metrics – such as readability level, scroll depth, and search bar use
  • audience – is your service reaching the expected demographics? Why or why not?
  • repeatability – is the service provided in a consistent and dependable manner?
  • digital take up – this shows how your digital service is being used compared to alternate channels. It can be helpful to understand which channels are more popular or accessible, and why. Remember that not all services and not all people are able to use a digital option
  • user satisfaction – where and how you ask for this feedback matters. Consider face-to-face and anonymous avenues for feedback to support people in providing honest responses.

If your service is compliance based, ways to measure user satisfaction could include:

  • communication and expectations – people know what to do and how long it will take up front, and what they are told is what happens
  • fairness – people may not be happy with the result, but feel they were treated fairly and with respect throughout the service
  • behavioral changes – for example, people demonstrate changes in actions or decisions
  • self-identified results – people provide feedback on how a service made a difference in their life or helped them meet a need.

Be wary of commercial methods of measuring user satisfaction such as Net Promoter Score. These types of measurement do not always translate well in the public arena because they assume people using a service can take their business elsewhere or are interacting with the service by choice.

Share your results

No service can be monitored in a vacuum. Share results with your team to identify areas of improvement. This keeps the team human-focused and makes it easier to explore and prioritise enhancements.

Share results with your stakeholders to tell the story of how the service is currently working, and to raise any issues that may impact service delivery early. Think beyond reports, such as showcases, blogs, short videos and inter-agency meet-ups. Find interactive ways to help communicate more broadly the results your service is experiencing.

Share key metrics with the public and the people who access your service. This builds trust and can encourage people to give you feedback, because it demonstrates you listen and use it to make the service better for themselves and others.

Always consider the audience you share your performance results with, and ensure you are meeting Australian privacy principles and laws.

12. Don't forget the non-digital experience

Ensure that people who use the digital service can also use the other available channels if needed, without repetition or confusion.

Why it's in the Standard

People often start using a service and have to come back to it later, or switch to a non-digital channel to complete the transaction. We need to make sure users’ transitions between non-digital and digital channels (when they need to happen) are as smooth as possible.

13. Encourage everyone to use the digital service

Encourage users to choose the digital service and consolidate or phase out existing alternative channels where appropriate.

Why it's in the Standard

As we build user-friendly, inclusive, adaptable, and measurable, government services, the digital channel will become more convenient for users than non-digital channels like post, phone and shopfronts. Increased digital take-up will mean users can spend less time interacting with government. This will result in greater cost efficiencies for government.

We still need to help users who are unable to use digital channels and provide support to those who need it. But we want to ensure digital channels are used whenever possible and to scale back, or phase out, alternative channels when we can.

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