A lot of exciting things are happening across the NSW Government in the digital space, but there’s currently no consistent approach for how we design digital services, reusable components, websites, apps, and online registration processes to name a few. We've identified that providing better guidance, a standard, reference implementations, and support would get better outcomes for NSW.

So, we’re creating a Digital Design System (DDS for short) that’s a living, breathing repository of a standard, guides and reusable components to help teams across Government deliver consistent and cohesive digital services for our citizens and within Government.

Digital Design System

Initial concept structure for NSW Digital Design System

The DDS will be the go-to-place for all people involved in developing a digital service like policy officers, user researchers, service designers, developers, graphic designers, procurement officers, communications and engagement officers, data and business analysts, project managers, project sponsors, and technologists. The DDS will help these people design, deliver and continuously improve NSW Government digital services.

We’ve been looking at what industry and Governments around the world have been doing in this space for inspiration.

What we’ve found so far

Design systems are typically made up of:

  • Principles and/or standards that underpin how a service is designed 
  • Style guide to create a consistent look and feel (think branding, colours, typography)
  • Reusable components to build web interfaces (think a library of open source code for common features you see on the web like buttons, banners, checkboxes)
  • How-to guides for topic areas like accessible design and writing content

In short, a design system is ‘the bits to do the thing.’

Here are a few of the design systems we’ve looked at:

It’s important to set a standard to guide how we design good digital services.

We need to provide teams with an overarching standard about what good digital design means so we’re working towards a common goal. This standard is supported by the tools in the design system to help teams achieve it.

We’ve looked at range of industry and Government design standards and/or principles, including the Australian CommonwealthBBC GELItalyNew ZealandSeekSingapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

While the number and detail of the standards or principles varies (industry tends to have less and Government more), there are common themes that we’ve initially grouped into five buckets:

  1. Design for the user. This means:
    • identifying the problem and solving for it using evidence
    • understanding who the users are and their needs
    • leaving no one behind when we design, so that means making things accessible and available
    • understanding the nature of the environment you’re operating in, its limits and opportunities 
    • thinking about the service as-a-whole and designing end-to-end
    • addressing privacy and security
       
  2. Make sure there’s no unnecessary complexity. This means:
    • designing with purpose
    • focusing on what will deliver the most value for the user
    • the user can use the service the first go
       
  3. Create a consistent and familiar experience. This means:
    • unifying and reusing over re-inventing
    • making and using open source code
       
  4. Continuously improve output. This means:
    • starting small, testing and progressively improving based on evidence
    • being flexible, responsive and adaptive to change
    • building sustainable teams and products
       
  5. Collaborate, be open and share. This means:
    • sharing what we make and learn
    • getting the right mix of capabilities in the team

We’re using these buckets as a starting point to develop a Digital Design Standard that will include mandatory and best practice requirements.

What’s next

We’re using our research and a user centric design led approach, including the needs of service provider agencies, to help develop the DDS. 

We’ll be testing the DDS with users across Government. If you’re interested in taking part in user research, let us know in the comments section below or at digital@finance.nsw.gov.au

We’re also thinking about the name of the DDS. Do we ‘call it what it is’ like the ‘Digital Design Toolkit’; or come-up with a meaningful name like ‘Honeycomb’? We’d like to hear your thoughts!

Stay tuned for more updates on our progress.

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