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The Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring Alpha Service Assessment Report

Government Digital Service

January 23
14:15 2021

From: Government Digital Service
Assessment date: 01/12/2020
Stage: Alpha
Result: Met
Service provider: Student Loan Company (SLC)

Service description

The Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM) is a significant change and improvement programme being delivered by SLC across its full range of customers and services. This element of that programme is the development of self-service tools. The service will enable customers to engage with SLC and address any issues they have by interacting directly through digital channels. By expanding online capabilities, we can provide more opportunities for students and their sponsors to self-serve, reducing the need for them to contact SLC and to follow up on their application for student finance. This will ultimately allow customers to have a more complete, end to end the digital journey with their student finance and enhance their student experience.

Service users

This service is for:

  • students applying for or have applied for student finance
  • sponsors providing financial information in support of a students application

The intention is to use these tools as part of all relevant SLC customer journeys, but initial development is focussing on one student finance journey.

1. Understand users and their needs

Decision

The service met point 1 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • research had been done with a range of users
  • the team appeared to have conducted research across a range of users with low digital skills and demonstrated an intimate understanding of how low digital skills presents in users who are so-called digital natives: young and frequent users of the internet
  • research was wide-ranging, the team had a clear and strong understanding of the majority of users. Primary features appeared to be responding to strong user needs. Needs were supplemented by analysis of calls to SLC. Its clear that there is a wealth of call data that has formed some of the decision-making around the platform

What the team needs to explore

Before their next assessment, the team needs to:

  • bring clarity to the way in which they link features to user needs. The panel felt that the platform may be attempting to support an ambitious number of features that do not all have a clear line of sight to user needs
  • bring clarity to how the team had done accessibility testing and understood complex user needs. The panel felt unsure as to assess how rigorous this was investigated. The panel was concerned that personas and user needs did not reflect the needs of vulnerable users.
  • prioritise testing with users who have an accessibility need, including users of assistive technologies (including screen readers). The panel felt this is especially important as the design diverges from GDS style.
  • continue to be aware of the risk of focussing research on an (albeit large) subset of the total user base, when the plan is to roll the products and approach out more widely

3. Provide a joined-up experience across all channels

Decision

The service met point 3 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • internal teams were involved in research which helped ensure the language that users would come across was the same language that would be used by customer service advisors
  • how the changes to the online service will affect the offline journey has been considered; for example, there is a clear journey for users who do not have access to the internet or who are low on the digital inclusion scale
  • the team is committed to offering a service to internal and external users with equivalent access to information in a transparent fashion

What the team needs to explore

Before their next assessment, the team needs to:

  • support the work of the assessment panel by clearly contextualising this work alongside other parts of the programme, to enable a better understanding of how the different elements contribute to the overall user experience

4. Make the service simple to use

Decision

The service met point 4 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • the service makes use of existing components from GDS and HMCTS design system such as the progress bar
  • the service is designed consistently to look like GOV.UK and will be linked from the existing Get undergraduate student finance: step by step journey
  • there is the awareness that the GDS Design system components will need to be recreated for use and compatibility on Salesforce in order to make sure the service is accessible and expertise will be brought in during beta to help with this
  • the service allows users to complete actions without relying on human assistance but also ensures human assistance is easy to find within the service
  • the service is reusing existing page patterns from other government services
  • the service prioritises solving the major pain points of the existing service, for example, making everything the user needs to complete their application available in one place and making it clear when a user needs to take action at each stage of their application
  • important notifications are sent to users via GOV.UK notify using email but users can also choose to be sent notifications by post

What the team needs to explore

Before their next assessment, the team needs to:

  • continue to implement key findings from usability testing into the beta while ensuring the content of the service is clear and easy to navigate- especially for users who may be using assistive technology
  • start working with a content designer to agree the hierarchy of content on the page and ensure it is logical
  • remove reliance on the bold text to indicate progress to users, and explore additional indicators
  • consider a different placement for the actions to complete lists and application progress tracker, currently the progress bar is within the main text and isnt immediately obvious what stage the application is in yet this was one of the key pain points from the research with users. The alert for the actions to complete is at the top of the page but isnt immediately followed by the list of actions, the users have to click a link to jump down the page to interact with these. Consider users with sight impairments using screen readers who may find this content structure confusing and difficult to follow
  • continue to iterate the your account page to make it easy to understand for all users, for example, consider using the GDS Design System accordions (https://design-system.service.gov.uk/components/accordion/) so the most important headings stand out
  • reconsider the placement of the navigation links and how much is immediately visible. Currently, the main content plus the navigation links to the right side of the page is structured in a way which could be overwhelming for users with thinking and understanding impairments such as dyslexia or ADHD
  • ensure the order of content within sections such as next important date, makes sense for the user, currently the date appears last, under secondary information
  • In order to follow best practice consider splitting content for student finance and supporting an application onto secondary navigation at the top of the page rather than using the tabs component for this distinction
  • ensure the service functions correctly across all devices and that important navigation links are not pushed to the bottom of the page

5. Make sure everyone can use the service

Decision

The service met point 5 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • research has been done with a range of users with different accessibility needs and who map both high and low the digital inclusion scale
  • there is an established route to allow users who may not have a permanent home address or internet access to access the service

What the team needs to explore

Before their next assessment, the

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