Government web sites fall short on support for life events

UK government webs sites meant to provide support to citizens facing major 'life events' are falling short of the task, according to a report released by Kable , an independent research company.

These sites, part of Transformational Government scheme started in 2005, are meant to provide access to information, forms, and advice for dealing with key events in life - which include having a baby, starting a businesses, moving house, buying or selling a vehicle privately, booking a hospital appointment, dealing with a death, and putting a relative into care.

However, the research conducted by Kable found that the three most stressful and important events to citizens - having a baby, dealing with a death, and placing a relative into care - were rated as the events with the least online support.

People were also still frustrated with the fact that most of the required transactions associated with these events cannot be completed online. In fact, the report showed that just 33 per cent could be done online in full.

"The research clearly highlights the need for government to focus on improving 'customer' experience if it wants to drive take up of online services and improve efficient service delivery," said James Walker, director of innovation at EzGov , the company that commissioned the report.

Walker also added that reducing the number of government web sites alone is not enough to improve usability.

"The key to Transformational Government maturity is better integration," he said.

Recommendations for improving the government's online services include providing an interactive "to-do list," similar to the one already offered on the Businesslink site for starting a business, making it easier for users to navigate through these life events at their own pace by saving their progress.

Walker also said online services should be more customizable by asking users direct questions to determine their specific circumstances, and that they should work in conjunction with trusted communities and local trusted groups to provide support.