Day#236: Home Affairs, what a sordid affair

Day#236: Home Affairs, what a sordid affair

Hey Uxers today I wanted to discuss the disaster that is South African Home Affairs. I recently needed information on a specific task and it took me forever to find the section that would detail that information. On site itself does pose a lot of UX fails and clearly shows that not enough attention was placed on understanding its users and presenting information in a clear and concise fashion.

Government operating systems and institutions

Firstly As a side note I think that these types of institutions should have operating hours on the weekend, these types of issues are stressful enough and very drawn out, it would be easier for users if they had to go into the department that it would be on the weekend. However this would probably influence salaries as staff would need to be paid weekend wages, however just changing the structure and having staff have off time during the week could result in a different schedule. The best idea here would be to have an online system for all transactions (aaaah birds chirping in the distance and fairies riding unicorns, what a magical world it would be)

This would basically entail that users could perhaps upload their documents to be updated, or approved etc and make applications online. It is a sad situation when a functional site like that has still not been created for all RSA citizens.

What needs to be considered to make the site more user friendly, (below I will have a basic step by step guide of how the site can be improved and what my various ideas for a better user experience would be)

Conducting initial interview with users

These users can possibly be approached by mail or cell and implored to share a bit of their time with Researchers so that the User Persona’s can be generated. Using incentives is a great way to encourage involvement, however I have noticed in the past that too great an incentive can result in participants wanting to rush through to test to simply get to the incentive. Check out my post here on building personas

Information Architecture

Next I would say a huge issue with the Home Affairs site is that the information Architecture (moving forward I will simply refer to it as IA) is very messy. It often confuses me about where to find certain sections and IA refers not only to the main categories that you will find in the navigation, but also the sub categories that one will find nested within certain sections. See my post here on IA

Now the question is, how does one ascertain the order that people expect or would understand the IA? And for this I refer to card sorting, card sorting can be a great way to understand the mental models that people create about topics that you need to display. Conducting card sorting activities with one’s potential and current users is a great way to ascertain how people group content, check out my post on Card sorting here.

Before I move on I wanted to touch on the reference that I made to mental models, just briefly mental models are very self explanatory it basically is how people build a specific idea on something in their minds. With sites that are very information dense it becomes crucial to understand how users see IA clusters and nested content as well understand shortfalls in possible naming conventions that are being used. Check out my post here on Mental Models and understanding them in UX

Once you understand the users, create personas and then have conducted Card sorting activities to understand the IA. It becomes evident that a prototype has to be built, starting with low fidelity prototypes which can then be tested with corridor testing internally as well as externally with the participants collected in the pool of suggested people who can be contacted for these types of activities. Usability testing will help to ascertain if the product is on the right track and if necessary what changes need to be made when creating the higher fidelity prototype. The high fidelity prototype can then be created and tested with more usability testing to fine tune the product some more. A project is never complete, users mature and change, and business and project goals may also change over time, that is why continual iterations have to be made to the product as the product ages and matures itself.

When I look at the Home Affairs site it is as stated in the title a very sordid affair, it seems as if Home Affairs is utilizing the most important real estate to promote how involved Government officials are. This is a bi mistake a lot of businesses do with their online presence, they see it as a way to inform users of the long company history or logistics etc. Users care about performing their basic activities, and finding out info on how to do those activities. It hinders their process from getting to what they want swiftly by forcing them to go through a user journey that is not aligned with their goals. I am strongly thinking of doing a personal project and redoing a lot of these badly constructed sites with UX fundamentals in mind, happy researching until next time Uxers

Bye for now



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