The Department of Finance’s Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority (IPEA) decided to explore the viability of developing an application (app) for mobile and tablet devices.
The app was to be designed for parliamentarians and their staff to assist with the decision-making process relating to travel at Commonwealth expense.
It was also required to be interactive, user-friendly and primarily used as a tool to engage and educate parliamentarians with scenarios that apply to travel.
The app was to look professional, modern, uncluttered and incorporate the IPEA logo and branding. The development of the app was to link in with the redevelopment of the IPEA website that OPC delivered in 2017.
When deciding on the appropriate technology, we consider vital criteria such as the risks and constraints involved, building a sustainable system that is easily managed once live, identifying infrastructure to successfully and continuously deliver while having a procurement approach that does not limit ongoing delivery.
We understood the Department’s desire for a mobile app, as IPEA educational content is intended for users who are primarily travelling and may not have easy access to a computer. However, we believed the cost to develop and maintain an app to be excessive and unnecessary, especially since the scope of the project did not include any functionality specific to mobile platforms.
We proposed a more sustainable and cost-effective option; a ‘mobile first’ website that would closely resemble an app, be accessed from mobile devices in the same way as an app, but for a fraction of the price.
Why OPC was selected
OPC has a long-standing association with the Department of Finance. Our prior experience in developing the Department’s intranet and designing and developing the maps.finance.gov.au website and the existing ipea.gov.au website, combined with our extensive experience with both Drupal 7 and 8 and GovCMS, ensured that we could deliver all elements of the project (including accessibility and responsive design changes) to the very highest standard.
We have a solid reputation for completing our projects on time and on budget.
OPC’s Drupal developers had the skills and experience to deliver the outcomes specified in the Department’s request in a new and innovative format.
Project goals, requirements and outcomes
As outlined above, the original request was for a mobile friendly app to be used by parliamentarians and their staff while travelling. When the department accepted OPC’s proposal of a mobile-first website, the requirements included:
- Interactive decision trees.
- Promotion of trends / statistics and current travel advice ‘Did you know?’ type scenarios.
- Alignment with the requirements of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, Digital Transformation Agency’s Digital Service Standard and compliance with Finance IT systems and platforms.
- Secure storage of users’ (Parliamentarians and their staff) personal information.
- IPEA to have the ability to edit the content of the app easily using approvals (quality assurance) and workflows.
- Basic training for staff.
- Completion before the federal election.
The project began with the development of interactive black and white wireframes that allowed us to show IPEA how the site would both look and function. This allowed us to rapidly iterate on the basic design elements and the functionality before committing to generating a series of full colour final designs.
Once the wireframes were approved, OPC pitched two design iterations to IPEA on a visual look and feel of the site. After analysing their feedback, we pitched a third design that that pushed the envelope further than most Government websites, and IPEA approved.
With the design and visual language confirmed, we began development of the underlying Drupal 7 components on a stand-alone development website, being cautious to keep all changes as contained as possible, as the final step in delivery would be picking the up the IPEA:ED components from our development environment and placing them into the existing IPEA environment.
We implemented Paragraphs, which provides the content authors greater control over their content, being able to use the standard Drupal editor to add different types of content into any given page. Rather than just adding text to a page, content authors can dynamically add interactive Checklists, Accordion style FAQs, embed Webforms and add decision trees, all from the standard Drupal editor without the need for additional code releases.
Once the functionality was complete and the content was being finalised, it was decided to migrate the site from the Development environment onto the live IPEA website before final content was imported.
After all functionality was migrated across to the live IPEA website, the new Educational section was set to be viewable by IPEA staff and Administrators only. This ‘soft-launch’ period gave both OPC and the IPEA:ED team time to iron out any bugs that arose from migrating between environments and conduct final user acceptance testing before final release.
This also allowed us to conduct user training in what would be the final live environment, but without any risk of accidental changes being visible to the public.
Support and maintenance
OPC provided post-launch support to ensure any issues immediately following the site launch were resolved within a timely manner, however due to the initial soft launch into the IPEA environment, thorough user testing and the ability for content authors to manage 99% of the visible content on the site, the number of bugs was minimal.
The critical element within this project was the principal of user centred design, and the crucial role of user experience in the success of the website design. This not only includes the visual components but also identifying exactly how users need to interact with the website, specifically through mobile use, and the ease with which user’s access and digest information.
This involved a thorough understanding of the website's objectives before applying the right visual solutions to direct the user experience, while considering the simplest and most intuitive ways to impart (write) and execute (present) the content.
OPC were able to successfully deliver a responsive, user-centered, simple, WCAG compliant website. The dedicated mobile platform including supporting materials and video content, provides easy-access education anywhere, anytime for parliamentarians and their staff on their obligations when spending public funds.
OPC delivered the project in April, in a total of four weeks - well before the election deadline.
The project has been so successful that the IPEA:ED project was recently nominated for an IPAA Innovation Award (Culture and Capability category) for the innovative website and educational resources. Read our blog about their win here.
We are extremely happy with the final product delivered to IPEA and are very proud that a project we were involved with was nominated and won an innovation award.
We look forward to working with IPEA again on future projects and congratulate them on their hard work and vision to push the boundaries of what a Government website can be.