Romance isn’t often associated with data science, but the New Zealand Government would beg to differ. They used analytics to overhaul the marriages section of their e-government portal Govt.NZ. The steps taken by the digital team are instructive on how government can use data to improve public services.

Prioritise needs with data

First, the team looked to understand what people need from government, how much demand there is and how they are interacting with existing services. “We’re following the agile theory that the top needs should be prioritised,” the team writes on their blog.

The team used Google Adwords to find out what are the most popular terms people search for on Google. “‘Marriage certificate’ is the most searched-for term in Google and is therefore a popular need,” it adds.

It used Google Analytics to find the most visited marriage-related pages on the Department of Internal Affair’s website. The page on ‘Get a marriage license’ had over 100,000 unique pageviews last year, for instance.

The data also showed that 2,500 people searched for ‘divorce’ on the DIA website, whereas divorce information is provided by another department.

Finally, the team looked at the department’s call centre data to find out how much demand there is. Turns out marriage is the second-most called about topic.

User experience

The team spoke to call centre staff to get feedback on users’ experience in finding marriage information and their biggest frustrations.

There were three key findings. First, people call because they want to double check that they have covered all the required steps. Second, the locations of marriage registry offices is hard to find online. And third, people get confused with jargon – for example, the difference between marriage licences and certificates.

Involving call centre staff was the “one of the best decisions we made”, the team says. “Their superior user knowledge and drive to help improve the user experience helped us to prioritise the most important needs”.

The solution

The Govt.NZ team’s solutions to these specific problems were to create a broad timeline covering all the steps to get married, including the difference between certificates and licences.

The website will also now provide contact details of registry offices. Their user research also found that people want to see photos of the offices to decide whether to hold their ceremony there, so the team will publish photos.

The website will also direct the right people to information on divorce. “Our aim is to channel people before they end up on the pages about marriage, as seeing this content [on divorce] when planning a wedding wouldn’t be the most positive user experience,” the team says.

While they can’t be responsible for how citizens use the marriage pages, the team at least ensured that the information they provide is a match made in heaven.