Service design creates consistent online customer experience
The hel.fi website is one of Finland’s biggest online portals and the main City of Helsinki channel of communication. The website contains approximately 500,000 pages and contents in more than 10 languages. The website was visited more than 30 million times in 2021.
The reform of hel.fi centres on service design.
The goal is to build consistent customer experience with the help of customer journey maps, to improve how services are presented and to ensure clear contents in order that citizens can find the information they need.
Consistent customer journeys also mean that the boundary between the website and digital services is seamless and that citizens can be offered targeted, even proactive service.
Design team of more than 10 experts
The website reform is carried out by a dedicated digital design team established for the project. The team includes three service designers, two user interface designers and a content designer. The team also includes design consultants from the City’s partnering agencies.
During the first year of website reform, the design team developed a design-driven model for the project. The Covid-19 pandemic compelled the design team to use novel methods to engage customers, and a hel.fi customer community was founded online in summer 2020.
During the second year of reform, the designers conceptualised more than 10 theme sites ranging from housing to studies to elderly services. In addition, the design team launched a visual concept based on Helsinki’s brand identity to be utilised by new City of Helsinki website platforms.
Customer research and testing ensure true customer orientation
The development of digital services always begins by gathering customer insights. Design research steered by hel.fi service designers enables the City to understand the everyday realities, needs and challenges of citizens.
The online hel.fi customer community engages more than 600 citizens in a lively debate, to participate in various research tasks and to test new service concepts.
Integral elements of the hel.fi design team’s customer research include assessments of digital customer experience and utilisation of visitor data, that is, analytics, to support continuous improvement of digital services. Hel.fi designers ensure the usability and accessibility of services by testing with users both prototypes and released services.
User interface design creates a new visual identity and ensures accessibility
The City of Helsinki brand identity is also seen and felt in digital environments. Based on the brand identity, the hel.fi design team has developed a new visual concept that better conveys the feel of the city online. The new visual concept ensures that the City’s more than one thousand digital channels convey a uniform user experience.
Hel.fi designers create user interface components and page templates that City website platforms use to offer easy-to-use and accessible solutions to hundreds of City websites. User interface designers work with service design in the creation of prototypes for new service concepts and in close cooperation with software development, thus ensuring the implementation of services.
Content designers develop clear and accessible contents
An area of design that is growing in relevance in City of Helsinki design operations owing to the hel.fi project is content design. To ensure clear and accessible contents, the content designers of the hel.fi design team work in close cooperation with City of Helsinki communication experts to develop customer-oriented materials.
Content designers create new site maps, and they test the online tone of voice and the clarity and accessibility of contents with customers.
Content designers also improve the overall content production process, in order that materials for the City website will continue to be produced in an agile manner with due attention to customer needs and feedback.
Design and agile development ensure the implementation of services
A special feature of digital design is the implementation of services. This requires a new type of design expertise from the City. Digital service development is carried out with software development and ICT architects, and design should create technically feasible and cost-efficient concepts both seamlessly and in an agile manner.
The hel.fi design team has learned to combine agile software development with design, for example, with sprints and product backlogs. The design team has also trained product owners in cooperation with the City’s agility coaches. During the first 1.5 years, the project trained 14 product owners throughout the City organisation, and they are now outstandingly equipped to lead design and software development projects.
All in all, the hel.fi reform project has taught the City a great deal about the operation of design teams and how to systemise design operations inside the City organisation.
The hel.fi design team has collaborated with several design agencies including Kuudes Helsinki, Digitalist, Futurice and Pentagon Design.
Photo: Marek Sabogal, N2 Albiino