We’re always on the lookout for interesting uses of stories, so a presentation at UPA 2010 caught our attention.
We know user research can find juicy story tidbits. And that those fragments can be crafted into stories that illuminate context and motivations. We’ve seen personas used as part of navigation, to help people find the right section of a web site.
Thea van der Geest and Lex van Velsen took this one step further. Their work at the University of Twente Center for e-Government Studies explored ways to help people navigate the complex world of government services to determine what support they are eligible for.
Their idea is simple: create a set of narratives that show situations in which people might receive help. Let visitors to the e-government site pick one that is close to their life. But then, they allow the user to customize the narrative to make it “just like me.”
The story shows someone living in a different city? Change it to yours. Adjust the age, gender, and income, and… Using your details, the program recalculates your eligibility and changes the story to reflect the new situation.
This is still a research project, but initial results were promising. Participants in evaluations identified with the stories — “It’s just like me” and “I’m not the only one” and liked the personal tone of voice. They wanted to be sure the results were accurate, so the authority of the site is important. But, they had to be prompted to make changes, so there’s work to do on the interaction design.
They reported on two projects: finding subsidies for domestic help and applying for a work permit as a new immigrant to the Netherlands. Both of these tasks cross several different government agencies, so it can be difficult to find all the information you need.
Their conclusion about this interesting research. Personal narratives:
- Seem to work best for those who lack confidence (self-efficacy) and seek confirmation
- Seem to work better for determining eligibility than for creating overview of procedures
- Make people feel that organizations ‘ know them’
- Convey less source authority than expository text
If you’d like to read more about the larger project, it is included in:
Van Velsen, L., Van der Geest, T., Ter Hedde, M. & Derks, W. (2009). Requirements engineering for e-Government services: A citizen-centric approach and case study. Government Information Quarterly, 26 (3), 477-486
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