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Usability discussion at the Palácio do Planalto - 26/11/2007

The usability specialist, Mercedes Sanchez, gave a speech at the seat of the Brazilian government (Palácio do Planalto) about the importance of usability on public web sites and systems.

The initiative came from SECOM, the President’s communication secretary, who organized a day of talks about usability, architecture and design, for all government internet managers. The event took place on the 21st of November, with talks from professors, specialists and professionals from the internet sector.

Mercedes Sanchez talked about the return on investment that the government could get by improving the usability of their web sites. She explained that it is not true that only financial and e-commerce web sites benefit, through returned investment, by improving the usability of their web sites. Information, NGO and government web sites can also gain significant increases in conversion rates, when their web site’s usability is improved.

The conversion rate represents the percentage of users who did what they are expected to do on the web site. For example, a web site adds a title to the home page advertising a new online service, 1000 users go onto the web site, 25 click on the link and use the new service, so the conversion rate is 2.5%.

As government web sites have a huge user base and as it is much cheaper to provide services online, even small improvements on the web sites, that increase conversion rates, result in huge savings to public money.

In the case of services which are carried out periodically, such as renewing vehicle documents (once a year) or paying taxes (every month), the results are even bigger, as the profits repeat themselves ever time.

Imagine how much the revenue department saved every year since they introduced online delivery of income tax returns. How much must they have spent producing, distributing and collecting the paper forms and manuals? Today almost 100% of tax returns are sent by internet.

Including usability in government discussions is an important step that deserves attention. We hope that now the practical part starts, in other words, that the government listens to its people, places them at the center of the creation and development of public web sites and carries out usability tests with real users. Only this way will everyone win: citizens will be able to use public web sites with ease and satisfaction, and the government will be able to offer a better service at a lower cost.

Usability specialist, Mercedes Sanchez, during her speech at the seat of the Brazilian government.

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