The NSW government has launched the first full iteration of its digital design system to help keep the look and feel of government services consistent and accelerate the development process.
But it is also expected to herald a tough new approach to development for agencies, with the government anticipated to mandate the system following the March 2019 state election.
The design system or toolkit has been developed over the past three months by the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation’s digital government team to provide agencies with a resource for designing and building digital services.
It takes cues from the design systems so some 80 public and private sector organisations worldwide, including the Digital Transformation Agency, to avoid the need for agencies to double up on work.
While the system remains a minimum viable product, the government’s intention is for it to eventually consist of all the standards, methodologies, reusable common components and code that DFSI’s digital transformation director Katarina Ruszczyk says is necessary to “build good services”.
“This is something to be used,” she said at the launch of the design system at the Sydney Startup Hub this morning.
“This is something to be contributed to as departments build ‘things’ – build websites, build apps, build services, build products.”
“They will live here and they will be accessed so that – through this open platform – others can do the same thing in a similar way so users have a consistent experience with government.”
The design system includes a component library for developers that consists of reusable components such as widgets or APIs, an API store or repository that will contain a new api.nsw service, and a UI Pattern library borrowed from the DTA.
It also contains the government’s digital design standard, which consists of six elements such as respecting private and maintaining security that all agencies are expected to consider when creating or redesigning digital services.
Design guidelines to help agencies stick to consistent colours, layouts and typography will be introduced in April next year, one of the systems' many aspects that will be continuously built out over time.
Chief Information and Digital Officer Greg Wells said the system was intended to be a collaborative process, whereby agencies contribute their components, code and thinking to the repository.
“The intent is not to centralise this [design system] and make everything go through this system. The intent is quite the opposite,” he said.
“The intent is to pick up all the good things that are happening from across government, get them in the one place so everyone know they’re there, and reuse them.”
System to be mandated after election
While the design system will remain non-mandatory for the time being, Finance minister Victor Dominello signaled that this would change following the NSW state government election next March.
“What we really need to truly transform NSW is to have a more binary system,” he said launching the design system today.
“We want all the agencies to absolutely do their best - to come up with new ideas, bright ideas, fantastic concepts, put it up, show us your best, be innovative. We want to inspire that, we want that to continue.
“But ultimately for the citizen, we need consistency. We absolutely need consistency, and we will get consistency.”
He said the design system would help set up this approach, but that this would need to be mandated to have any real affect.
“This is obviously a collaborative approach that is not mandated, but in my personal view it needs to be and it must be mandated to put the citizen first,” he said.
“Otherwise if we don’t mandate it then simply the agencies come first and we go back to the old form where citizens come second. That is not going to happen.”
“This will be mandated. We’ll wait for the election and roll this out.