emergencyservices v02r4

Thousands of Victorians seek help each year to apply for social housing. Low incomes, family changes and homelessness mean that long term housing options are in high demand.

The Department of Health and Human Services, Victoria approached Thick to support the delivery of an online housing form that would replace 20-30 pages of paper-based application forms and supporting documentation.

The social housing application process can be a long and difficult experience for marginalized social groups that span different cultures, communities, geographical locations and digital literacy. On top of this, establishing eligibility for social housing can be arduous and complex, as it requires an understanding of income, assets, and significant personal information for each individual household member before it can be assessed. 

DHHS Online Housing Form

We needed to create a simple, clear and human form that encouraged action, guided users and was empathetic and inclusive throughout the end to end process. We used user-centric design to deliver an intuitive flow to the application, and revised language so it was clear, straight-forward, and encouraged action.

The new register makes it easier for Victorians to apply for social housing by designing a form that dynamically displays questions that are relevant to a client’s individual situation.

We introduced an inclusive and clear experience for users by including progress trackers, the ability to save an application,  the ability to search for housing locations using maps. The application meets accessibility requirements and is presented in a responsive design.  

The project will consolidate 40 separate registers into one streamlined process, delivering a single, central point of contact for the application process. We ensured the overall application design made sense to both those who are managing applications every day, and to the individual applicants who are unfamiliar with the process.

Online housing form mockups3

However, offering the application digitally makes it easier for Victorians to apply for social housing without going to a housing provider’s office, and for community support and housing providers to complete applications on behalf of clients.

We used a human centred design approach, with a high level of collaboration with DHHS, in turn drawing on feedback from both clients and community providers to develop the flow of the application, write copy and define the user experience and interaction.

Our interaction designers and front-end developers built a modular pattern library for the site's forms user interface, focussing on affordance and accessibility. We supported the DHHS's developers in integrating our front-end code into their build and provided quality assurance to support the launch.

We used a mobile first approach to ensure the form would work across a wide variety of devices. To test the forms we invited users to apply for housing on their mobile devices and even through video game consoles.

Victoria was the first state in Australia to go digital with a housing application. It is also the first state government service to make a digital service available via the Commonwealth’s myGov service.




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