School zones

How do I find school zones?
Trying to find school zones is one of the top search terms on
For children in Victoria, the designated neighbourhood Government school is generally the school that is nearest the student’s home.  If the student resides in the Melbourne metropolitan region, Ballarat, Bendigo or Geelong, the designated neighbourhood school is measured by a straight line from the student’s residence to the school’s front gate. To measure the distance between two points you can use Google Maps. If the student lives in any other area of Victoria the nearest school is measured by the shortest practicable route.
In some instances, where there is pressure on enrolment capacity, the Department of Education and Training may designate a neighbourhood zone for a particular school campus, which means the school has a restricted enrolment. This may result in some students being designated to a school that is not the closest school to their home.
The best way to check which schools have zones or restricted enrolments is to contact the school directly.  You can find the contact details for your local Government schools by using the Department of Education and Training’s Find an early childhood service or school tool.
This blog post is part of a series of blog posts that aims to assist users of the website to access difficult to find content.  If there is another area you want to know more about, please let us know.

State Government Departments

Since the Victorian state election in November 2014, there are now seven departments.

They are:

  • Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources
  • Department of Education and Training
  • Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning
  • Department of Health and Human Services
  • Department of Justice & Regulation
  • Department of Premier and Cabinet
  • Department of Treasury and Finance.

Contact details for these departments can be found using the Victorian Government Directory.

This blog post is part of a series of blog posts that aims to assist users of the website to access difficult to find content. If there is another area you want to know more about, please let us know.

Victorian Government Directory: Departments and Other Bodies

Victorian Government Directory: Departments and Other Bodies

Sex offender registers in Victoria

There is no public sex offender registers list in Victoria. Only sex offender statistics are made publicly available through Victoria Police. These are published annually and include statistics on offences such as applying for child-related employment.

Why are we telling you this on the blog? Earlier in the year we did a roundup of 2014 which listed top search terms for This includes the fact that ‘sex offender registers’ was the fifth most searched for term last year and it continues to be a top search term this year.

We’ve also been looking at customer journey mapping behind the scenes – figuring out what our citizens are trying to achieve by mapping out their ‘journey’ and looking for ways we can help to get them there faster. The reality is sometimes the answer is the information you’re looking for doesn’t exist. We’re hoping this blog post shows up when people type ‘sex offender registers’ into the search engine of and helps users to understand that this information isn’t publicly available. So, is it working? Does having this information help? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Are you paying attention?

In today’s frenetic digital world where we are always connected and pride ourselves in our capacity to multi-task, the touted definitive skill for the 21st century is digital literacy. And yes, in a constantly evolving digital ecosystem, we all need to be effective users of the ever new shiny tools.

However, is the accelerating focus on digital connectivity eroding a fundamental skill that has underpinned our human capacity for innovation – the ability to pay attention?

As neuroscientist Daniel Levitin observed, when we are constantly interrupted or distracted by a myriad set of digital imperatives – an inbox alert, a text, a hyperlink, an update –  the human capacity to absorb and reflect on information is eroded.

Compounded by the Fear of Missing Out and the expectation of something alluring in the next digital notification, are we at risk of spinning off our own digital axis of disconnection?  Levitin puts as follows:

‘Our smartphones have become Swiss army knife–like appliances that include a dictionary, calculator, web browser, email, Game Boy, appointment calendar, voice recorder, guitar tuner, weather forecaster, GPS, texter, tweeter, Facebook updater, and flashlight. And we use them all the time, part of a 21st-century mania for cramming everything we do into every single spare moment of downtime. We text while we’re walking across the street, catch up on email while standing in a queue – and while having lunch with friends, we surreptitiously check to see what our other friends are doing. At the kitchen counter… we write our shopping lists on smartphones while … listening to a podcast on urban bee-keeping.

Multi-tasking is sometimes also described as continuous partial attention, whereby we surf the Internet while also watching TV, and typing on a tablet while talking. We fragment ourselves by continuously devoting only partial attention to each act or personal encounter. (Thomas Friedman, New York Times 2006).

This tsunami of multitasking is a false badge of honour masking inattentiveness and inefficiency.

There is also the potential impact on our health with multitasking increasing the production of the stress hormone cortisol, the fight-or-flight hormone adrenaline and the dopamine-addiction feedback loop that overstimulates the brain to lose focus and to constantly search for more external stimulation. (Levitin)

Related to all of this, is the purported decline in immersive attention needed when reading at length.

A 2012 study by Pew Research Centre on the hyper connected lives of the millennial generation (under 30 years of age) pointed to a possible future in which citizens become shallow consumers of information.

The author Nicholas Carr has also argued that the digital age is reshaping our thinking so that ‘cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking and superficial learning’ is becoming the norm.  He references the online abbreviation “tl;dr”(too long; didn’t read) as emblematic of this trend.

Will this emerging cultural resistance to depth and length, lead to a market for War and Peace in 140 characters?

So, what do these trends mean for government websites where information about services is often presented in complex long-form writing?

Given that we in government are seeking to serve a citizen who is increasingly less inclined to read the long-form content, or prefers to access information in a distracted way on a smartphone, how should we re-design our product offering to ensure that the message is heard and understood?

Maybe we could start by segmenting information into short form blog entries with companion pieces of video, info-graphics and slide share in easy to digest formats?

This could be in combination with a twitter-worthy headline quote or a compelling image on social media to pique interest.

In this age of distraction, government information presented in small, snack sized segments of micro-content might be a better way to proceed – what do you think?

Author: Despina Babbage, Digital Government, Department of Premier and Cabinet, Victoria

Directories can be found in one place on

The website recently released a new section called Directories. This section provides an extensive list of online directories from across the Victorian Government – from the Carer Card Directory to our own Victorian Government Directory. All directories have their own search facility to further refine your search.

Each item listing contains a title and description for each directory. Each directory is also catalogued within a subject category.



By selecting one of these category types, you can filter your display results to a specific subject.

The default listing for directories is alphabetical. You can filter by Subject Category or Department/Agency. The page also displays the three most recently added items.

You can also search within the Directories section to find specific items.

An RSS feed is also available for regular updates to this section.

Listing additional online government directories within this section will continue as new directorires are announced. If you discover any relevant directories missing from here, please email us at, we welcome your feedback.

Awards can be found in one place on

The website recently released a new section called Awards. This section provides an extensive  list of awards from across the Victorian Government – from various education awards to the Premier’s Award for Health and Research.

Awards | Victorian Government

Awards | Victorian Government

Each item listing contains a title and description for each award. Where available, an opening and closing date is provided. In some cases, the dates are not available because they have not been announced. Each award is also catalogued within a subject category.

By selecting one of these category types, you can filter your display results to a specific subject.

The default listing for awards is alphabetical. You can filter by Subject Category or Department/Agency. The page also displays the three most recently added items.

You can also search within the Awards section to find specific items.

An RSS feed is also available for regular updates to this section.

Listing additional online government awards within this section will continue as new awards are announced. If you discover any relevant awards missing from here, please let us know; we welcome your feedback.

Awards recently announced and added to this page include:

Responsive design

The rapid rate of change in technology makes website design a moving target. There is one certainty, though. Relevant, well-written content will always matter. And more people will want to read this content on mobile devices.

VicGovAu home pageThe site is a prime example of this. In 2011, only 12.07% of visits to the site were via handheld devices or tablets. It’s hard to imagine now, but less than 1% of these visits were on a tablet.

Three years later, the changes are astounding. In 2014, there were almost 3 million visits to the site. A third of these were via a mobile device. The humble tablet accounted for almost 12% of these visits. In just a few years, hundreds and thousands of more people opted to get online on the run rather than on their desktop.

If users are switching between a smartphone on the tram in the morning, a desktop at work and a tablet on the couch at home at night, how do you deliver content that reads well on different size screens? Not that long ago, that might have involved rewriting content to fit different devices. It’s no surprise that a web-design solution for this dramatic change has been developed in the past few years.

Powerful New Website Design Tool

Responsive Web Design allows content to be automatically reformatted for screens of all sizes, resolutions and orientations. As a device gets smaller, the amount of content and images can decrease as well.

This fluid approach is a powerful advancement in website design as it directly addresses how people use technology. A user on a desktop computer has more screen space – and possibly more time – to review pages of information. Smartphones are useful for quickly displaying opening hours or basic facts.

How does it work? Proportion-based grids change according to the screen size. Images resize to cleanly fit. A smartphone might have only one-column of content while a desktop might have four columns. Many online website builders offer the tools to create responsive sites. Some of them are free.

Going responsive makes good business sense for many reasons. The easier a site is to read and navigate on mobile devices, the greater the audience reach. In late 2014, Google launched a “mobile friendly” label that’s displayed on search results. Sites earn the label if they avoid software that’s incompatible with mobile devices, such as Flash, and sizes content to the screen (Google will analyse your own site’s mobile friendliness here – In the future, it might also boost search rankings as Google says it’s considering weighting a mobile friendly result.

Case Study: Royal Botanic Gardens

Royal Botanic Gardens home pageThe team behind the Royal Botanic Gardens website considered a host of options when they decided to redesign in 2012. Developing an app was one, says team-member Samantha Moon, Digital Marketing Officer in Marketing and Communications for the RBG. But with so many different types of users with diverse needs, it would mean packing the app with a lot of information. A good app would also try to boost a users’ experience beyond that, too.

A responsive-design approach made sense to cater to everyone. Students and horticulturalists have time to pore over the wealth of data held by the site while general enthusiast might use their phone to look up the opening times of the gardens. “From our own analytics and analysis of our online visitors, we were able to ascertain that there was definitely a growth in who was using our site and that they were visiting from the mobile – and we knew we had to do something about it,” says Samantha.

The RBG decided to bring in the expertise of a digital agency that could support all the stages from initial planning to delivery and post-launch. The project took about 10 months from early planning to going live in mid-2013. The result is a vibrant and informative site that’s easy to navigate on any device. “You really need to think about your content strategy and content delivery, especially for responsive [design],” says Samantha. “Because you’re dealing with a different way of how a consumer digests information.”

On a desktop, blocks of information sit cleanly over several columns, filled with colourful photos. On a smartphone, one column achieves the same results, with an obvious hierarchy leading users through location information down through the events calendar and news.

Responsiveness has been a success for the RBG. The site has an across-the-board increase in visits, not only in the number of mobile users but time spent on the site.

Hits and Misses for Government Websites

Along with the RBG, many other government sites use the responsive design approach – some more successfully than others.

EPA Victoria home pageAs the state’s environment protection authority, EPA Victoria has essential regulatory information on its site as well as environmental monitoring forecasts and calls to action to report pollution. That can be a challenge to translate from desktop to tablets and smartphone but the responsive EPA site keeps a clear hierarchy with a few relevant images that helps users navigate quickly. launched its responsive site in March 2013 and emphasises the search box at the top of the page on desktop and tablets, rather than a hierarchy of sections. For a user knowing which key words to search, this is a quick solution. But it can be time consuming for those preferring to scroll through core information. The smartphone site is the most responsive as it simply lists the key areas of the site.

Other successful examples of RWD: VicRoads, State Library Victoria.

Future Trends in Website Design

The use of mobile technology is only going to increase. Apple has just forged another path in mobile devices with the impending Australian release of its smart watch. While the first-generation Apple Watch doesn’t offer Internet surfing, that could change.

So, even though we can guess at what’s to come, user experience will always be at the heart of good website design. It’s important to invest the time to listen and understand audience needs.

“In a way, the future of design won’t hamper what you’re planning now if you continue to refine in the future,” says RBG’s Samantha Moon. “Have a good plan post-launch of the site and plan to invest resources and funding into post-site monitoring, reviewing, refining. Don’t just build it, make sure that you maintain it and that you continue building on the platform that you have there.”

Responsive Design Tools

  • The Responsinator – A free site that allows website makers to preview what a responsive site will look like on different devices
  • Screenfly – A site that allows responsive screen testing on monitors, tablets etc.
  • Froont – Subscription-based responsive-design site that provides tools to design on the web
  • Webflow – A site builder for designing websites
  • Google mobile friendly test page


Royal Botanic Gardens –
EPA Victoria –
VicRoads –
State Library Victoria –
Apple –

Thinking like a Victorian

What struck me the most on my arrival to Melbourne (aside from candy being called lollies) was how much care has been taken to create positive experiences for residents of the city.

On my first ride on the Yarra Trams, I noticed posters that announce performance and highlight the previous month’s statistics for delivery and punctuality. When tram service was interrupted for White Night, guides in vests helped passengers understand their travel options. I learned that Yarra Trams also has a formal compensation code, which allows passengers to claim a refund when performance targets for punctuality and reliability are not met.

Beyond the trams I’ve seen many little things, like the placard on the bathroom wall at Federation Square which has a text message short code in case you wish to give feedback on cleanliness via your mobile phone.

All these examples signal to me that someone has thought about what it’s like to for a resident to navigate the city. Perhaps they imagined themselves as a tram passenger, and attempted to comprehend common commuter motivations and frustrations. This is a great first step to designing better services. For governments and large institutions, it’s a huge stride, and can take time. From what I’ve seen so far, Victoria is far along on that journey.

But assuming a citizen mindset is not a magical fix. Once you better understand and empathize with a citizen’s experience, there’s still the long path of how best to improve the service, and then the longer track to implement enhancements. It can take many iterations, with constant feedback from citizens, to make progress.

Along the way it can help to have a compass. I like Yarra Trams:

Our guiding principle for operating Melbourne’s tram network is to ‘Think Like a Passenger’ -Yarra Trams Customer Service Charter

Giselle is a user experience designer and 2014 Code for America fellow, working with the Victorian Government for six weeks, through a partnership with Code for Australia.


VicGovAu – 2014 in review

Happy new year to all our visitors. To start off the new year we thought we would give you a summary of 2014. Soon we’ll start blogging about some of the things we’ll be doing in 2015. home page home page

The website received 2,985,667 visits during 2014, with continued growth in mobile traffic which now makes up 31.76% (Mobile 20.12% and Tablet 11.64%). Changes in the location of the public holidays and daylight saving (now on reduced the overall visits to the site.

Early in the year we switched over from paid Google search to the free Google CSE search because we exceeded our search queries sooner than we expected making this an unsustainable option.

However, not all our users reply on search. 25% of our visitors still prefer to browse our topic taxonomy –

New aggregations were introduced to the site during 2014. They included:

New features to the site included the addition of site-wide “This page was useful/Not useful” – this has been very popular with our users.

We listen to what you tell us and some improvements have been made to the site:


Top 10 search terms:

  1. jobs
  2. job vacancies
  3. school zones
  4. public holidays
  5. sex offender registers
  6. land titles
  7. work experience
  8. minimum wage
  9. road closures
  10. careers

Top 10 pages:

  1. Home page
  2. School holiday activities
  3. Grants Victoria
  4. Job vacancies
  5. Stamp duty & land tax
  6. Traffic & road alerts
  7. Building regulations & codes
  8. Daylight saving
  9. First home owners grant
  10. Bushfire & fire warnings

The most popular news item was VTAC Guide 2015.

Victorian Government Directory

The Victorian Government Directory received 520,975 visits in 2014. Usage peaked in December 2014 due to the change of Government and the announcement of the new Cabinet.

Top 10 pages

  1. Home page
  2. Department and Other Bodies
  3. Cabinet
  4. Parliament of Victoria
  5. Department of Education and Early Childhood Development
  6. Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure
  7. Governor of Victoria
  8. A-Z of Government websites
  9. Courts and Tribunals
  10. Department of Justice

Events Calendar

The Events Calendar received 254,671 visits in 2014. The most popular event was “The Boulevard Lights”. – are customers satisfied?

During June 2014 we conducted stage two of our website behavioural testing of customers using desktop computers to access the portal. This was part of our program of continuous benchmarking of user satisfaction with the site.

Study findings showed performance had improved from six months earlier.

90% said they would recommend this service to their family and friends – an increase from 85%.

84% were satisfied with their experience on the site.

88% found the site responded quickly to their search query and it was clear where to conduct a search on the site.

87% found the site responded accurately to their queries and successfully helped them to find the information that they needed.

85% found the navigation logical and their search results were relevant, easy to access and easy to understand.

About the study

The study participants comprised 151 Victorian adults over the age of 18 and excluded past participants of previous studies. There was an even gender split and the study was conducted between 29 May and 2 June 2014.

We used a behavioural study method which used scenario based remote user testing. Tests were conducted in the participant’s natural environment and automatically recorded their behaviour and captured their attitudes as they progressed through the test scenarios.

The objectives of the exercise were to

  • continuously follow and measure the impact any changes to the portal may have on the experience users have and the overall performance of the site.
  • understand the performance across effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction with every iteration of the portal or different information seeking scenarios on the portal and where possible compare it with past experiences.
  • gain insights into user behaviour and obtain ideas on how to continuously improve the experience and discoverability of information and services to ensure growing usage of the site.