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A new digital service to be offered alongside a paper-based process created a design challenge for our Content team to make sure information on caters for the needs of different customers while maximising people’s awareness of the new service.

The Content team at Te Tari Taiwhenua Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) has been creating content for our brand new online citizenship application process.

About the new online service

For the first time in New Zealand, applicants can apply for citizenship online. The service became available in September 2019.

Apply for NZ citizenship

For many applicants the new online service means they no longer need to submit a printed application form by post or come in to the Citizenship Office to personally deliver their physical documents and pay.

Eligible applicants can now simply and easily apply online for New Zealand citizenship, wherever and whenever they prefer. All they need to do is fill out the electronic form, attach digital copies of their documents and pay online with a credit or debit card.

The new online service is being rolled out in stages.

In the first stage, the online application form has been specifically created for adults who are applying by themselves.

Adults who are applying in groups, children, and citizens of Samoa must still use the paper-based form. This is because there are different processes involved for these groups that need to be built into the online application form.

Creating new content

Creating this service involved building the online application form and redesigning the content in the citizenship section of to include new messaging about the online application process.

The new content needed to be woven into the information about the existing paper-based application process.


There were 2 main challenges for the Content team.

The first challenge was to design the content to manage people’s expectations about the online channel, making it clear that the new service is currently only available to adults applying by themselves. We wanted to prevent adults applying in groups, children and citizens of Samoa from incorrectly choosing the online channel and having a frustrating experience.

The second challenge was to promote the new online channel on the website while balancing the content about the paper-based process to make sure all applicants can easily find their preferred channel and identify the correct process for it.

How we balanced our customers’ different needs

Content audit

Our first step for this work was to do a content audit of all the information about citizenship on and pinpoint the sections where we would need to add in new content.

The new content included describing the different processes people needed to follow for online and paper applications.

For example, the section about ‘Find someone to be your identity referee or witness’ needed to help people understand which type of person you can use to confirm you are who you say you are, depending on whether you choose the online process, or the in-person or by post application process.

User testing

Once we had added all the content we thought we needed to a test site, we sat down in person with real customers and did several rounds of testing.

In the customer testing, we asked people to click through the web pages to find information about the citizenship application process, while speaking their thoughts and questions out loud.

Observing the customers doing this helped our designers:

  • make sure customers were immediately aware of the option to apply online and could find it easily
  • identify solutions for any pain points (confusing, missing or hard-to-find information) so customers had what they needed to be able to apply successfully through their preferred channel.

Use of accordions to reduce scrolling

Because there was a lot of additional content describing the different options and their respective processes, we decided to place information about different pathways in accordion menus (a list of headers that can be clicked to see more information).

For example, once a customer decides which application channel (online or paper) they want to use, they can click to reveal the information that is relevant to their preference.

This made the pages shorter, reducing the need to scroll, and meant people didn’t have to read all the information on the page to find what they were looking for.

What happens next

The online application service will gradually be extended to adults applying in groups, children, and citizens of Samoa.

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