Every time a government agency wants to collect payments, they will look for vendors to help them set up a whole site, build a payment form and related infrastructure. How might we empower government agencies to set up payment links? How might we make the payment experience a positive and quick experience for citizens?
We interviewed a few agencies and found out that most agencies spend months specifying what they want to build and it is usually challenging for them to navigate the technology space to build good system that can handle payments reliably. They don’t really know the different payment providers and their product offerings.
Reconciliation of the money collected is also an important part of such system to make sure every cent is accounted for. We also noticed that for the smaller agencies, this process is so costly and time-consuming, and they will just stick with the old way of to collecting money over the counter and have people fill up paper forms instead.
The main problems can be summarised using the photos
- Agencies might engage AXS to implement the service onto the kiosk or the mobile app and that takes months and may not make sense for smaller, one-off adhoc payments
- They might also hire vendors to implement NETS/third party payment providers and this might take months to years.
- Some fallback to paper forms with cash/cheque payments.
- Which results in the need to do data entry and filing with longer turn around time with manual audit processes.
- Some might leverage on FormSG and PayNow QR to collect payments. But wrong form inputs causes a lot of work at the reconcilation and verification process.
Therefore, it makes a lot of sense for a government tech team to do this heavy lifting for them. If we can build a system that they can easily set up payment links, process credit card and debit card payments, track these transactions on a dashboard.
I was the lead designer. I did all the design work (branding, visual design, ui design) and the frontend styling of the landing page, email templates for payment notice notice and receipt.
5 people in total (i.e. 1 Product Manager, 3 Developers and 1 Designer). We also worked with public servants at the various government agencies for the operational details.
Minimal Viable Product
In January 2020, we build the first version of Pay.gov.sg. It could generate a payment link from a dashboard and we showcased it a few government agencies. In the MVP, the user was able to create a generic form with payment information for 1 item, use Stripe as checkout and have these transaction reflect on a very minimal dashboard. However, Covid hit, and we were reallocated to other more urgent projects.
The Major Pivot
In June 2020, when Singapore wanted open its borders to travellers again, the government needed a way to collect payments for COVID Swab Tests and accommodation for Stay Home Notices (SHN). This use case involves multiple agencies as the incoming profiles include students, employers paying on behalf of returning employees, and foreigners of different types of employment passes and needs.
As we gradually open up our economy, we are intending to charge inbound travellers for their swab tests and hotel stay if they are quarantined in Singapore. We would therefore like to ask if you/your team are able to develop a simple system quickly to do so?COVID task force
The system needs to be up and running in less than 2 weeks and we need to make it work! And this is what we came up with. It starts of with an excel file that a government officer will send to the developers each day. And our script will run to create payment links.
First urgent use case
Enabling fee collection for Stay Home Notice accomodation and Tests. We focused on the experience of the payer experience and made this protototype in 1 week. This means focusing on the following screens -
- The email that the payer receives to make payment after applying to enter Singapore
- The unique payment link to make the payment
- The receipt specifying the items and amount paid for which person entering Singapore
This also means we deprioritise things like an admin view, ability for officers to self-service, ability to make refunds, accept other payment types, payments in bulk etc.
Main Design Challenge
Collecting payments online require building trust. How does the payer know this link is from the government? How do we make sure that travellers, citizens and companies who sees the payment links, trust it to make payments of thousands of dollars?
We achieved this by making sure that
- The payment link is triggered by the agency/department that the user interacted with prior to this email.
- The email contains data that is provided by the user in earlier application. (e.g. application no./ identity no. / reference number)
- The email contains contact details of the department that supports this application
- The email cannot end up in junk mail.
- The branding and tone is formal and trustworthy. (No spelling mistakes. Clear instructions)
- The payment links is hosted on a .gov.sg domain.
Long term vision
Any government agency can create a payment link within minutes
We cannot be running a script from an excel file daily forever. We wanted to extend this capability of creating payment links to all government agencies
Connecting to other operations and finance systems
This system must be able to connect to other systems that collect data or process the next step after payment is made.
So I planned and facilitated a design workshop for the team to flashed it out .
Self Service Admin Portal for public officers
We created an admin portal for finance and ops officers in government agencies to create and manage these payment links. Of course, we will have to pay careful considerations around who can create and links bank accounts to collect payments.
Payment Link for the Payer
Payment links remains an important component of the payment experience. But we improved it with more customisations around messaging, branding and itemising products.
I designed the logo, graphics and design system for PaySG. The logo is a "P" with a "tick" and looks like a folded note of sorts.
The graphics are modified from Freepik images with dark blue and green as the accent colors to symbolise trust and success respectively. The people with polka dots seems a bit childish and is something that I would like to fix if given the opportunity.
The product is still in development. As of Oct 2020, PaySG has enabled $85 mil worth of transaction, supporting 8 agencies with over $80k payment links generated.
It is one of the most time compressed project I have done and I learnt that we can do so much if we focus. I left the the organisation before I could finish this project, so I shall leave this in good hands of the team to continue.