Ontario Digital Service & Service Ontario | 2019

Newborn Registration Service

Problem Space: 

The Newborn Registration Service (NRS) is an online system used to register a childbirth in Ontario. Every child needs to be registered with the government within 30 days following the birth. Ontario Digital Service and Service Ontario worked collaboratively to make the content of the form gender-neutral and inclusive while reducing data entry errors.


  • We needed to make the language of the NRS gender neutral

  • We needed participants to fill in data accurately to reduce data entry errors

  • We could not change any systems logic (for example we could not change user flow or add another fillable section)


  • Decreased the percentage of applications that required adjustments from roughly 4.5% to just over 1%.

  • The final changes went live on the newborn registration site as of March 31, 2019.

  • The language was changed to be gender-neutral and easier to understand.

Project / 

Newborn Registration Service


Role / 

UX Researcher

UX Designer

Timeframe / 

2 months


Year / 



Prior to joining the Ontario Digital Service, the team had started the NRS project and held a content workshop to gain a better understanding of the current language on the NRS webpage and see what was possible to change. Although I was not a part of this workshop the insights found helped direct a lot of the usability testing and user research, so it will be included in the overview of the process below.  ​

  1. Meetings were arranged between Vital Events, ServiceOntario and ODS to discuss constraints

  2. Content workshop

  3. More meetings occurred to finalize proposed changes for the new version on the NRS

  4. User interviews and usability testing using two versions (A/B testing)

  5. Debrief to review which version or variation of the two tested better

  6. Final changes went live on the newborn registration site on March 31, 2019

Content Workshop


  • The current newborn registration user flow is designed in a way that presents confusing language and has led users to input information that is not accurate to what the organization needs. This has resulted in added cost and labor to fix these errors (known as adjudications).

  • A redesigned user flow is on its way but will not be launched until mid-2020. In the meantime, ODS and Service Ontario were tasked to modify parental language in the current flow to be inclusive.

  • The goal is to guide the user to input information that is accurate to what the organization needs and ultimately decrease the number of adjudications while maintaining gender-neutral language until a new system is in place in 2020.

Rundown of Workshop:

  • Identify all users that go through the system (regardless of whether or not they are qualified to apply)

  • Go through each problematic screen and identify which form fields are intended for which users

  • Brainstorm possible solutions


During the content workshop, we identified which parent was supposed to fill in each section and what information was desired from each step. Screenshots of the steps that had been the most confusing during the content workshop as well as the clarified information desired for each step is seen below:

Step 2—Parent(s) certifying newborn child(ren)

Section A.

  • Biological mother

  • Single father

  • Trans F to M who gave birth

  • Single mother

  • Surrogacy

Section B.

  • Biological M + F + ________

  • Intended parents

  • Surrogacy

  • Trans F to M and spouse

Section C.

  • Biological/single father (incapacitated spouse)

  • Birthparent (incapacitated)

Section D.

  • Legal guardian


Step 7—Parent who gave birth

YES. Who we want information from in this section:

  • Biological mother (include single mother)

  • Non-biological parent (surrogacy)

  • Transgender F to M who gave birth

NO. See the notes section for more details.


Step 8—Birthing information 

YES. Who we want information from in this section:

  • Information about the birth, regardless of biological, surrogacy, donor status.

  • The bottom half is information regarding the parent listed from Step 7.


Step 9 —Next parent

YES. Who we want information from in this section:


  • Biological father (single father also in this category)

  • Spouse of the birth mother

  • Intended parent

  • The next non-biological parent (surrogacy) Not repeating step 7

NO. See the notes section for more details.


Following the content workshop, Ontario Digital Service and ServiceOntario agreed on a variant of A/B testing of two proposed versions of the NRS. The purpose of the test is to identify which of the proposed versions led to the most clarity and data entry accuracy while maintaining gender-neutral language.

User Research:

Test Methodology 


On test day

  • Usability test simulated two proposed version of the NRS

  • Users walked through both versions

  • Notetakers captured user comments and insights

  • ServiceOntario and ODS both observed the testing

Post test day

  • Debrief of user research findings with ServiceOntario to identify what worked well with both versions, as well as providing recommendations based on findings


Proposed Iterations for A/B Testing:

Step 2—Parent(s) certifying newborn child(ren)

Proposed Iteration Step 2.png

Step 7—Parent who gave birth

ZOOM SO S.7.png
ZOOM ODS S.7.png

Step 8—Birthing information 

STEP 8.png

Step 9 —Next parent

step 9.png

Before the test began:

Users were assigned an order (A → B or B → A) on the prototypes to assure both were tested equally starting on the home page.


Participants then walked through the entire flow of the NRS prototype explaining how they register their newborn based on their personal scenario. This allowed for constant feedback on how users were feeling about the process. After completing the first prototype, users would be redirected to the beginning process and start the second prototype.


Users had time to express their overall thoughts on the process and individual prototypes and ask any questions that remained.

For the recruitment process, priority was given to parents with considerations for diversity and representation including:

  • Gender identity

  • Relationship status

  • English proficiency 

  • Digital literacy 

Below are the participant demographics out of 14 participants:

Participant Demographic.png

Usability Testing Findings:

From our testing, we were able to identify several trends that included:

  • Confusing user flow

  • Complex examples

  • A lack of understanding of what information was being asked for

Step 1 - Lack of understanding between listed and certified 

  • The instructions under parental information confused users. Many struggled to choose the correct answer for their scenario or second-guessed themselves

  • People skipped over the instructions and immediately proceeded with answering the questions, even though they were confused with the two

  • Users were confused by the language causing them to guess, which heightens the risk of errors

  • Errors in Step 1 lead to further complications and problems as the application was filled out


“I don’t really understand being listed versus being certified... I
guess I’ll just put two for
both.” - P10

Step 2 - Listing examples confused users 

step 2 findings.png

“Wait... what? I would select
the second one, but I am
confused between the second and third. So many lists of things!” - P3

I have to read this three
or four times.” - P13

Step 2 - Removing examples brought clarity​


“That makes sense to me.” - P13

“Ok I see what is going on here, that’s more clear” - P9

Step 7 & 9 - The term “birth” was ambiguous 

  • Users have been entering their last name at the time of the babies birth instead of their own birth

  • Both versions had confusion surrounding the language in this section

  • The language surrounding birth needs to be reconsidered to add clarity

Users were confused by how many times birth was used for different scenarios in the text:

  • If they should enter the legal last  name at the time of their birth, or at the time of the child's birth

  • Because of parents entering the same information, the process seemed redundant to some users


“Not sure if it’s my birth or the baby's birth for legal last name.” - P14

Step 8 - Misused red text 

  • Users gravitated towards the red text upon landing on this page

  • Some users initially read “If a surrogate birth...” and assumed they didn’t have to fill it in as it did not apply to their situation


“I don’t know why they used red text, it’s scary and seems important.” - P13

Step 8 - Removed red text 

  • Users didn’t hesitate on filling in the birthing information

  • Users filled out this page correctly and knew what it was asking for


What went forward:


Over a one-week period, we tested with 14 users and were able to identify common trends:

  • Users completed version A with less confusion and fewer errors, compared to version B.

  • The phrase “Your Birth” on version B, was more successful in the user entering the correct information.

The proposed and approved version is a hybrid of the two prototypes, with elements that tested better for each step.

The final changes went live on the newborn registration site as of March 31, 2019.