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The official count: A snapshot of Aotearoa New Zealand

Stats NZ: 2023 Census

Project background

The census is held every five years and is the official count of people and dwellings in Aotearoa New Zealand. The high-quality data delivered from the census informs policy decisions, research and planning.

Silverstripe was engaged to support the 2023 Census, to create a great online/digital experience for respondents, supporting aims of increasing participation and satisfaction in the census.

Project scope

Working closely with Stats NZ, Silverstripe designed and built the full bilingual online experience for the 2023 Census. This included creating a digital gateway to guide users and provide them with the information they needed to complete the online census forms easily and correctly.

We ran a full discovery stream covering everything from goals, users, IA, features and functionality to wireframing, and UI design. We also ran focus groups and conducted multiple rounds of user testing.

It was important to Stats NZ to ensure the census website was designed with Māori users in mind and upheld te reo Māori as an official language.

Project challenges

The project required two distinct and interfacing sites – the census website and Internet Collection System (ICS) providing the online forms for the 2023 Census.

The ICS wasn’t a simple form for information gathering purposes. Everyone had a personalised census experience, with users receiving unique codes that give them access to their own forms. Therefore, during the early stages of the project, the Stats NZ/Silverstripe project team identified that the design of the existing ICS needed a refresh to enable a modern user interface for the 2023 Census.

We also wanted to improve the previous design, increase accessibility, and develop a fresh and current look and feel for the census website, in line with the new 2023 Census brand.

The census involves everyone in Aotearoa on Census Day, including tourists and visitors, so the online experience needed to be inclusive, flexible and accessible.

To deliver for Māori and diverse communities using the website, we needed to get the consultation phases of the project right. Given the global pandemic environment, there was an added challenge of conducting meaningful focus groups with different user segments in an online setting.


Online accessibility was a major focus for this project, ensuring disabled users and/or people using assistive technology (such as screen readers) could easily access all of the content. This started with ensuring visual designs met colour contrast, typography was easy to scan and read, and all interaction states were obvious, through to descriptive image tags, appropriate aria labelling and intuitive DOM tree structuring.

Both the census website and the ICS went through multiple rounds of accessibility testing, by actual users. The aim was for the census website and ICS was to meet the NZ Government Web Accessibility Standard 1.1 (which encompasses WCAG 2.1 level A and AA criteria), which it did mainly with a couple of minor non-conformances accepted by Stats NZ. The census website met the standard with the exception of hosting videos on YouTube.

Key outcomes

The successful objective of this project was to provide a secure, accessible and robust census website to house information and the ICS for respondents to complete their 2023 Census online.

The ICS collected over 6.2 million forms, 1.7 million of those on Census Day. At the conclusion of the census collection phase on 30 June 2023, Stats NZ estimates between 89 and 91 percent of the New Zealand, usually resident, population took part in the field collection phase of the 2023 Census.

The census website home page had 3.7 million page views – almost 1 million were on Census Day.

Services provided

  • Discovery workshops
  • User experience design
  • User interface design
  • Project management
  • User testing
  • Web development
  • Silverstripe CMS development
  • Managed cloud hosting

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