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DNSSEC vs. Elastic Load Balancers: the Zone Apex Problem

This is the final post in the 5-part series, The Right Tools for the Job: Re-Hosting DigitalGov Search to a Dynamic Infrastructure Environment. Federal websites are required to implement DNSSEC, which relies on knowing exactly what server is responding to a request. In Amazon Web Services (AWS), the problem of unreliable servers is solved by Elastic Load Balancing (ELB). An ELB containing one or more servers is presented to the world as a single hostname — say, usasearch-elb.

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Let’s Encrypt Those CNAMES, Shall We?

This is post 4 in the 5-part series, The Right Tools for the Job: Re-Hosting DigitalGov Search to a Dynamic Infrastructure Environment. This post references the previous posts frequently, so please read those before reading this one if you haven’t done so already. In addition to the DNS challenges created by offering “masked” domains such as nasasearch.nasa.gov, we also had to solve the problem of how to maintain SSL certificates for the main search.

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A Domain by Any Other Name: CNAMES, Wildcard Records and Another Level of Indirection

This is post 3 in the 5-part series The Right Tools for the Job: Re-Hosting DigitalGov Search to a Dynamic Infrastructure Environment. “All problems in computer science can be solved by another level of indirection, except of course for the problem of too many indirections.” – David Wheeler The simplest of our four requirements was to allow customers to choose whether to use the search.usa.gov domain for their search results page, or create a “masked” domain name such as search.

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Quality, Speed, and Lower Costs: Yes, You Can Have It All

This is post 2 in the 5-part series The Right Tools for the Job: Re-Hosting DigitalGov Search to a Dynamic Infrastructure Environment. The last major infrastructure upgrade that DigitalGov Search had was in 2010. Not only has technology evolved significantly since then, but so have business models for right-sizing costs. Moving to Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructure allowed us to improve reliability by creating self-healing servers and distributing the service across four physically isolated datacenters, and reduce datacenter costs by 40% per month — no longer do we have to pay for peak throughput capacity overnight, on weekends, or during other predictably low-traffic periods.

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The Right Tools for the Job: Re-Hosting DigitalGov Search to a Dynamic Infrastructure Environment

This is the first post of a 5-part series. DigitalGov Search is a commercial-grade search engine provided as a shared-service by the United States General Services Administration. We power about 2,300 search configurations for hundreds of federal, state, and local government agencies. Using our platform, agencies can easily configure a search experience for the public that brings together resources from across their many publishing platforms: websites, blogs and feeds, social media, and government-specific resources like rules and notices from the Federal Register, and posts from USAJobs.

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What’s All The Fuss Around Customer Experience?

Have you been hearing the terms “Customer Experience” or “CX” a lot lately? Maybe you’re wondering how they relate to customer service, or maybe you want to learn more about CX and how it can help your customers. Whether you directly interact with customers, support front line employees, or manage program operations, your work has an impact on your agency’s customers. And it’s very important that excellent customer service be at the forefront in the federal government because we impact so many lives.

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U.S. Digital Registry

The National Archives is pleased to participate in the U.S. Digital Registry, the authoritative resource for official third-party websites, social media platforms and mobile apps managed by the U.S. federal government. The U.S. Digital Registry is an API-generating platform designed to authenticate third-party sites in the federal government in order to help maintain accountability over our digital services. As more users access services, communicate, and engage with their government online and through social media, the U.

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How to Make Your Facebook Content ‘Pop’ with Images

Facebook is a highly visual medium. Studies show that Facebook posts featuring photos are the most noticed, liked, and shared. Posts featuring an image stand out in the news feeds of people who like your page. While a great image can cut through the clutter, you don’t need to fill your feed. Think “representative” and high-quality images. Showcase a few great pictures that give a sense of an event–an AIDS walk, for example–and share the photos that bring to life an aspect of your work or your agency’s services.

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NIH Image Gallery Data Call Success

In early April, the National Institutes of Health put out a call for images highlighting NIH-funded scientific research. The image call was posted on the NIH image gallery website and advertised through the NIH Public Information Officers (PIO) Network. The NIH Image Gallery, which averages 6,000 views per day, features free-to-use images for the general public, educational institutions, and news media. Through the sharing of images, NIH hopes to distribute educational information, increase public outreach, and expand awareness of the scientific discoveries and breakthroughs being made by NIH-funded research.

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Five Ways That Video Will Continue to Evolve on Facebook

The medium is the message. Marshall McLuhan In a little over a year, Facebook video went from simply being one of the content types that could be shared to the user timeline to a 8B video views per day powerhouse that’s also a huge priority for Mark Zuckerberg. We’ve heard about the big numbers from digital native publishers like AJ+ and NowThis, and we’ve heard from the doubters who say that the metrics don’t hold up to traditional TV measurements.

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Our CX Recipe for Success: Complete with Ingredient List and Substitutions!

If you were to spend any time with me in the kitchen, you would often find me searching out substitutions for ingredients that I don’t have on hand or have to drive 100 miles to find. I don’t want to abandon the recipe, so I substitute instead. I find that in the world of internal government IT systems, recipes for success are hard to come by. So, what do I do?

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The Content Corner: Is Scheduling Social Media Posts Truly Social?

Good communicators are always…well…evaluating the way they communicate. As we think of the “customer experience,” it is key to constantly consider your methods for engaging with your audience. Just as the platforms themselves continue to change to keep their audience, continuing to refine our ways of sending messages will assure that you don’t get left behind. With the explosion of social media, almost to the point of supplanting traditional media, various software platforms seek to assist communicators with planning and even the day-to-day.

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Improving Internal Communications: Best Practices

Customers are not the only group with whom we need to effectively communicate as we work to improve our quality of service. Effective communication between employees and leadership is critical to improving the customer experience. Front line employees interact with the public on a regular basis, and if employees do not have the information they need, or if they are not happy in their work, customers can see that. Here are some tips to improve internal communications.

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Customer Experience Performance Metrics: Two Sides to Every Story

Performance metrics, targets and public reporting are not new in government; however, customer-oriented metrics have been underutilized and under-reported publicly for a long time. Today, as the principles of customer experience as a management discipline gain momentum across the federal government, there is an opportunity to use data to tell more of the story where customers’ experiences are concerned. Balancing Internal and External Customer Experience Metrics Internal and external metrics are needed to tell a more holistic story, versus internal data alone or external data alone.

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Help Customer Experience Drive Change at Your Agency

With the recent launch of the Core Federal Services Council—which seeks to improve the customer experience for core federal programs by ensuring use of customer feedback data and identifying strategies—building on the Feedback USA pilot, the Federal Front Door and other customer experience initiatives, 2016 may in fact be the Year of the Customer. But, how do we ensure these efforts can build momentum and lead to meaningful change in government?

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Agile Transformation at Census

The agile transformation at the Census Bureau started several years ago after GAO recommended Census implement a standard Systems Development Lifecycle (SDLC). Around the same time came the newly released Digital Services Playbook as well as a general shift in the industry to using a more agile approach in software development to improve product delivery and business customer satisfaction. Along with the clear benefits, there was a general appetite from individuals and teams to introduce agile concepts into their project.

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Recap: How to Overcome Cultural Resistance to Agile in Government

Armed with the knowledge that ‘most studies suggest that losses are twice as powerful, psychologically, as gains,’ federal change agents can better prepare for possible cultural resistance as they begin to implement agile practices at their agencies. There are a variety of resistant-to-change personas (change is painful for most of us, but we dislike it in different ways) those seeking change will need to understand to be successful. Bill Brantley, ‘agile OG,’ from the U.

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The Teams, They Are a Changin’

Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.—Agile Manifesto My team has experienced a lot of change in the past few weeks. We were a team of seven, and now we’ve been reduced to two. We’re off-boarding two developers, a content specialist, and the product owner, and we’re onboarding a new content specialist and another developer. This is a lot of change to absorb at once.

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How Agile’s Being Done in Government

The concepts of agile may not be new, but there is a renewed push across government to embrace this customer-feedback driven methodology, in everything from software development to project management. A government community has even sprung up to help feds learn from one another what it takes to incorporate agile into more efficient and effective government services. So this month we’re throwing the spotlight on what agile looks like in the federal government right now:

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The Data Briefing: Building an Open Government Data Ecosystem in the Federal Government

It has been over seven years since President Obama signed the executive order that launched the federal open data movement. Much progress has been made, and there is still more to do. Along with the United States, over 100 nations have started programs to provide open access to government data. From large metropolitan governments to small cities, governments are opening up their data to provide better transparency and better delivery of government services.

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Remixing Content: Shining Sunlight on the SunShot Initiative’s Solar Energy R&D Project Map

With more than 400 projects in their portfolio, it can be difficult for the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative to adequately convey the scope of the office’s work. The team can list their projects, organize them by program area, and write blog posts about them, but none of that has the same impact as seeing all of the projects displayed on an interactive map. Audiences are now able to click on a map, zoom to different sections and click onto icons to explore the diverse and wonderful world of the SunShot solar energy research and development portfolio.

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Additional Data Options With DAP

Agencies can participate in the Digital Analytics Program (DAP) by implementing the DAP script block. It’s a simple line of of code that enables you to take advantage DAP: (Example) You can use this line to enhance the Web analytics solution with additional query string parameters. The query string parameters pass data that enable features within the code. They can also help configure settings in the code. It allows you to leverage more features in DAP or extract more data out of DAP.

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Your Trek to Vesta & Mars Starts Now

The NASA Open Innovation team is pleased to announce the availability of the APIs that power Mars Trek and Vesta Trek on api.nasa.gov. The APIs for Mars provide data from the Mars Express, Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter missions with 21 different data products such as MOLA Altimetery Hillshade, Viking and THEMIS. There are also 6 data products from the Dawn mission to Vesta providing various views in True Color, Colorized and Color Hillshade to name a few.

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Tag Management: A Digital Analyst’s Best Friend

Tag managers can assist in collecting valuable data about visits to your website. Here at CFPB, we use Google Tag Manager (GTM), which is a free tool that works in tandem with Google Analytics to record and send data on how users interact with your website on an aggregate level, including which pages they view, where they click and what they download. It requires one line of code to be added to your site.

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The Data Briefing: An Interview with USAJOBS on New Changes to Their Data Services

The Office of Personnel Management released a new look and functionality to USAJOBS in February. I recently contacted Michelle Earley, the USAJOBS Program Manager, to ask about the changes to USAJOBS and the data it provides. 1. What are the priorities this year for the USAJOBS team and the site? “The priorities for this year include: Unifying the experience Incorporating a comprehensive content strategy to transform the readability of the website Improving the Job Opportunity Announcement (Represents the agency) Improving the User Profile (Represents the job seeker/applicant) Improving Search, which is the mechanism that brings together the job seekers and agencies USAJOBS hopes to continue to act as a trusted public service career platform that creates a responsive and transparent experience for its users.

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The Content Corner: Code is a Tool, Content is the Solution

It seems of late that the focus on coding and technology within the federal space has become out of balance with that of good, solid content. As I believe I have said before with regard to user experience, great technology with poor content is still worthless. Amazing code that delivers poorly written or designed content still can’t help the user. And there is no code that I know of that can make bad content better for the user, aside from the algorithmically-derived content previously discussed.

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MCC Builds on Lessons Learned in Launch of Second Open Data Challenge

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)’s first open data challenge taught MCC some very valuable lessons in making its public data truly usable by the public. The challenges ask masters and PhD students to find creative ways to use MCC’s publicly-available evaluation data and provide new insights into its evaluation results. As the second challenge launches, MCC is building on these lessons learned from the first challenge: Students are a prime audience for an open data challenge.

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DOT Seeking Data for New National Transit Map

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has invited transit agencies to share their schedule data to feed an upcoming National Transit Map. The new initiative won’t provide trip planning, but will make it possible for researchers, policymakers, and private citizens to identify and address gaps in access to public transportation. These gaps will be identified through the collection of transit data (including where transit stops are, how frequent transit service is, and where transit routes go.

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The Data Briefing: Three Significant Events in Federal Open Data This Past Week

Three recent stories demonstrate how opening up federal government data and using agile methods to create federal government software can spur innovation while saving tax money and helping the American public. In its Second Open Government National Action Plan (PDF, 639 KB, 5 pages, September 2014), the White House called for a government-wide policy on open source software. Recently, the Office of Management and Budget released a draft policy “to improve the way custom-developed government code is acquired and distributed moving forward.

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The Postal Service Just Broke Analytics.usa.gov

Ok, so it didn’t *really* break it. But you might notice that the amount of “people on government websites now” on analytics.usa.gov is a lot higher than it used to be. The Digital Analytics Program (DAP) team has been working with a team from the U.S. Postal Service over the past few months to implement DAP on usps.com and all usps.com subdomains. Last week, DAP was activated on the pages, and we nearly passed out when we saw the first data coming in.

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My Data: Empowering All Americans with Personal Data Access

Summary: Consumers empowered with their own data are in the driver’s seat to make informed choices. In the 21st century economy, Americans rely on online services to access personal bank accounts, pay bills, and shop online, so why don’t we have similar interactions with Federal government through easy-to-use, online tools? The answer is we can—and increasingly we are—as we continue to build a 21st century government. Since first taking office, President Obama has been committed to building a more open and transparent government while, at the same time, protecting consumers and empowering them to make informed choices for themselves and their families.

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The Data Briefing: New Opportunities for American Cities and Communities Thanks to Open Data

Open data and APIs* have not only transformed the federal government; open data and APIs are also transforming tribal, state and local governments. Like federal agencies, some tribal, state and local governments are ahead of other governments in open data innovations. This situation reminds me of my earlier work with the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs in the General Services Administration. In 1998, I was a Presidential Management Fellow working on a project to catalog how state and local governments were using websites to deliver government information and services.

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Seeing States the Right Way: How to Weigh Data by Population

One large issue my team has run into when analyzing and reporting data across different states is knowing whether sessions within an area are higher due to more interest, or a larger population. Time after time, we see the states with the largest populations show up with the largest amount of traffic, like the graph below. However, creating a useful equation of users vs. population in a given area will likely give more insight into which states are most engaged, instead of which ones have the most people.

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Leveraging American Ingenuity through Reusable and Open Source Software

Summary: Today, we’re releasing for public comment a draft policy to support improved access to custom software code developed for the Federal Government. America has long been a nation of innovators. American scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs invented the microchip, created the Internet, invented the smartphone, started the revolution in biotechnology, and sent astronauts to the Moon. And America is just getting started. That is why since the start of this Administration, the President has taken concrete actions to support the spirit of innovation that makes America so strong.

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Using Code to Spur Innovation

This week, President Obama will travel to SxSW (South by Southwest) to talk about how we can use technology to tackle tough challenges. This underscores how important data—government data, in particular—is to improving and fueling our democracy forward. 2015 saw many open data milestones by agencies, including: New advancements in HHS’s syndication storefront New features to analytics.usa.gov dashboard (now with agency-specific dashboards USPTO’s PatentsView Education’s New College Scorecard FEMA’s new Data Visualization Tool APIs from FEC , Labor and NASA (to name a few) There is also more to come (and more that’s needed).

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The Content Corner: How Google Judges Your Content

Every week my main goal is to usually provide new ways to help you feed the content beast. However, today I am going to remind you of why feeding the beast is important, especially when it comes to your search engine rankings and helping users find your content. I’ve discussed key search engine optimization (SEO) tips previously and there is no shortage of SEO content available, but today I am going to focus again on how quality and quantity of your content can have an impact on your search engine rankings and how that content appears on search engine results pages (SERPs).

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The Content Corner: Facebook Expands Access to Instant Articles

As I begin to wind down my time at The Content Corner, I have realized that one of my biggest content concerns uncovered during my tenure is digital sharecropping. The recent announcement from Facebook that they will soon open their Instant Articles publishing capability to everyone was reason enough for me to revisit the topic of owning and controlling our content one more time. While I dislike the term digital sharecropping (coined by Nicholas Carr), I haven’t found a better or more succinct explanation for this ongoing drive for private companies and platforms to own our content (while we do all the work).

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The Content Corner: Government as API

Here at DigitalGov, we generally focus on federal governmental digital efforts within the U.S. It is where we live and operate, so it makes sense, but many governments across the world struggle with the same issues and leverage technology as a common solution. When I came across an article where Australia announced its “government as an API” platform was available, it seemed like a great opportunity to see how another country is tackling structured and open content.

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Trends on Tuesday: Robot Messaging Goes Mainstream

John Connor can’t save you. Robots are here to take over the world. Two interesting new consumer mobile and digital content experiences were launched in the past week, signaling some of the first mainstream brands embracing this new paradigm of interactive, bot-driven content experiences: Quartz’s News App and The New York Times Election Slack Bot. Both leverage different scripted technology but signal that large consumer-facing brands are using messaging technology as an experience and interface for interacting and sending and receiving information smartly.

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Putting Your Main Message First

Want to learn how to clearly communicate your message? Watch the new “Put Your Main Message First” video from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Created by USCIS’ Office of Communications, the video teaches you about the importance of organizing your information so that your audience understands your key messages. “It’s common in government writing to begin a document with the background or history of a program while leaving the important action items until the very end,” says Kathryn Catania, chief of the Plain Language and Content Division at USCIS.

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Microsites Keep Your Audience Updated on Outbreaks

You can now help your audience stay up-to-date on the Zika virus outbreak—and others—through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s microsite, which is an easily embeddable collection of virus information for your agency’s website. The Zika Virus Microsite is automatically updated on your site in real time as CDC updates existing Zika Web pages, according to the CDC. Staying current is made easy and maintenance-free. The microsite is built with Zika content, however the CDC now has the ability to quickly assemble additional embeddable collections that you can use on your site.

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What is Content?

In this age of content marketing that has led publications to call certain ads “paid content,” those of us in government need to broaden our ideas about what “content” is. Many of us get it, but some agencies may also be missing opportunities because they don’t even grasp that content is a broad and fluid thing. Everything is content, not just words on a website. The federal agencies we commonly highlight fully get that and understand that a variety of content can achieve a goal.

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The Content Corner: Location-Aware Content

While January was about looking ahead, February is focused on content and many of the new possibilities and challenges that will face us as content creators over the next year and beyond. At the intersection of these two themes lies the genesis of my topic today: location-aware content. More than a Map One of the most common places where we have become dependent on location-aware content is navigation. This can range from a variety of Location-Based Services, or LBS, such as simply finding out exactly where you are, how to get somewhere else and where can you find a pizza nearby.

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The Data Briefing: 2016 Trends That Could Affect Federal Government Data

Many IT pundits predict 2016 will be a major tipping point in data and related technologies. Here are just a few predictions: 1) The Internet of Things—The number of devices that can connect to the Internet increases, especially in consumer electronics. Also, the number of sensors will dramatically increase providing more real-time data on weather, electrical power usage, and similar data. The number of devices connected to the Internet is projected to exceed the number of human Internet visitors.

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A 2016 Look Ahead: What’s on the Horizon for Digital Government?

With January, and the tearing off of the old calendar, comes the annual taking stock of where we’ve been in the last year and where we can go in the year ahead. So for this month’s editorial theme, we’re taking a closer look at what we think 2016 will bring for digital government—from mobile and content, to open data and accessibility. If our “prognosticators” are correct, this year will be the year when apps become more Web-like; video could overtake social media as the preferred method to communicate; and the number of sensors providing real-time access to (government) data will dramatically increase…just to name a few.

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Trends on Tuesday: 10 Mobile, Government and Tech Trends for 2016

As we move into 2016, here are 10 trends I foresee flourishing around mobile, technology and government: The mobile-majority tipping point in government. Many agencies are already past this point, but as a whole, government websites are still desktop-majority, with 66% of people accessing federal websites via desktop and 34% on mobile. In 2016, the double-digit mobile growth will continue to accelerate and surpass 50% for almost all agencies. (Much of the Web passed this point last year or in 2014, btw).

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The Content Corner: Content Trends for 2016

The beginning of a new year is generally a time where people on a personal and professional level look ahead and prognosticate. When it comes to almost any digital media, the one thing we can be certain of is that the pace will quicken, the offerings will expand, and something totally unexpected will jump out and surprise us. However there are several specific areas related to content that everyone should keep an eye out for in 2016.

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A Sense of Purpose: Strong Communities Can Overcome Big Challenges

Cook-offs, bike rides, parades and dance parties—these are not the traditional public hearing-style events for which government agencies are known. But these events helped to fuel the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Rebuild by Design Challenge (PDF, 484 KB, 1 page, January 2016), boosting the collective morale among a complex, multidisciplinary network of engaged stakeholders. Because the challenge’s community structure was based on a common goal—to rebuild following Hurricane Sandy—participants left their egos at home, shared information and learned from one another.

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Trends on Tuesday: Providing Anytime, Anywhere Government Through Mobile App Competitions

Agencies have used an open data competition approach in their quest to provide anytime, anywhere government. For example, in 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted the Apps for the Environment challenge and has a hub for apps created using EPA data. Here’s an update on challenges hosted by other agencies: The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), hosted a nationwide Reference Data Challenge to create mobile apps through Devpost.

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Challenges, Crowdsourcing, Citizen Science: What’s the Dif?

There’s more than one way to harness the wisdom of the crowd. In honor of December’s monthly theme, we’re diving into and defining the various ways that federal agencies use public contributions to meet real needs and fulfill important objectives. Crowdsourcing Two’s company, three’s a crowd—and getting input from many is crowdsourcing. A White House blog post defined crowdsourcing as “a process in which individuals or organizations submit an open call for voluntary contributions from a large group of unknown individuals (“the crowd”) or, in some cases, a bounded group of trusted individuals or experts.

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Challenge App-titude: A Successful Newcomer Offers a Few Tips

The Reference Data Challenge, launched this summer, was a call for innovative approaches to a long-standing role of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to make “critically evaluated reference data available to scientists, engineers and the general public.” This challenge—our first-ever app contest and second prize competition as an agency—had the dual aims of improving awareness about and usability of our data. We invited submissions of mobile apps that used at least one of six eligible NIST datasets.

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All In: Partnering Across Sectors Can Boost Competition Results

We’ve heard the phrase a million times: Nobody does it alone. Still, it rings true no matter what you’re trying to accomplish. When it comes to crowdsourcing competitions, government agencies are making breakthroughs in a variety of fields by partnering with companies, nonprofit organizations and others beyond the federal framework. The White House announced more than 20 new prize competitions in October, many of them collaborations with industry and academia.

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Connecting with the Social and Behavioral Sciences Team

The new Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST) aims to make government programs more effective and efficient. Amira Choueiki from the SBST joined us to explain what the SBST does, and to discuss some of the projects they’ve worked on. Amira also shared how agencies can propose projects for the SBST to tackle, and explained how social and behavioral sciences, customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX) work together to enhance government products and services.

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Challenges & Crowdsourcing: A Quick Overview and Look Ahead

This month we’re highlighting articles about challenge competitions and crowdsourcing across the federal government. Federal agencies can gain a wealth of ideas, services, solutions and products by asking a large, diverse crowd to contribute their talents and skills. Simply put, crowdsourcing means engaging the crowd. Often referred to as a form of open collaboration or innovation, crowdsourcing takes many forms, including challenges (or prize competitions), hackathons, data jams, code-a-thons, workplace surveys, open ideation, micro-tasks or micro-work, citizen science, and crowdfunding.

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Government Product Managers Play a Key Role in UX

Government product managers sit at the intersection of three circles—business, design and technology. We play a key role in user experience (UX), because we are tasked with understanding users to build a product that is desirable and viable. This product could be a paper or online form, a website or a mobile app. Product management is different from project management. Product managers are the defenders and voice of the product’s customers, while a project manager is more concerned with balancing costs, scope and schedule issues.

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The Data Briefing: How Neuroscience and Communication Theory Inform Good User Experience Design

Standing on the corner, waiting in the rain, I swear I’ll never, ever, use that app again. Why? Because the bad user experience (UX) design was preventing me from determining when the Metrobus would arrive. UX is everything from the visual design to the navigation structure of the website or mobile app. This month, DigitalGov is focusing on UX design. Good UX design is based on understanding how people perceive and process information on everything from websites to mobile apps.

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The Content Corner: Good UX Needs Good Content

As DigitalGov focuses on user experience this month it is good to remember one harsh truth: You cannot have a good user experience with bad content. It is important to keep a “content first” strategy in place during any website redesign or new site development. It is so easy for the various disciplines involved in designing a site to lose sight of the content and of each other. I’ve been there, and I am sure most of us have.

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UX vs. CX: What’s the Dif? Part 2

In honor of World Usability Day, which happened on November 12, we’d like to demystify two extremely important and oft-confusing acronyms—CX and UX. Customer Experience (CX) and User Experience (UX), while related, focus on different aspects of service delivery. The New Landscape We first discussed this issue in the summer of 2014, in our UX vs. CX article, but a lot has changed in this space across government in the past year or so.

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How to Use Remote Data Strategically in UX

One of the challenges UX practitioners can face is how to communicate much of the data that’s out there. The key word is “communicate.” Since many of us are used to qualitative findings, making the jump to “hard data” can be a challenge. There are tools out there that make this easier, but we still need some explanations and/or translations. First, let me be clear that I am not endorsing any product or technique.

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The Content Corner: User Research for Complex Systems

My office is preparing to embark on a complete redesign of a 10-year-old system that averages 20,000 users a month. The success and adoption of the new system design and the product as a whole will be heavily determined by how well our team translates users’ needs. Providing a good user experience will also play a critical role in reducing struggles long-time users may encounter with a new system. Note: Due to the early stages of this project and various procurement concerns, I am leaving out some of the specifics but still felt that this practical discussion of user research could be beneficial.

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How UX Effects Change in Government—One Test, One Customer Survey at a Time

Over the past few years, many agencies have learned how to do user experience (UX) with few resources. And while that’s still a problem at many agencies, many UX initiatives have been gaining momentum and attracting new stakeholders. Federal-wide efforts like the Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST) and the U.S. Digital Service’s (USDS) promotion of good design principles, such as 18F’s recently-released Web Design Standards, show just how far this effort has come.

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The Content Corner: Structured Content and the Power of Syndication

A recent DigitalGov webinar on syndicated content and the recent achievements of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention helped open my eyes even wider to the possibilities of open and structured content. By offering critical health information via syndication, CDC and other Department of Health and Human Services agencies are helping resource-strapped local agencies share critical Web content with very little effort. APIs and Syndication Structured content and APIs form the core of any open content platform, whether it be syndication or other types of data sharing.

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Skin & Bones Come Alive with Smithsonian App

The night air is cool and crisp, the autumn leaves are falling, your costume is ready, jack-o-lanterns carved, lights dimmed, candy in the basket—what else do you need to make “All Hallows’ Eve trick or treat” complete? Some eerie music, a spine tingling, blood curdling horror movie? No, no—those are for yesteryears! This Halloween, let’s make the skeletons in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History come alive. Let’s try and capture that vampire bat skeleton that pulls itself off the mount to run away, or watch the horror of an extinct Steller’s sea cow materialize in the flesh.

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The Data Briefing: Create an App for Employees with Disabilities

Have you worked with an employee with a disability? Are you an employee with a disability? Then, you know the unique challenges of the average workplace that able-bodied colleagues may never experience. Workplace challenges could be overcome with accommodations such as larger computer monitor displays, wheelchair-accessible office furniture or a voice reader. In some cases, a mobile app is a solution to a workplace challenge. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

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Texting is Another Way to Make Mobile Moments

There are several things federal agencies need to think about in the mobile space. Is my website responsive, so that consumers can view it on any device (desktop/laptop, tablet, smartphone)? Do I have mobile apps that fill citizen needs? But does texting have a place in the U.S. government, as we strive to serve citizens where THEY are? Here are at least 9 factors you need to consider, according to GovDelivery, and Forrester analysts Art Schoeller and Thomas Husson:

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Is Your Site Mobile-Friendly?

What is mobile-friendly? Mobile-friendly simply means your visitors can use phones and tablets to visit your website and have a user-friendly experience. Many of us get toward the end of mobile site development and really do not know if what we created is “mobile-friendly.” We think we have followed all of the mobile best practices and performed usability testing. However, do we have something concrete to quantitatively certify that we are mobile-friendly?

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The Data Briefing: Highlights from 300 Federal Mobile Moments

DigitalGov’s theme this month is mobile moments, which explores the impact of mobile applications in the federal government. For this post, I am examining the more than 300 mobile apps created by the federal government. An updated list of federal mobile apps is on USA.gov. According to the list, 73 federal organizations have released mobile apps on a wide variety of topics. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has the most mobile apps with 31 releases.

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Trends on Tuesday: Focus on Mobile Performance to Provide Better Mobile Moments

The New York Times recently published a report evaluating the cost of mobile ads on news websites and found that on many of the major sites, the ads were taking as much bandwidth and time as the content (if not more, in some cases). This comes after the recent hubub over Apple starting to allow ad blockers on their mobile operating system to cut down on aggressive, high-bandwidth consuming ads, analytics, and tracking software that slows down the mobile experience for users.

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Trends on Tuesday: Is Crowdsourcing the Future of Mobile Design and Development?

NASA recently announced the winners of a smartwatch app interface competition. A Canadian duo won the design competition, and NASA’s plan is to build the app with 2016 funding to have it available for astronauts to use when they are aboard the International Space Station. This is the first government smartwatch app development we’ve talked about on DigitalGov and an example of a great mobile moment use case. Not only is the smart app interesting (see the UI images!

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Is Your Agency Winning Its Mobile Moments?

Someone has a problem they are trying to solve. They pull out their mobile device and find a solution. They move onto something else. That’s a mobile moment. Organizations are living and dying by their mobile moments, and a few government agencies are winning theirs. We’ve written before how the Transportation Security Administration is winning their “What Can I Bring…” moment at airports while taxpayers are engaing around the IRS2Go “Where’s My Refund?

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NASA + Lunar Eclipse = A Super(moon) Match Made in Metrics Heaven

NASA’s reach over the last 24 hours eclipsed that of the regulars typically seen in government digital metrics. But, all agencies can drive the conversation and accomplish a similar feat with a good content strategy. NASA defines a supermoon, which appears approximately 14 percent larger in diameter due to its proximity to the Earth, as a full or new moon that falls closest to the fall equinox, and is at its closest approach to the Earth.

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Setting Up a Performance Measurement Team

As part of an organizational shift to functional teams at GSA’s Federal Citizen Information Center (FCIC), we created a Performance Measurement Team that consolidates data analysis for our websites, contact center channels, and marketing channels. Instead of looking at metrics within the bubble of each program, we’re beginning to leverage insights across programs. These are the steps we’ve taken so far: Drafted a Plan We came up with a Performance Measurement Plan that describes the team’s role within the organization; identifies high-level goals for each channel; names team members and their areas of specialty; and maps out some specific projects and expectations on reporting.

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Speed Matters: Optimizing Your Website For Maximum Performance

Every second counts, even those precious two or three seconds it takes your website to load. When it comes to mobile, users won’t wait. During a recent DigitalGov University webinar, Jeremy Vanderlan, Technical Deputy for AIDS.gov, explained how even fractions of a second can have a negative impact on a user’s impression of your website. Performance/load time for Web pages has become so important that Google now considers it one of three equal components to good user experience, along with design and functionality, he noted.

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Caution: Your Web Analytics Might Not Be Human

A Digital Analytics Program (DAP) user recently contacted me with an observation/problem: The data he had from his website’s independent Web-analytics account was much, much higher than the data he was receiving in the DAP user interface. Theoretically, both tools (in this case, two separate Google Analytics accounts), were trying to measure the same thing, and he couldn’t figure out why the numbers would be so different. When I say different, I mean substantially so.

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Monthly Theme: Learning to Ride the Metrics Wave

We are awash in data. Data in our personal lives gives us information on everything from our nightly sleeping patterns to how many of our friends shared our latest quip on social media. So too in our professional world, where we can see the most popular devices people use to navigate our websites and are told which time of day is the best to send out our communications. All of this data can help us make smart decisions that will ultimately provide our customers with a better experience—but only if we know what our end goals are and what metrics we need to measure to get there.

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Mobile Content: Less is More

With 14 test cycles under our belt, the Federal CrowdSource Mobile Testing Program has heard one recurring theme from our testers—”there’s too much information!” While both desktop monitor and smartphone screen sizes are growing, there is still no comparison. At our desks, many of us are using a 24 inch (or even bigger) monitor. How big is your smart phone? Way smaller than a desktop monitor. The user will have a radically different experience on a desktop, and they are usually expecting a different experience.

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Search, Buscar, Поиск, جستجو, Cari: Creating a Good, Multilingual Search Experience

In 2015, DigitalGov Search dramatically expanded support for languages on our search results page, expanding from just English and Spanish to support 68 different languages. Government agencies across the United States publish content in a growing number of languages to do the business of the country. Language-specific websites and mobile apps include not just translated content, but also site navigation and other lexical elements. This month marks the 15th anniversary of EO 13166, which directed federal agencies and federally funded programs to provide meaningful access to information for people with limited English proficiency.

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Services Mean Success for Federal Challenges

Challenge.gov offers a number of services to help agencies create successful competitions. One challenge that recently wrapped up made use of the full range of these services to come up with some creative, useful apps that have nationwide implications. Presidential Innovation Fellow Jeff Meisel led the CitySDK (Software Development Kit) launch. The team wanted a different way to reach data consumers. The U.S. Census Bureau wanted to find a new way to create the most innovative data-driven apps sparking change in cities from coast to coast.

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What Is Mobile Device Compatibility Testing?

In most instances, your hardware and software are developed independently but are expected to function properly together. For example, when a Web application is developed in HTML, it is expected to function properly on an Apple computer using Safari as well as a Windows computer using Internet Explorer. This sounds simple, but there are thousands of combinations of browser types and versions as well as operating systems, and the number of combinations increases exponentially as we add in the multitude of mobile device makes and models.

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Need Actionable Analytics Reports? Here’s Help

The Digital Analytics Program (DAP) provides a wealth of standard Web analytics reports within its current Web analytics tool (Google Analytics Premium). Yet, navigating through big data with a standard report can be a challenge and definitely takes a few clicks. To quickly get to the insights of your agency websites’ traffic, building your own custom reports and segments is the way to go. As part of its on-going effort to educate and empower DAP users with Web analytics knowledge, the DAP team has put together the DAP Custom Reporting Catalog with many of the frequently used custom templates.

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Monthly Theme: At Your Service

In this digital age, we know customers expect their government interactions to be on the same level as their interactions with the private sector. Agencies are always striving to improve the quality of their services to meet their customers’ needs. So too in our office, where we use the feedback, you, our agency customers, provide to help us improve our programs. For this month’s theme, we are looking at how some of our services can help you better meet the needs of your customers.

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An Overview of Digital Communities

Digital communities of practice come in many stripes. DigitalGov communities span eight (and counting) focus areas and have thousands of members, but strong collaborations exist in all corners of government. In honor of this month’s communities theme, we are offering a list of communities that foster connections and strengthen the digital capabilities of federal agencies. Here is a list of some communities working in the digital arena: 18F /Developer Program CIO Council: Accessibility Community of Practice CIO Council: Privacy Community of Practice Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Drupal for Government eCPIC Federal Steering Committee (FESCom) Federal Communicators Network Federal Intranet Content Managers Federal Knowledge Management Community Federal Librarians Ideation Community of Practice Mobile Health (m Health) Training Institutes Training Institutes”) Open Data listserv: Anyone with a .

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Community Rock Star Round Up

Around this month’s Communities Theme, the DigitalGov team thought we’d round up your community rock stars. These are people in your communities who’ve gone above and beyond, who’ve contributed content, organized events, participated in developing toolkits and more. Let’s kick it off with the DigitalGov Summit Sounding Board. DigitalGov Summit Sounding Board For the 2015 DigitalGov Summit we pulled together innovators from across the federal government to guide the programming, promote the CrowdHall (and Summit overall) and help identify speakers.

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Solve Federal IT Problems Through Cross-Collaboration

39 participants. 17 agencies. 6 months. Earlier this year, the CIO Council launched the IT Solutions Challenge, an initiative to engage GS 9-13 level rising stars in the IT and IT acquisition community. Participants identify shared challenges, those challenges where you might say to yourself, “if only we could [x], life would be so much easier!” Working together over 6 months, the teams prototype and make recommendations for solutions.

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DigitalGov Summit Recap: How “We, the Techies” Can Effect Change

Who do you need to bring to the table to make a better world? In May, Megan Smith, Chief Technology Officer of the United States, delivered the keynote address at the 2015 DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit. She encouraged attendees to find ways of unlocking potential through collaborations from both within and outside of government. “We have extraordinary teammates across government,” Smith said. “It’s one of the coolest things. I just came here in September from Silicon Valley.

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How the Nationals’ Customer Experience Principles Can Be a Home Run for Agencies

In June, the new Customer Experience Community of Practice (CX-COP) hosted Jonathan Stahl, Executive Director of Ballpark Operations and Guest Experience of the Washington Nationals, to share best practices on how to deliver a great customer experience. Below are four insights he shared. Develop and Share Core Values The Nationals’ core organizational values are excellence, performance and accountability. The core values are posted prominently wherever employees gather, such as break rooms, on the way to the field, and in offices.

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What’s in a Name? “Communities” in the Public and Private Sectors

Many of you are part of a government community. We lead a few of them here, and new ones are forming all the time. In fact, as I was writing this article, I stumbled upon a community for government Drupal users. A co-worker recently asked me for research on communities because she is trying to increase the sense of community among her program’s customers. Her question made me realize that the public and private sectors use communities in different ways.

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Won’t You Help Your Neighbor? Communities Theme Month on DigitalGov

It’s a beautiful day in the DigitalGov neighborhood, and we want you to be our neighbor: no red sweater required. The strength of digital government depends on robust collaboration across agencies, offices, and disciplines. The virtual federal neighborhood collaborates through numerous communities of practice, each of which promotes the open exchange of ideas and resources. Communities have already made a big splash in 2015, and for this month’s DigitalGov theme, we’ll highlight those efforts.

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Celebrating Parks, Creating Connections: NPS Prepares for 2016 Centennial

Planning your next national park adventure (from the comfort of your couch) is easier than ever with a new website, Find Your Park.com. Launched on April 2nd, the mobile-friendly FindYourPark.com was designed and launched by the National Park Foundation (NPF), the non-profit organization affiliated with the National Park Service (NPS). The website is part of the celebration campaign for NPS’s centennial in 2016. Nana Efua Embil, Assistant Centennial Coordinator for NPS, said that the goal of the FYP website aligns with the overall NPS centennial goal: connecting with and creating the next generation of park visitors, supporters, and advocates.

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Creating a Social Media Report That Matters

As with any communications effort, the social media bottom line comes down to impact. Can you prove that the time, money and effort put into social media helped achieve your agency’s goals? In a world obsessed with big data, it’s tempting to track every detail simply because you can. With more data comes more confusion over what data is important enough be tracked and, just as essential, how to report that data in a way that facilitates decision making.

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As the World Churns: Earthquake Detection via Twitter

When one thinks of social media, usually it is thought of as a tool to keep in touch with friends and family. Behind all the social networking lies vast amounts of data that can be used in a multitude of ways. This data is an opportunity for government agencies to improve the services they provide to the public. There are a number of agencies that are using social media data in order to improve services and cut costs.

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Engaging Audiences Through Quora

There’s no doubt that traditional social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have transformed how we communicate with stakeholders. Quora is another tool for agencies seeking to engage highly-educated thought leaders and influencers, policy makers, entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers and journalists worldwide. The brainchild of two former Facebook employees with the backing of Wikipedia’s founder, Quora aims to share and grow the world’s knowledge by serving as a centralized Q&A site.

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Real Internationalization Isn’t Just Geographic: It’s Linguistic

Twenty years ago, the chances of watching an NBA game with commentary in a language other than English were small. Today, the NBA transmits games in 47 languages to 215 countries across the world. This is a perfect example of how organizations have evolved over time to meet the demands of their audiences. Evidence like this is the reason many government agencies have launched social media accounts and other digital content dedicated to a Spanish-speaking audience.

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NOAA’s CrowdMag App: Citizen Science on the Go

The rise in mobile device usage has created a rise in expectations: the public wants new and innovative interactions with all organizations, including government. Incorporating social media in mobile websites and native apps is one way federal agencies have increased public interaction. Six agencies have leveraged native app functionality for crowdsourcing purposes. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) leads the way with three public-facing applications that transform ordinary citizens into citizen scientists: Dolphin and Whale 911, Release Mako and CrowdMag.

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How Agencies “Pin” Down Their Audiences

While Facebook and Twitter are the most popular social media platforms (according to some rankings), your agency can and should evaluate the benefits of platforms like Pinterest, which have seen major growth in users and activity. In the last six months of 2014, Pinterest increased its membership by 57%, while Facebook and Twitter only grew by 6% and 18%, respectively. More than 60% of millennial moms use Pinterest, making it a platform perfect for agencies looking to communicate topics related to children and women’s health; DigitalGov previously discussed how the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Women’s Health used Pinterest as part of an inter-agency health campaign.

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#SocialGov Round Up 2015

The #SocialGov Community is coming up on three years of hard work and pushing the boundaries on using social tools across the federal government. I’d like to start this round up by taking a look at the event we hosted last year, State of the #SocialGov 2014: 2 Years of Smashing Silos + Elevating Citizen Services with Social Media. Justin Herman, #SocialGov Community Lead, moderated a talk looking at the work delivered by the SocialGov CoP over the past 2 years and looked ahead to the next year.

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Monthly Theme: Building, Evaluating, and Improving Government Services Through Social Media

While examples of government social media content may initially seem like mere fun—the YouTube video of President Obama on Between Two Ferns or the Transportation Security Administration’s “good catch” pics of lipstick stun guns and batarangs—the potential of applied social data to build, evaluate and improve diverse citizen services is only increasing. As we recently discussed on DigitalGov, social media tools are for more than one-way marketing and communication: they provide a connective, responsive capability to public services.

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Finding the Best Mobile Moment Is the First Stepping Stone to Anytime, Anywhere Government

Mobile-friendliness is a must for government. But mobilizing the whole digital enchilada takes time due to various challenges, as experiences from the Department of Education and National Park Service have illustrated. Many agencies are thinking big things for 2015, but if your agency is struggling with that first mobile implementation, you will be asking yourself where to start. Think mobile moments! The mobile moments concept has been popularized by Forrester analysts Julie Ask and Ted Schadler.

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A Conversation with OMB on Customer Service

We recently sat down with Lisa Danzig, who’s leading work at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on the FY15 Cross Agency Priority (CAP) goal on Customer Service (CS). The CS CAP goal aims to help agencies deliver world-class customer service to citizens that’s on par with leading private sector services by streamlining transactions, setting customer service standards for high impact services, and making it faster and easier to complete transactions with government online.

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Getting to Know Your Users: Tips and Tricks from Veterans Affairs

Design research isn’t rocket science. But for many of us in the federal government, it can seem daunting and unfamiliar. We’re here to to help demystify the process of design research for those of you ready to wade into the waters. We’ve both done our fair share of design researching at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) over the past year. It hasn’t been easy—we’ve worked under itty bitty budgets and crazy timelines.

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Three of the Greatest Books for Customer Experience (That Aren’t about Customer Experience)

Dennis Snow and Jeanne Bliss have always been the customer experience (CX) authorities in my mind. Dennis’s Lessons from the Mouse and Jeanne’s Chief Customer Officer were two of the first books I read that described what the practice of customer experience looked like in the halls of Fortune 500 companies like Lands End and Microsoft, as well as on Main Street at Walt Disney World. Years ago when I first flipped through the pages of those books, I realized that I was a budding CX practitioner, even though my private sector titles were more akin to business development, client relations, and service quality.

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StudentAid.gov: Using Data to Empower Borrowers

It’s been a while, but in previous posts, I described what we’ve learned from operating StudentAid.gov, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid website created to educate students and borrowers about the federal student aid programs and process and help them make informed decisions about financing college and career school. We first released the site in 2012, but we haven’t sat still yet! The plan has always been to create new and integrate current features that exist on other FSA websites.

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5 Crucial Steps for Conducting an Effective Customer Interview

When focusing on customer experience, we all know that we need to truly understand our customer if we expect to provide them with an enjoyable experience. In an effort to do so, organizations often jump right to a survey to identify their customers’ needs and wants. While surveys are a great first step to understanding customers, they’re not the only step. The most you should expect from a well-crafted survey is detailed knowledge in the form of hard data indicating where to conduct further research.

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Top 5 Ways to Increase Email Survey Responses

Surveys are a great way to gain valuable insight into your customers’ true interests and needs. With the abundant number of survey tools available, it’s almost too easy to quickly put together a survey and send it out to your target audience. All too often, organizations will be in a hurry to get their survey out and will send out a long, wordy introductory message for a survey, or conversely, will not provide enough context.

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Government Services Through a Life Events Approach

The federal government is increasingly focused on designing and delivering citizen-centered services with enhanced experiences that deliver value to customers. These ideals are established in the Presidential Management Agenda Customer Service Cross-Agency Priority Goal, the Digital Government Strategy, and various open government activities. Designing services to be responsive to be life events that drive public needs is a powerful way to deliver citizen-centered value. What is a “life event?” Life events are events that have a significant impact in a citizen’s/stakeholder’s life and that warrant government awareness or involvement.

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Our Customer is Your Customer: Working Together to Improve Search on .Gov Websites

We know search engines aren’t Magic 8 Balls, but that’s still how we expect them to behave. We want them to answer our complex and burning questions based on just a few words. And we’ve felt that frustration when the top search results don’t serve our needs, and the results page itself makes us work. At DigitalGov Search, we think a lot about how to make the public’s search experience on government websites better.

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Three Ways to Evolve Your Agency’s Customer Mindset

Customer experience (CX) improvement projects come in many forms, but evolving an agency’s entire mindset to be customer-focused requires far more in the way of commitment, time, staff and organizational patience. As the senior CX lead for a U.S. government agency and an advisory committee member to the President’s Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) goal on customer service, 100 percent of my focus since joining Export-Import Bank from the private sector has been on evolving the customer strategy for Ex-Im Bank, and helping other agencies do the same.

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Sites Shares Its Path to Improve the Customer Experience

As the product manager of Sites, my job is to make sure that our service delivers what we offer: provide an easy, fast and cost‐effective solution for federal agencies that want to create a secure government website to reach the public. With 40 websites that are currently live or in active development, our program is constantly evolving. Our roadmap is filled with milestones designed to improve our service, address our customers’ needs, and keep our platform up to date.

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Customer Experience Roundup 2015

This month, our round up focuses on customer experience (CX). As I was rounding up the CX events and articles we’ve shared on DigitalGov over the past year, I realized that CX touches all of the work we do. From Web to mobile to contact centers and social media, we need to not only be aware of our customers’ experiences but also respond quickly and make changes that will enhance their experiences.

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Customer Experience and User Experience Professionals – A Match Made in Heaven!

Recently, Forrester Research analyst Leah Buley wrote a blog post and report that reminded me of our “what’s the diff?” article on customer experience vs. user experience. In them, she describes the difference between customer experience professionals (CX) and user experience professionals (UX). A Forrester survey found that about 40% of the time, CX and UX are formalized functions in a corporation. That’s good news, but they are only a joint operation about 10% of the time.

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Monthly Theme: Customer Service in the Federal Digital Space

“The customer is king.” “The customer is always right.” Regardless of your feelings on these age-old customer service adages, the fact remains: we’re all serving someone. No matter what corner of the federal digital space you occupy, you are connecting with people, and the outcome of those connections matters. To recognize the importance of these relationships, DigitalGov is focusing on customer service as our May monthly theme. There are numerous ways to look at the customer experience and many digital professionals may ask themselves, how is it different from user experience?

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How Much Will My Agency’s Contact Center Cost?

The federal government has caught the customer experience bug. We want our customers to complete their tasks with minimal effort using a streamlined process. If they need personal help, we want it to be quick, polite, and provide the best answer. But that personal help frequently requires a team of highly skilled, dedicated people—a contact center. When people call to ask how much it will or should cost their agency to have a contact center, I can’t give them an answer.

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DigitalGov’s Inaugural Podcast: How IVR Supports Contact Centers

​DigitalGov University has added podcasts to our suite of offerings on DigitalGov, featuring interviews and discussions with leaders in the DigitalGov community. For the first edition, we talked to Diane ​Devera, “Voice of the IVR” for the USA.gov Contact Center. In this 10 minute discussion with Jacob Parcell, Manager of Mobile Programs, Devera discusses several considerations about interactive voice response (IVR) for federal contact centers, including: Why are IVRs important for government contact centers?

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Lessons Learned from 4 Decades in Federal Contact Centers

For more than 40 years, Warren Snaider has been working at the General Services Administration providing government information to the public. A Senior Federal Information Specialist, Snaider has witnessed government contact centers evolve as technology has changed the way people communicate and access information. Snaider first joined the Federal Information Center in Sacramento in 1972. His was one of 41 centers across the United States where people could walk into the lobby of a federal building and ask questions.

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Are FAQs Still Relevant?

Users have questions. Your content and website navigation can help them find answers, or potentially cause frustration. One tool for answering questions is up for debate: are FAQ sections still relevant in 2015, or are they a relic of bygone days? Nielsen Norman Group recently published two articles arguing for the continued use and usefulness of FAQs: FAQs Still Deliver Great Value and An FAQs User Experience. In response, a counter opinion was released by Gerry McGovern: FAQs Are the Dinosaurs of Web Navigation.

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Meeting Customer Needs Through Social Media

Social media tools can amplify your agency’s message, but they are also a meeting space for two-way conversations. They can be a key tool to resolve user issues and deliver excellent customer service. This is true for agencies in every corner of the government space. In honor of our monthly contact center theme, we reached out to the Social Media Community of Practice to learn more about how social media complements the work of federal contact centers.

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NCI: Reaching the Public via SMS to Change Behaviors

SMS messages are an excellent way to reach audiences. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) saw SMS messages as an opportunity to reach the public for the implementation of their Mobile Health Behavioral Intervention Programs. NCI has 15 SMS based programs, including HealthyYouTxt, a program designed to help users live a healthier lifestyle, and SmokeFreeTxt, a program designed to help users quit smoking. In this piece, we will talk specifically about the domestic version of the SmokeFreeTxt program, one of their most popular programs.

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The Content Corner: Structured Content Challenges and Lessons Learned

In May 2014, Sarah Crane discussed the importance of structured content, APIs and the development of a “Create Once, Publish Everywhere” (COPE) strategy at USA.gov via a three part video series. After my recent post about a world without Web pages, Sarah and I connected and we discussed the challenges she has experienced during the COPE project at USA.gov and some lessons to consider whether you’re at the beginning or early stages of a similar project.

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Government Contact Center Round Up

The Government Contact Center Council (G3C), led by GSA’s Tonya Beres, has been working with DigitalGov University to host events for the contact center community across the federal government. This year they hosted events and posted articles that will help you get a contact center up and running, make up-to-date changes to meet 21st century expectations, and incorporate new features like adaptive content, chat, and handling social media inquiries.

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Monthly Theme: How Federal Contact Centers Deliver Great Customer Service

At the end of last year, DigitalGov posted an article predicting that 2016 would be the year of the customer. Stephanie Thum, Vice President of Customer Experience at Export-Import Bank, looked at the great strides made in federal customer service in 2014 and called it the year of “planting seeds.” She then pointed to 2015 as the year of “germination and nurturing.” Our DigitalGov team decided to go to the root of a lot of agency customer service: contact centers.

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Gather Your Agency’s Public Data with Let Me Get That Data for You

In case you missed it, U.S. Open Data recently launched a tool called: Let Me Get That Data For You (LMGTDY). The name is a play on the very funny Let Me Google That For You website. How LMGTDFY works Let Me Get That Data For You searches any website for data in machine-readable formats and provides a list. Here is U.S. Open Data’s background reasoning for creating this tool:

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On the Spot: Must-Have IFTTT Recipes for Government

Ever since we announced IFTTT was available for federal use, dozens of ideas have been shared for how program managers can use the tool to increase their productivity. I asked some API enthusiasts in the SocialGov community which of their favorite recipes were must-haves for all digital teams or for those new to the platform. First, for those not familiar with it, IFTTT (as in “If This Then That”) combines 166 channels like Twitter, Android and iOS Location, and RSS into “recipes” that can integrate government social media, data, location-based services, and the Internet of Things.

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Empowerment, Innovation, and Improved Health Outcomes: the Blue Button Initiative

Finding and getting access to our own health information can be a complex process. And most of us don’t really think about having our health information readily accessible until we really need it – like in the event of an emergency, or when switching doctors or traveling. Combing through stacks of paperwork and contacting providers is daunting for even the most organized among us. However, this familiar scenario is being reimagined.

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HTTP vs HTTPS: Is it Time For a Change?

Data. Security. Privacy. These are the cornerstones of many discussions concerning technology. The security of citizen information when interacting with the federal government will be increasingly important as we progress into the future. A few agencies have begun to use Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) in lieu of the standard HTTP. For these agencies, this transition to HTTPS is seen as a step in the right direction and is one way for the government to address the security of citizen information.

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Web Metadata Publishing Using XML

Metadata for website content is usually managed as part of the editorial process when documents are created and published with content management systems. There may be another source for this metadata, especially in regulatory agencies: internal databases that reference Web content in support of record keeping processes. These databases may contain public and non-public information that were never meant to be published for public consumption. “Metadata” is not typically how the content is described.

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Structured Content in Government: How HHS and NCI Are Getting Started

Metadata, tagging, content modeling … they’re not identical concepts, but they’re driven by the same basic principle: when you structure your digital information, it can be more easily searched, reused, connected, shared, and analyzed. If you’re new to structured content, where should you start? Ideally, your metadata strategy will be part of your overall content strategy. In practice, however, a lot depends on your agency’s culture, its technical resources, its existing practices, and the state of your content.

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Turning Government Data into Better Public Service

Every day, millions of people use their laptops, phones, and tablets to check the status of their tax refund, get the latest forecast from the National Weather Service, book a campsite at one of our national parks, and much more. There were more than 1.3 billion visits to websites across the federal government in just the past 90 days. Today, during Sunshine Week when we celebrate openness and transparency in government, we are pleased to release the Digital Analytics Dashboard, a new window into the way people access the government online.

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Why Your APIs Need Design Help

Anything built should be built right. It doesn’t matter if it’s built of wood, carbon nanotubes or code. So it’s encouraging that the practice of User-Centered Design—getting customer feedback at every stage of a project—is catching on with APIs as well. When we think APIs, we mostly think of developers and not designers. But the experience of those who want to use your APIs isn’t just dependant of the strength and elegance of your API.

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US, Canada, and Mexico Collaborate to Improve Open Government and Digital Services

Many forces are converging to strengthen the political, economic and commercial ties that bind the United States, Canada and Mexico. The GSA Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies (OCSIT) has anticipated this drive toward collaboration for decades, building a network of links among the three nations’ Chief Information Officers and other national technology and data experts. Annual OCSIT-sponsored North American Day (NAD) talks have contributed to improved digital services in all three countries.

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Data, Code, and API Event Round Up

DigitalGov University has hosted some great events over the last year in partnership with Data.gov, the MobileGov Community and 18F to bring you information on opening data and building APIs. This month we’ve rounded up the events over the past year so that you can see what’s been offered. Use the comments below to offer up suggestions on what else you’d like to see on the schedule.

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DigitalGov Monthly Theme: How Data and Code Improve Government Services

Data and code are the foundation, building blocks, and cornerstone of government digital services. They are the keys that open the door to a better digital government future and are fundamental in making government more open. No matter who you are or where you work in the federal space, data and code enable your projects to meet real needs. This month we’re featuring articles around the theme of data and code.

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ForeignAssistance.gov’s Redesign: Using Agile Methodology to Keep Users in Mind

Content is one of the most important things about your site. After all, it is what keeps your users engaged and keeps them coming back to your site. Depending on the type of website your agency manages, you should always think of ways to best deliver your content to your end users. If the content you provide is constantly changing or evolving, then you should present this content in a way that is as equally dynamic and allows for the end user to easily manipulate the data to find what they need.

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Avoid Weak ‘Links’ in Your Digital Chain

Users don’t like surprises. Unexpected or unwanted content undermines the credibility of your agency and frustrates users who come to your website looking for specific information. Using links appropriately in your website content is one way to build trust with users, according to an article by Kara Pernice of the Nielsen Norman Group. Here’s a real life example: If the link above led to an article about 3D printing, you’d probably be pretty annoyed right now.

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The Content Corner: Treating the Citizen as a Customer

There is a tendency in government to discount a range of strategies closely connected to marketing. A good example, and a recent buzzword, is content marketing. Content marketing’s main goal is to drive a user to click or sign-up; to turn them into a lead or a buying customer. We’re the federal government, we aren’t selling anything, we don’t care about conversions or lead-generation. Wrong. Citizens visit government websites more and more often to solve a specific problem:

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Don’t Forget the Long Tail: It Can Deliver Value

Top tasks matter. Visitors come to your website with specific goals in mind. Using a top-task methodology can be particularly useful when redesigning your homepage. But, top tasks aren’t the whole story. Our government websites also have a large range of tiny tasks that, when managed carefully, have the potential to deliver value. In The Stranger’s Long Neck, Gerry McGovern explains how, when visitors come to your website, they have a small set of top tasks they want to complete quickly and easily.

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A February Focus on Content on DigitalGov

Good content drives your digital presence. No matter what you produce content for—social media, websites, blogs—getting people to see your work is critical. But getting noticed is not as easy as it used to be. A recent Vox article on the future of blogging talked about this problem: “The incentives of the social Web make it a threat to the conversational Web. The need to create content that ‘travels’ is at war with the fact that great work often needs to be rooted in a particular place and context—a place and context that the reader and the author already share.

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Building Brick by Brick: Ed.gov’s Website Redesign and Mobile Implementation

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither are website redesigns. In line with the piecemeal responsive Web design implementation trend we recently highlighted, the new Ed.gov website redesign happened in three phases. In this case, budget limitations and existing content management systems (CMSs) influenced the decision-making process. “We use three different CMSs,” said Jill James, Web director at the Department of Education. “We timed the phases of our redesigns with technical upgrades that we needed to do anyway.

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NASA Reaches New Frontiers in 3D Printing

3D printing has gone out of this world. Earlier this month, DigitalGov covered the NIH 3D Print Exchange, where 3D printing is supporting scientific learning and research. Today, we’re highlighting a project that is reaching brand new heights: NASA’s In-space Manufacturing Initiative. Self-Sufficiency in Space NASA is currently conducting 3D printing experiments aboard the International Space Station. In November, a printer faceplate was the first object successfully 3D printed in space.

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How Government will Accelerate Anytime, Anywhere Services and Information in 2015

Innovative wearables, stronger wifi and more 3D printing have been among the many projections for the future of mobile in 2015. Whatever comes to pass, we can be certain that the anytime, anywhere user will develop new habits and desires based on new trends. Government must accelerate its customer service approach with anytime, anywhere efforts to keep up. Here’s what I see agencies will have to do to keep up and–just maybe get ahead–in 2015.

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DigitalGov University 2015 Training Watch

Performance Analytics for Social Media Decision Making. Creating Adaptive Content. Usability Testing. These are just some of the areas of programming we are putting together. After taking a look at the most widely attended events in 2014, we decided to gather ideas we received from community and program leads for our 2015 events lineup through DigitalGov University (DGU). We’ve identified primary needs in each community, but this is just the top of the line-up because we will continue to offer just-in-time training on the things you need when you need it.

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6 Digital Media Trends for 2015: You Can Make Them Accessible!

Resolutions and predictions abound this time of year. If you’ve already lost the fight to finally give up sardine ice cream, you can always resolve to maintain or improve your digital media accessibility. Some people say that accessibility and Section 508 compliance squashes innovation and new trends, but with the right approach, you can make them accessible. When you consider accessibility at every project’s onset, you’ll make the most of these trends and engage your audience and, perhaps, gain new users.

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Trends: Big Data and Gov in 2015

As we move into 2015, the amount of data available in the digital ecosystem will increase very rapidly because of the Internet of Things (IoT), social media and wearable tech. In the future, the problem lies not only with data collection, but with what one does with the data. Big Data, one of the main and recurring buzzwords of the digital century, will remain important, but will force us to answer the question of what we will do with the data.

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The Future Will Be Printed – in 3D

The use of 3D printing is growing. From kayaks to pancakes to human and canine prosthetics, a diverse array of 3D printed products have been delivered. 3D printing has also been named one of the top technology trends in 2015 that organizations should incorporate into their strategic planning. In the federal space, 3D printing is evolving. Winners of the White House 3D ornament contest were announced last month. In January, we’re highlighting projects that show how 3D printing can support diverse federal initiatives, from scientific research to space exploration.

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15 Government Customer Service Trends for 2015

With public expectations at an all-time high, and trust in government nearing all-time lows, agencies need to step up their game. Veterans, seniors, students, taxpayers—all Americans—deserve the best service from their government. Here are our predictions for how the federal government will improve customer service in the coming year: 1. Many agencies will create a Customer Office that reports to the head of the agency. In most government agencies, no one owns the overall customer experience.

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Trend Watch 2015: What’s in the Forecast for Digital Government?

In January on DigitalGov, we’ll highlight pieces looking at trends we see coming in the digital government space in 2015 and beyond. We have lined up articles around: Customer Service Data 3D Printing at NIH and NASA Accessibility Mobile, and Training. Check back Monday, when we kick-off the month with 15 Government Customer Service Trends. And you can look at some of our most recent monthly theme articles in: crowdsourcing, user experience, and mobile.

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Opening Government Through Federal Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is a critical corner of the digital government landscape, and our December theme articles have covered the topic from a variety of angles. Before we head into January, where we will discuss upcoming trends on the digital horizon, we sat down to learn more about the evolution and future direction of federal crowdsourcing initiatives as a whole. We spoke with Jenn Gustetic, Assistant Director for Open Innovation in the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

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Crowdsourcing for Accessibility

While we’re anticipating the Section 508 refresh, many government digital media teams are facing the task of incorporating WCAG 2.0 standards (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) in their projects despite having limited staff resources and budget constraints. We can use creative solutions, such as crowdsourcing, to overcome those challenges and make our works accessible. Our teams can call on the public to share their time and skills at events or in projects where they’ll work with others to solve accessibility problems in design, development, content, etc.

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Announcing the Winners of the First-Ever White House 3D Printed Ornament Challenge

This year, innovative technologies like 3D printing are playing a role in creating a unique and interactive holiday experience at the White House. The halls of the White House are decked out with festive holiday décor and the White House Christmas tree stands tall in the Blue Room. In October, the White House announced the 3D Printed Ornament Challenge in partnership with the Smithsonian. Makers, innovators and students around the country, from New Hampshire and Texas to California and Michigan, submitted more than 300 creative, whimsical and beautiful winter-inspired designs.

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Challenge & Prize Competition Round-Up

We’ve had an excellent year of training and community events for the federal challenge and prize community, so for the month of December DigitalGov University has taken a look at the events we’ve hosted this year and rounded them up in line with this month’s Crowdsourcing theme. On Wednesday, December 10, the Challenge and Prize Community of Practice hosted its quarterly in-person meeting to highlight the roles and responsibilities that Challenge.

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How Six Agencies Are CrowdSourcing with Mobile Apps

Mobile devices allow the public to interact with government in new and game-changing ways and users expect those interactions. As a result, many agencies are taking advantage of native apps for crowdsourcing projects. The White House Open Government Initiative recently defined crowdsourcing “as a process in which individuals or organizations submit an open call for voluntary contributions from a large group of unknown individuals (“the crowd”)…” In addition, they highlighted some native applications like the Federal Communications Commission Speed Test App and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s mPing as good practices in mobile crowdsourcing.

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Reaching Out To Deliver Within: Crowdsourcing Internal Agency Projects

Crowdsourcing has created new paths for public interaction with the government, as we’ve been highlighting on DigitalGov with this month’s theme. However, crowdsourcing can also be used to harness support for internal agency projects. The Department of State is using crowdsourcing to find talent within and outside of government to support agency activities. Through the Virtual Student Foreign Service and CrowdWork initiatives, State benefits from new wellsprings of skills and talent.

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Innovation Through Market Stimulation

Crowdsourcing and prize competitions can take many forms, which makes them a great open innovation tool. A large group of federal agencies and other partners has launched a competition that also involves a secondary crowdsourcing element. The Nutrient Sensor Challenge is a market stimulation prize competition to accelerate the development of affordable, accurate, and reliable sensors for measuring nutrient levels in water. Nutrients are a natural part of ecosystems, but too much nitrogen and phosphorus causes big problems: harmful algal blooms can make pets and children sick, green water can shut down recreation, and species kills can result from impaired water conditions.

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With Every Tool Possible: Supporting Humanitarian Aid Efforts Through Crowdsourced Mapping

Fighting malaria in Botswana with a group of high school students in D.C. Contributing to the Ebola response from the West Bank. These scenarios may not fit the typical image of humanitarian aid efforts, but technology has transformed the possibilities for public participation in international development. Crowdsourced mapping projects have become key contributors in relief efforts and highlight the collaborative work that can be done between government, non-profit organizations, and the public.

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Crowdsourced Digital Citizen Services Summit

In May 2015, we’re hosting the second DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit. This round we are looking to you—federal innovators across government—to help build the agenda. We want to get you the information you need, ignite discussion, foster sharing, build capacity, even get you to challenge and debate each other in the name of delivering better digital services. So, we’ve set up a crowdsourcing platform where you can suggest presentation ideas and vote for your favorites.

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Data Visualization Challenge: Using Open Data to Reduce Crime

Criminal justice agencies collect a variety of information and use it in multiple ways. Having a clear understanding of current realities is critical to shaping policies and improving the administration of justice. Police use data to identify hot spots; judges use it when they impose sentences; victim assistance staff use it to provide better services. The problem is that criminal justice datasets are often large, complex, and contain a wide variety of geocodes and identifiers.

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Can You Crowdsource Your User Experience Research?

In one sense, almost any type of user research is crowdsourced—you’re talking to people and using that information to improve your system. But in a true sense, crowdsourcing is more than just collecting information, it’s collaborating on it. We want to have real conversations, not one-time emailed suggestions without followups. So here’s a few tidbits on crowdsourcing User Experience (UX) for your site, mobile app, API or whatever else you’ve got cooking:

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Crowdsourcing Month: An Overview

This month we’ll be highlighting articles about crowdsourcing. These are the programs that use a variety of online mechanisms to get ideas, services, solutions, and products by asking a large, diverse crowd to contribute their expertise, talents, and skills. Among the mechanisms are hackathons, data jams, code-a-thons, prize competitions, workplace surveys, open ideation, micro-tasks or microwork, citizen science, crowdfunding, and more. A brief look at history outlines a few notable prize competitions, crowdsourcing where solvers are given a task and winners are awarded a prize: The X-Prize and its many iterations from personal space flight to unlocking the secrets of the ocean, Charles Lindburgh’s flight across the Atlantic for the Orteig Prize, and the 300 year-old Longitude Prize, launched by an act of Parliament in Britain to determine a ship’s longitude with the goal of reducing shipwrecks.

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Usability Events Round-Up: 2014

This past year DigitalGov University has hosted at least one Usability event per month and we thought we’d give you a round-up of those events. After all, November 13th was World Usability Day. Since this year’s theme of World Usability Day is Engagement it would be great to take a look at the event recap article, Improving the User Experience with Usability.gov. The folks at Usability.gov took a user-centered approach to refresh their site and make the design more engaging.

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Placeholder Text: Think Outside the Box

The verdict is in. Placeholder text is harmful in search boxes. Searchers are on your site to complete a task. Having placeholder text inside a search box distracts from the task and it reduces the usability and accessibility of the search box. Placeholders look simple, but are in fact very tricky to use. When people are trying to accomplish a goal, their focus is not on the form an organization requires them to use.

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Results: 2014 Federal User Experience Survey

The cream of the crop of the top of the mountain of ALL of the surveys I run has to be the Federal User Experience (UX) Survey. It’s the second time I’ve had the privilege of running it with Jean Fox, research psychologist extraordinaire from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. When I start thinking about learning what all of my UX colleagues are doing, and designing solutions for them based on real data, I start clasping my fingers together like Mr.

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Trends on Tuesday: Speed Matters When Measuring Responsive Web Design Performance Load Times

In the mobile world, every second matters. Mobile users are a finicky bunch. They want their information anytime, anywhere and quickly. As members of the MobileGov Community of Practice have noted last year, mobile user experience is about emotion. If that emotion is not happy, you will lose the user. For this month’s DigitalGov user experience theme, we decided to talk about how speed can be a key to a user’s happiness.

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User Experience Impossible: The Line Between Accessibility and Usability

Bob goes to a popular federal government site, using his assistive technology, and starts reading a teaser for an article. Just below the teaser, there’s an embedded video on the page. He presses the tab key, trying to navigate to a link for the full article, but suddenly he’s trapped—he can’t tab past the video. He’s stuck, and he can’t access the content. Frustrated, Bob leaves the site.

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Institute of Education Sciences – Usability Case Study

After struggling with jargon-filled solicitations and a confusing website, some applicants were ready to give up on seeking grants from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Their complaints prompted a Plain Language makeover for the Institute’s funding materials. As the research arm of the U.S. Education Department, IES’s mission is to provide rigorous and relevant evidence on which to ground education practice and policy. Beginning in 2012, the project applied a Plain Language best practices to both their Funding Opportunities page and the grant solicitations themselves.

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World Usability Day 2014 theme: Engagement

There are many buzzwords thrown around in the digital government universe, but the most impactful ideas are rooted in one action: engagement. Whether it is a tweet, a mobile app, or a community of practitioners, every digital program or service requires interaction between an organization and its customer. Engagement is also the foundation of all user experience initiatives and is this year’s theme for World Usability Day. In light of today’s global celebration of UX, the DigitalGov team is highlighting five important facts about UX work that is done in the U.

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4 Tips on Great Survey Design

Whether they pop up while perusing an e-commerce site or land in your inbox after your bumpy flight in from Chicago, surveys are used in many different industries to gauge customer satisfaction and glean insight into user motivations. They are a useful tool in the kit of a user experience designer or anyone who is involved with improving the usability of a product. Surveys seem deceptively easy to create, but the reality is that there is an entire industry and an academic field based on survey design.

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Welcome to User Experience Month!

One challenge with digital government: it’s hard to see people. If you work at a U.S. Post Office, you interact with your customers, talk with them, and even see what they are feeling by looking at their faces. You can understand their experience fairly easily. In the digital world, technology decreases physical distance but increases the personal distance between us and our audience. Often we have to make sense of piles of data and user comments to determine if people even like what we offer or find it valuable.

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DigitalGov University is Making Changes Thanks to You

DigitalGov University took the pulse of our participants this spring and found that our audience wants more information about events, wants us to better communicate the value of programs and wants more access to our programs. DigitalGov University (DGU) is a platform for feds to share ideas, experiences and techniques to meet 21st century public expectations for digital government. We host live events and webinars to supplement the content on DigitalGov geared toward feds working in the digital space.

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What’s Happening with the Internet of Things?

No Mobile Gov Month on DigitalGov would be complete without an update on the Internet of Things. Regardless if you’re talking wearables, smart homes, sensors or any other connected device, your current mobile approaches will be impacted—as will your social media, user experience and data strategies. When we last visited the topic in April, discussion in the federal government was minimal. That’s no longer the case. Just this month there were multiple panels about it at the Tech-In-State: Mobile Diplomacy event and the Federal Trade Commision (FTC) was very active at the 2nd Annual Internet of Things Global Summit where FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez gave a keynote about challenges around IOT.

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HHS Conquers Tables in a Responsive Design

This year, we moved HHS.gov to a responsive template to ensure that users accessing our site in a mobile environment had the best possible experience. Our department faced several challenges in moving a site the size of HHS.gov into a responsive template and one of those challenges surrounded our need to make tables work in a responsive environment. Because of the nature of the information our department provides to the public, our use of tables is an integral part of how we communicate information.

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Open and API-Driven Federal Mobile App Registration

Thanks to the power of open data and APIs, federal agencies can now register their mobile native apps and websites on the Federal Mobile Products Registry and have them appear on the USA.gov Federal Mobile Apps Directory (formerly USA.gov Apps Gallery) almost immediately. When we launched the USA.gov Apps Gallery in 2010 there were less than 15 apps. To register an app, an agency would contact us with app info, download screenshots and create a “page” for that app.

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Trends on Tuesday: 8 Ways To Format Tables for Responsive Web Design

Making tables, charts and graphs mobile friendly is like squeezing 10 pounds of sugar into a 5 pound bag. Mobile Gov Community of Practice member Debra Fiorrito from the Defense Accounting and Financing Service recently highlighted this challenge in her responsive Web design implementation. The challenge also came up during a call with the Federal Mobile Crowdsource Testing Program when discussing photo carousels. David Fern, from the Social Security Administration, Clair Koroma, from the Department of Health and Human Services, and Beth Martin, from the Federal Aviation Administration, researched the topic to see what current approaches there are and found eight ways organizations are making charts and graphs mobile friendly.

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Open and Structured Content Models Workshop Recap

People consume government information in a variety of ways: through agency websites, of course, but increasingly through social media, search engines, and mobile apps, whether developed by agencies or third parties. To make sure the information is available seamlessly, accurately, and consistently from one setting to another, more and more agencies are exploring the use of content models. Content models create a structure to tag content in a standardized way and free it from any single format or destination, such as a Web page or PDF file.

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Web Design Changes? Let the Metrics be Your Guide

On September 6, 2013 at 11:27 p.m., EDT., viewers tuned in through the Internet to watch NASA launch its Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft. As viewers logged onto the website, something unusual happened. For the first time, metrics indicated that NASA.gov’s mobile users outpaced their desktop users. 93 percent of their viewers were watching the launch from a mobile device. At the time, NASA Web managers were already considering changing their website.

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Responsive Web Design Challenges Webinar Recap

A website redesign is never an easy task, but when responsiveness is one of your redesign’s key goals, special considerations come into play that can present unique challenges. In the September webinar on Responsive Web Design Challenges in Government, we heard from two agencies who identified coordination, leadership buy-in and content decisions when mobilizing their websites. Marissa Newhall, acting director of the Office of Digital Strategy and Communications at the Department of Energy (DOE), shared the reasons for going responsive with the energy.

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Welcome to Mobile Gov Month on DigitalGov

What’s your mobile itch? A long time ago at a workshop not so far away…we asked the 40 federal government innovators who had released native apps this question. We wanted to know their biggest barriers, challenges, frustrations to building anytime, anywhere government. Their generosity in telling us those pain points informed 2011’s Making Mobile Gov Project, which identified 10 challenges to implementing mobile apps and responsive websites for public audiences in the federal government.

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Member Spotlight – Jill James, Dept. of Education

Welcome to the first edition of a new series of articles spotlighting members of our Government Web Manager Community. This month, we introduce Jill James, who’s the Senior Web Editor/Director for the Department of Education, in their Communications and Outreach Office. We asked Jill a few questions about her work at Dept. of Ed, as well as her life outside of work, and we’re happy for the chance to get to know her better!

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Help the Public Find Your Information, Wherever and However You’ve Published It

As traffic to desktop .gov websites declines, how we publish our content increasingly matters. We need to meet people where they are as they seek information on the Internet. To do so, we need to adjust to the new world of mobile applications, social media, and instant answers provided by search engines. Freeing Content from Our Websites In this content sharing era, it is important to separate the content from how it appears on your site.

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Go.USA.gov Creates Short, Trustworthy .gov URLs

Short URLs are useful for tracking clicks, but they can create a poor user experience because the person clicking the link can’t see the final destination. That’s why Go.USA.gov was created—to show users that they would reach official government information. To maintain this trust, Go.USA.gov is only open to government employees and only shortens government URLs—that is: .mil, .gov, .fed.us, .si.edu and .state.xx.us URLs. We are willing to make exceptions for other government URLs that meet our criteria.

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Challenge, Contract or Grant – Which tool is right for the job?

Choosing between a contract, a grant, or a public prize competition to get solutions to the problems your agency faces is a difficult task. Each is a tool that has different qualities and each might be the best choice for varying situations. Sam Ortega, the manager of the Centennial Challenges program at NASA, spoke about the subject recently on a DigitalGov University webinar. Being the head of a large federal public prize program, he had a lot to say about the benefits of crowdsourcing innovation through prizes.

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Photo Carousels on Mobile Websites: Use With Caution!

You might recognize them by the user controls, if provided, that allow you to move from one newsy item to the next. They go by various names, including: carousel, slider, slideshow, banner, and gallery. Many government homepages have them. In a recent email exchange on the Web Content Managers listserv, the consensus was carousels met the internal, official need to share information. However, most agreed carousels were a necessary evil, but in general preference, were an annoyance.

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Why @congressedits Matters for Your Agency

If you haven’t heard about @congressedits yet, it’s a Twitter bot that was recently created to tweet out every anonymous edit made to Wikipedia from Congressional IP addresses. So, anyone editing articles on Wikipedia without logging in, and doing this while on Congressional Internet access, will have those changes tweeted (like this). Some of these have been productive and some embarrassing, but, in the past, some edits from Congress have been described on Wikipedia as politically motivated and even libelous.

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Should Your Agency Be Offering Chat Service?

Live Web chat is an important component of good customer service. People like having the option of talking with an agent in real-time without having to pick up the phone. While live chat is not widespread, several agencies have shown great success in serving the public through this alternative channel. At a recent Government Contact Center Council meeting, colleagues from HHS (cancer.gov), Education (StudentAid.gov), and GSA (USA.gov) shared their challenges and successes in implementing and managing Web chat.

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Solving a MobileGov Mystery: Using Open Source CMS to Implement Responsive Web Design

Responsive Web design is widely-known as a go-to solution for designing a website to fit on any device’s screen size. As we found in our February workshop, federal agencies are implementing it for various reasons. There are various ways to implement responsive design. Some agencies have implemented it via structured data and content modeling and others have completely redesigned their website. Agencies who are not yet at that point are looking for ways they can begin.

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The Trend is Diversity, in Challenge and Prize Competitions

The U.S. government has launched more than 45 challenge and prize competitions so far in Fiscal Year 2014. What trends are we seeing? Well, the trend is…diversity. That might sound like an oxymoron, but federal agencies are really putting themselves out there, asking the crowd to help tackle a wide array of problems. Until August 3rd, NASA is seeking ways to improve email for astronauts on the International Space Station.

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Why Marketing to U.S. Hispanics Is like the Offside Rule in Soccer

Do you scratch your head trying to figure out the latest trends to reach out to Hispanics in the U.S.? If you answered yes, don’t worry, you’re not alone. The current Soccer World Cup is lending a great analogy to help you think through your strategy to your customers. Some rules in soccer, as in other sports, are based on absolutes: if the ball crosses the touchline it’s out of bounds.

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User Experience (UX) vs. Customer Experience (CX): What’s the Dif?

“User Experience” and “Customer Experience.” They sound pretty similar, right? Well, here at the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, we look at it like this: User Experience (UX) deals with people interacting with your product and the experience they receive from that interaction. UX is measured with metrics like: success rate, error rate, abandonment rate, time to complete task, and (since we deal in digital) clicks to completion.

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Social Media: Accessibility Issues and Solutions

The more public information is digitized, the more it lands on or sprouts from social media channels. This is why there needs to be a greater level of awareness and consideration for those who can benefit most from that information—people with disabilities—since they have the least access to it. Like many websites, social media platforms present some of the greatest barriers in digital accessibility. Social media connects people and so much more Social media is a part of millions of people’s daily activities, from job searches to finding important information that can affect them as individuals, family members, students, caregivers, and more.

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Is It Tweet-Worthy?

The Web now contains over 1.51 billion pages of content, according to WorldWideWebSize.com. That’s a lot of reading material, and a lot of content competing with yours for attention. People won’t waste time (even a few seconds) on an article that doesn’t matter to them in some way—not when there are so many other interesting things to read on the Web. But what makes something “tweet-worthy?” What can you do to capture your audience’s attention and entice them to share broadly in their networks?

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Broadcasting Board of Governors Use “Relay” Tool to Cover the World Cup

World Cup fever, everyone’s got it—even the Broadcasting Board of Governors‘ (BBG) Voice of America has reporters covering the event. For this year’s World Cup, VOA has teamed up with the Office of Digital and Design Innovation (a digital team inside the BBG) to create two new sites: one in English and one in French. These mobile-firsts sites are light-weight, responsive and built to meet the needs of the network’s African audiences, which are increasingly turning to mobile for news and information.

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Trends on Tuesday: Are Mobile Devices The “Center” of Social Universe?

Mobile devices are moving closer to the center of the social universe, according to this Sproutsocial article. Platforms like Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter are overwhelmingly used on the go. Comscore predicts that there will be increasing monetization via social in the coming years. In the banking industry, where data shows many people have stopped going to brick and mortar banks, tying mobile and social together is critical. Organizations are increasingly adopting a SoLoMo approach in which they leverage the interplay between social, local and mobile.

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CDC’s “Predict the Flu Season Challenge” Could Keep You Well in the Future

The results of an innovative government prize competition might help you avoid the flu next season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced the winner of the “Predict the Influenza Season Challenge”: Dr. Jeffrey Shaman of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and his team submitted an algorithm to predict peak flu season using Google Flu Trends and CDC’s Influenza-Like Illness (ILI) data. The challenge was unique in that it asked participants to use digital data to forecast the start, the peak week, and the intensity of the U.

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Using Visual Content to Drive Engagement

You’ve probably noticed the trend toward more visual content being shared across social platforms—pictures, infographics and how-to videos seem to be popping up everywhere. We certainly noticed that trend across several government social media properties, so when USA.gov was preparing to launch our campaign introducing the 2014 Consumer Action Handbook (CAH), we wanted to create highly-visual social content to see how it would do in comparison to standard text and link social content.

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Trends on Tuesday: Mobile Location Data Improving

Imagine a world where your mobile device delivers ads for goods and services within 100 yards of your location. According to Thinknear, a leader in targeted mobile advertising, that future may soon be a reality. Here’s what Thinknear found when measuring the accuracy of location data used in mobile advertising: 67% of ad inventory comes with latitude and longitude information compared to 10% a few years ago 34% of mobile impressions are accurate within 100 meters; 9% are between 100 meters and 1000 meters; and 30% are between 1,000 meters and 10,000 meters 20% of mobile location-based ad inventory is outside 10,000 meters—more than six miles off target Mobile marketers aren’t the only ones who can benefit from accurate location data.

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Three Ways Agencies Are Using Social Media in Mobile Products

As highlighted in this Trends on Tuesday post, time spent on mobile phones—about 3 hours per day—has surpassed that of daily PC usage. This yields a significant opportunity for consumer interaction with federal agencies’ mobile apps, not just websites, and social media outlets. To take advantage of new opportunities for consumer interaction, federal agencies are implementing social media as part of their mobile products. We surveyed the mobile products submitted to the Federal Apps Registry to see how agencies are incorporating social media into their mobile products.

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Video Blog: Part 3: Sarah Crane, USA.gov

In our final video interview with Sarah Crane of USA.gov, she talks about adaptive content and how it works with APIs. Missed Part 1 and Part 2? Watch them to find out how USA.gov dealt with their inconsistent customer experience and content sprawl. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=giK-RsHjA4c&w=600] Interested in learning more about adaptive content and content modeling? Check out the new Structured Content Models and the training on Event Model Creation. We’ve created an editorial theme calendar to coordinate content each month around one focus.

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Designing in the Open Training Recap

During the recent redesign of Data.gov, the team developed a process that helped them respond to public feedback, track the actions and hold themselves accountable. In a DigitalGov University webinar, “Designing in the Open—Public Participation in Government Web Design,” Phil Ashlock, chief architect at Data.gov, and Jeanne Holm, Data.gov evangelist, shared how integrating feedback from virtual, online and face-to-face testing, as well as across multiple social media platforms, helped dramatically change the design in the response to the needs of their users.

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Because It’s Hard

Two years ago, federal agencies were set on a fast track to create a 21st century digital government. The Federal Digital Strategy served up a heaping set of deliverables on a tight timeline. Agencies opened data sets, built mobile apps and websites, published APIs, created and updated digital governance structures, and joined with other agencies in measuring digital services performance. Last May, as the final deadlines were met, some asked, “What’s next?

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Trends on Tuesday: What’s Your Agency’s Mobile Strategy?

Here’s a statistic that might surprise you: 28% of Chief Information Officer (CIO)s in the private sector admitted in a survey they don’t have a plan for mobile technology. They cited compliance issues as a factor preventing their organizations from taking the necessary first step. Now, you may be wondering, “Does my agency fit in that category?” Two years ago, the Digital Government Strategy required agencies to start planning and implementing anytime, anywhere strategies.

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Government Open and Structured Content Models Are Here!

Smartphones, tablets, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, not to mention your agency’s desktop website, are all clamoring for information, but sliced and diced in different ways. How can you make your content adaptive for efficient delivery to all of these mediums? Structured content and open content models can help you create content that is platform-agnostic, format-free, and device-independent. We’ve created two open and structured content models that we want you to use and adapt.

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Improving Contact Center Performance with Contract Incentives: Dos and Don’ts

“In business, words are words, explanations are explanations, promises are promises, but only performance is reality.” Harold S. Geneen As government contact center managers, we dream of having contact center contractors who regularly exceed our performance expectations. One way to motivate your contractor to excel is by including financial incentives/disincentives directly into your contact center contract. The concept for incentives/disincentives is a simple one—pay more when your contractor over performs; pay less when your contractor under performs.

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Need Help Responding to Facebook & Twitter Questions? Use Your Contact Center Customer Service Experts

Government agencies are always looking for better ways to connect with their audiences while making more effective use of existing (or shrinking) resources. To that end, many agencies—including ours, the National Cancer Institute—have begun to use social media platforms to help serve the communications mission. As these tools have become more widely used, NCI’s Contact Center has become an essential partner in our social media efforts. For those who don’t know us, NCI is the largest of the 27 Institutes and Centers within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

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Trends on Tuesday: How Contact Centers are Adapting to the Mobile User

While it does provide challenges, anytime, anywhere digital government provides numerous opportunities for contact centers to do business more effectively. According to this study by Compare Business Products, one of the most important impacts for contact centers is that smartphone users can now connect with contact centers via voice calls, SMS messages, Internet pages, social media video chat and native apps. While mobile is changing user habits, the study states, “those contact centers that are able to embrace these channels and make it easy for customers to contact them through any of these at their whim will naturally be those that rise to the top of the pile and impress their customers.

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Customer Satisfaction: Innovating with Lack of Resources

As government contact centers, we all face financial and technological constraints in our pursuit to improve the customer experience. One challenge faced by many contact centers is staffing limitations to handle the volume of incoming customer traffic. There are barely enough employees to operate phones, let alone work on meeting or exceeding the organizational customer satisfaction performance goals. One initiative that was important to the City of Philadelphia’s 311 non-emergency contact center was the successful collection of customer feedback and coaching our employees to improve the customers’ experience with each transaction.

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