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UX

Create user-focused content and designs, and make government information accessible to people with disabilities.

3 Ways to Manage Research Projects Remotely

This post was originally published on the 18F blog. At 18F, we have employees across the U.S. Over time, we’ve cultivated our best practices for distributed teams and design methods. Yet, doing research as a remote team is still really hard. Here are some things that we’ve found make it easier. Six icons showing different types of video conferencing. Use tools like you would in real life Being a remote team doesn’t mean you should forgo any of your research rituals.

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Finding Usability Testers: Tips from an Army Recruiter

After spending 22 years in the U.S. Army, including 3 years as a recruiter, Julie Jackson realized that not only was she qualified to work in usability, but had a knack for it—especially because of her ability to strike up a conversation with nearly anyone, anywhere. Julie shares how her training in the Army has helped in her approach to usability testing, and gives a peek inside how usability testing works for USAJOBS.

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Slack AMA Connect Standards Team with Public

The team behind the U.S. Web Design Standards (the Standards) held their first Ask Me Anything (AMA), in August, to answer questions from their public Slack channel community. There was great excitement in the channel leading up to the chat, and more than 40 new people joined the already robust community of federal, state and local government, higher education, industry, nonprofit, and U.K. and Canada government officials that are interested in working with–and growing–the Standards.

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A Conversation With ITIF About the State of Federal Government Websites

At the beginning of 2017, the ITIF (Information Technology and Innovation Foundation) released a report that benchmarked 300 federal websites in four areas: page-load speed, mobile friendliness, security and accessibility. Some sites fared better than others, but the report highlighted that our federal sites have a ways to go (DigitalGov included) in these areas. Looking at these four metrics is important as they directly impact our customers’ first perceptions of the quality of our government’s digital services.

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Design and Conflict: Do You Know Your Conflict Style?

Ask most government employees their Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® and they can rattle off their results. But if you ask a government employee about their conflict style, it’s much less likely they can talk about their tendencies and predilections around tension. Conflict is inevitable in the workplace, but is conflict something your product team proactively talks about? Building empathy towards users is always a part of the UX process, but it’s not always common practice to build empathy towards our teammates.

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CFPB Serves up Financial Tips to Seniors

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Meals on Wheels America have created multilingual educational resources about financial scams that target the elderly which can be easily distributed to seniors in the communities they serve, and downloaded or ordered in bulk for free by the general public. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) Consumer Education & Engagement division offers a variety of financial education resources and tools. Our Office for Older Americans specifically strives to find the resources that best meet the needs of older adults in America age 62 and older.

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The Data Briefing: Federal Government Pioneers in Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality Training

When I was in the private sector, around the year 2000, I worked for an information technology (IT) consulting company as a project manager and developer. On one project, I provided support for early mobile devices given to medical students. I worked in a small office around the corner from the cardio-respiratory simulator (CRS). The CRS was a life-sized human dummy that could simulate several conditions including a heart attack, a collapsed lung, and other heart and lung issues.

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The Cutting EDGE: New Virtual Training Prepares First Responders for Active Shooter Incidents

Amidst the chaos of an active shooter event, preparedness is key to a seamless, swift and effective response—and a new video game funded by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory just might do the trick. Enhanced Dynamic Geo-Social Environment, or EDGE, is a virtual training platform, available now to all response agencies nationwide. Built on the Unreal Engine, it allows responders of all disciplines to assume discipline-based avatars and simultaneously role-play complex response scenarios.

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Have You Critiqued Your Critique Process?

Whenever I hear someone complain about the process of a design critique, I’m always a bit surprised. Blame it on the fact that I’m a design school graduate, where critique is a mandatory part of the educational experience. I consider learning to give and receive feedback as one of the most relevant and useful pieces of my education. But translating the rules and reasons for critique from a classroom to the workplace can take a bit of practice.

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The Data Briefing: Ten Years of Digital Transformation—Lessons Learned

Since 2007, a major consulting firm has conducted an annual survey on organizations’ “Digital IQ.” In the ten years of organizations grappling with digital transformation, what has been learned? From the report: Focus on the human experience [emphasis in the original]: Rethink how you define and deliver digital initiatives, consider employee and customer interactions at every step of the way, invest in creating a culture of tech innovation and adoption, and much more.

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Vets.gov: A Modern Software Development Environment in Government

When people think of government software, they often think of COBOL and PowerBuilder 5, with manual software deploys every three to six months on a fixed number of machines in a government-run data center. This perception is sometimes justified, but sometimes entirely wrong. Regardless, the perception makes many developers reluctant to work for the government because they worry about the frustrations of getting stuck in the bureaucracy instead of being able to iterate rapidly, ship products, and deliver value.

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VA Innovators Network Program: Ahead of the Curve in Healthcare Innovation

VA Innovators Network Program Selected as FedHealth IT Innovation Award Winner This month, FedHealth IT announced that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Innovators Network Program was selected as a 2017 recipient of the FedHealthIT Innovation Award. FedHealth IT recognized 25 Federal Health programs that have demonstrated exceptional performance as a result of their willingness to take risks and deliver real and measurable results. Nominated and selected by peers, all recipient programs have shown an extraordinary commitment to driving innovative ideas in effort to enhance federal programming for Department of Veterans Affairs, Military Health, Health and Human Services, and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

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Improving Customer Experience with Digital Personas

Keeping the customer’s needs front and center is important when developing new digital tools. We recently developed a set of user personas as part of our work to establish a more robust—and data informed—understanding of the individuals that engage digitally with the National Archives (NARA). User personas are fictional, but realistic representations of key audience segments that are grounded in research and data. We recently applied customer data from a variety of sources including website analytics and online surveys to inform the creation of eight personas that represent our digital customers: Researchers, Veterans, Genealogists, Educators, History Enthusiasts, Curious Nerds, Museum Visitors, and Government Stakeholders.

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Opening Public Services to Artificial Intelligence Assistants

“Hey, Computer, how do I access my public services?” Citizens will soon be able to ask their Intelligent Personal Assistants (IPA) this question through an Emerging Citizen Technology open-sourced pilot program. The purpose of the initiative is to guide dozens of federal programs make public service information available through automated, self-service platforms for the home and office such as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana and Facebook Messenger. Last week, participants from more than a dozen federal agencies, both in D.

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The New FEC.gov

Last week, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) unveiled their new website at FEC.gov. This new site is the result of a years-long collaboration with GSA’s 18F and features completely revamped tools for exploring campaign finance data. It provides user-centered content for understanding the reporting and compliance requirements for people participating in federal elections, redesigned tools for exploring legal resources, and more. Why it matters On the agency’s “About the FEC” page, it says, “The FEC was created to promote confidence and participation in the democratic process.

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Benefits of Accessible Design

According to the World Bank, approximately one billion people worldwide live with a disability, making up the world’s largest minority. Designing from an accessibility-first standpoint has the potential to benefit all stakeholders, not just people with disabilities, because accessible design typically delivers a better user experience. Currently many websites and digital platforms are inaccessible, which makes them difficult or impossible for people with disabilities (including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, or neurological) to use.

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GetMyFuture.org: Essential Youth Resources, Now

This post was originally published on the U.S. Department of Labor Blog. They say that life can be summed up as the process of a series of doors closing. By that, they mean that opportunities for taking different paths start to disappear as you move through life. It’s a logical sentiment, but there’s an obverse to it. When you’re young, all those doors are open. Doors as far as you can see.

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How the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Uses the U.S. Web Design Standards

As mentioned in our recent Q&A with the team at NASA, the U.S. Web Design Standards team is sitting down with various agencies that are using the Standards. In this second post in our series, we met with the team at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and learned how they used the Standards to train, develop, and design their various websites and applications. Standards team: Why did you decide to use the U.

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Color in Digital Design

How do we choose color in digital design? In print, we have the Pantone fan and what you see is what you get — as long as your printer is color calibrated. With computer monitors, one does not get such precision, even within one office. So how much time and effort do you spend on color selection? What you select could be your agency or office standard for the next five, ten or one hundred years!

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Engineering the Chaski Relay: A Touchscreen Game at the National Museum of the American Indian

On visiting The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, it is impossible not be taken by the sheer scale of the Inka Road. Qhapaq Ñan, or the Road of the Inka, is a 25,000-mile long road system that fed the rapid expansion of the Inka Empire in the 14th and 15th centuries. It connected distant towns and settlements in the Andes, snaking up and down mountains, bridging impossible valleys, and traversing lush agricultural fields and terraces.

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NASA’s Journey With the U.S. Web Design Standards

The U.S. Web Design Standards were created by the government, for the government. They’re currently implemented on hundreds of government sites, with an audience of more than 26 million monthly users. They’ve also been recommended by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for all government agencies to ensure a consistent look and feel of their public-facing digital services. Over the coming months, the team will be doing a series of blog posts to share information about the how different agencies are using the Standards.

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New ITIF Report Inspires a Closer Look at Website Performance and Security—Here Is Where to Begin

The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) recently published a report, Benchmarking U.S. Government Websites, that looks at the performance, security, and accessibility of the top 297 government websites. ITIF is a think tank in Washington, D.C. whose mission is to formulate, evaluate, and promote policy solutions that accelerate innovation in technology and public policy. Over the past 90 days, government websites were visited over 2.55 billion times. According to the Analytics Dashboard, 43.

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Mythbuster’s Guide to Accessibility: What We’ve Learned About 508 Compliance That All Technologists Can Use

As government technology improves and accelerates, the U.S. Digital Service has the opportunity to improve the most critical public-facing services across agencies. The services and products we create need to be accessible to everyone. Too often, we’ve seen others neglect accessibility because of some common misconceptions that make things difficult. In this post, we’ll debunk these myths, so you can easily create universally accessible content. Myth #1: Government accessibility is harder than it is in the private sector.

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Buzzwords for 2017

Along with the New Year comes new buzzwords. Here are some that you are certain to hear about and see this year. Chatbot Short for ”chat robot,” a chatbot is a computer program that simulates human conversation, or chat, through artificial intelligence. They are commonly found on web sites and used to communicate with a person—you might have seen them on shopping sites as a customer service assistant. One well known example of a chatbot is ALICE (short for Artificial Linguistic Computer Entity), an open source, natural language chatbot that relies on artificial intelligence for human interaction.

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U.S. Web Design Standards Releases Version 1.0

The U.S. Web Design Standards are a library of design guidelines and code to help government developers quickly create trustworthy, accessible, and consistent digital government services. Last month, we announced the 1.0 release of the Standards, a milestone that signals the Standards are a stable, trustworthy resource for government designers and developers. By using the well-tested and easy-to-implement code from the Standards, developers can quickly create new websites or have a leg-up in updating existing services to have a modern, consistent feel.

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DigitalGov Readers and Subscribers: We Want to Talk to You (Again)

We at DigitalGov want to hear more about you – your job, your role, the challenges you face — all of it — as you work to deliver more secure, effective, and reliable digital services for the public. We are going to start holding user-research sessions with our readers who work in the federal government. This will be a big part of how we listen to and learn about those who are providing the public with better services and what their core needs are.

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Webinar Recap: Better, Faster, and More Flexible—U.S. Web Design Standards Update

The Road to Launch Version 1.0 You may have noticed a new, cleaner, and more modern look to some government websites over the last year—these are the web properties that were early adopters of the Draft U.S. Web Design Standards from 18F, the digital services agency which is part of the General Services Administration (GSA). The Standards are located at https://standards.usa.gov, with helpful links to the individual UI components, design principles, and page templates.

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DigitalGov University in Review: 2016 Training Trends

DigitalGov University (DGU), the events platform for DigitalGov, provides programming to build and accelerate digital capacity by providing webinars and in-person events highlighting innovations, case studies, tools, and resources. Thanks to your participation, DGU hosted over 90 events with 6,648 attendees from over 100 agencies across federal, tribal, state, and local governments. DGU strives to provide training throughout the year that is useful and relevant to you. One of the most resounding comments from digital managers last year was people wanted to be able to attend all of our classes virtually.

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The Smithsonian’s IPOP Exhibition Framework: Lessons for a Human-Centered Content Approach

One of the great challenges in designing a product — digital or otherwise — is stepping outside yourself and climbing into the minds of your users. You love the wonderful new app you’ve designed, but will it appeal to others? Fortunately, the field of user experience design (UX) gives us tools to understand our users through surveys, interviews, card sorting, and user testing. The Smithsonian Institution’s Office of Policy and Analysis has another tool to consider for your UX toolbox: IPOP.

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Lessons Learned: Evaluating Video Content

If you were to perform research on the value proposition of training videos, you would notice that opinions are split on their efficacy. Despite all the tools that are out there that can help you evaluate video quality, views, and drop-off, there are some things that should be considered in the analysis of your organization’s videos. As a member of the Service Design practice at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), I was tasked with a research project evaluating how non-consumers interact with the CFPB in regards to complaint data.

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Webinar Recap: Social Media + External Affairs = Outreach Success

Summary: How to leverage your resources to reach Spanish-dominant Hispanics online. A recent DigitalGov University (DGU) webinar provided an introduction to the intersection of two teams with different audiences reaching consensus on goals to maximize insight and outreach effectiveness. Social Media Outreach Goals What does social media outreach success look like? Success is when agencies and stakeholders have developed relationships that support each other’s social media and digital campaigns.

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Meeting Patients Where They Are: Liberating Clinical Trials Data Under the Cancer Moonshot

Cancer clinical trials are a critically important step on the pathway for new or improved treatments to make their way to patients in clinics and hospitals in towns and cities across the country. Patients and their loved ones are relying on these rigorous studies to determine whether promising new therapies and approaches might extend how long they live or improve their quality of life. For many years, a steady number of patients with cancer, approximately 5%, have participated in cancer clinical trials.

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The Data Briefing: Help Predict the Future of Federal Government Data

In December, I plan to write two postings detailing a scenario analysis for the next ten years of the Federal government’s data technologies. Governments are on the cusp of amazing technological advances propelled by artificial intelligence, blockchain technologies, and the Internet of Things. Also, governments will face new challenges such as the recent global cyber attack that took down Twitter and Netflix. I want to invite you, the reader, to also send in your predictions for the future of Federal government data.

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DigitalGov Readers and Subscribers: We Want to Talk to You

As you know, over the last few years DigitalGov has surfaced the innovative advancements many are making across the government space while providing a platform for learning best practices and coming together as a community. Over the course of the next few weeks, a small team from 18F and Office of Products and Programs are working on reimagining a future DigitalGov and DigitalGov University. We are looking to talk to a few readers of DigitalGov.

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Dear Search: Reading Between the Lines of Search Data

Welcome to the first Dear Search article, an occasional series where the DigitalGov Search team addresses common search questions. Dear Search, Right now, I am building up user research services that can be offered to product owners on a regular or as-needed basis. So, being able to look at search trends and offer advice to teams seems like a good start. When you are trying to understand user behavior based on search data, how do you typically go about it?

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Progressive Web Applications, Part 2: Pros, Cons, and Looking Ahead

A few weeks ago, Progressive Web Applications, Part 1: the New Pack Mule of the Internet _introduced PWAs and the technologies behind them. We shared that article to the MobileGov Community of Practice and asked about the pros and cons of this approach to winning mobile moments._ What Are Some Benefits of PWAs? PWAs bring a host of advantages over the traditional native mobile and Web methodologies including:

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The Data Briefing: Twenty Years of USAJOBS

I recently sat down with Michelle Earley, Program Manager, to discuss the new changes for the 20th anniversary of USAJOBS. 1) What are the three big lessons learned from 20 years of building and managing USAJOBS? I think one of the greatest benefits of being an Agile program is that we are constantly learning. In 2013, our team implemented the first phase of the data warehouse which provided agencies with data that could be leveraged to improve recruiting efforts.

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Creating Wall-Sized Interaction at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum

As any experienced retailer will tell you, the customer experience begins at the store entrance. Note the friendly Walmart greeter, the approachable minimalism of an Apple Store, and the calculated whimsy of Anthropologie. Store designers understand that a customer’s decision to make a purchase is often made within seconds of entering. The same holds true for visitors entering a museum. And while most museums are not expert peddlers of merchandise (though some museum stores certainly are), the savvy ones value the entrance experience and work to iterate and improve.

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Voices of Veterans: Introducing Personas to Better Understand Our Customers

Understanding our Veterans and their unique needs and experiences is at the heart of creating a more Veteran-centered VA. By listening to their voices and the stories they share, we can design services and experiences that meet the needs of Veterans. Taking a step towards a deeper understanding of our Veterans, in the fall of 2014, the Veteran’s Affairs Center for Innovation (VACI) launched its second Human-Centered design research program.

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The New Vote.gov: Leaner, Faster and Multi-Lingual

One year ago this week, we launched vote.gov (also known as vote.usa.gov). It’s a concise and simple site with a single mission: direct citizens through the voter registration process as quickly as possible. It was created by a joint team of USA.gov staffers and Presidential Innovation Fellows, all of whom work within the General Services Administration (GSA). Did it work? Yes. In fact, it worked so well that Facebook made it the destination for their 2016 voter registration drive.

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Webinar Recap: Snaps and Stripes—Sharing Public Service Stories with Snapchat

What does Snapchat, the disappearing message-and-video platform most used by teenagers, have to do with government outreach and communications programs? Well, Snapchat has quickly become an incredibly effective digital storytelling medium, and content creators across multiple government agencies have adopted it as an important part of their programs. A recent New York Times article described how nearly 35 million users in the United States watched highlights and stories from the Summer Olympics on Snapchat.

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Progressive Web Applications, Part 1: the New Pack Mule of the Internet

****A mule is the hybrid offspring of a male donkey and a horse. This new species is stronger and better equipped than the species from which it comes. Overall, mules tend to be healthier, more sound, and live longer than horses. They are favored over horses in mountainous terrain because the mule has a reputation for being more surefooted than their equine cousins. Finally, mules do not require expensive grains, eat less and don’t tend to overeat as horses do.

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How Do You Redesign a ‘Dinosaur’? Redesigning an Intranet Site: the Beginning Stages

Many content managers in the digital world understand the irrepressible desire to improve, fix, edit, add, and move things around. Indeed, it’s our job to nurture this ongoing process to create, update, test, update again. And, repeat! But, what about those sites or pages that seem to never crawl up to the ‘high-priority’ list and have been perhaps a little, ehh… neglected. For our Web team, this was our Center’s staff Intranet site.

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Social Security Joins The Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration

Social Security joins you and your family in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 to October 15. We know the contributions of Hispanics can be traced to before the origins of the United States with the discovery, exploration, and naming of many places in our nation, such as state names like California, Colorado, and Texas and city names like San Antonio, Santa Barbara, and Boca Raton. Hispanics have influenced every facet of life, from language to our cultural development.

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No Longer an Idea of the Future, Artificial Intelligence Is Here and You Are Probably Already Using It

It might surprise some of you to know that artificial intelligence (AI) is already in use and a routine part of our daily lives, but we leverage this technology when we use our smartphones or other devices to ask Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google Now, or Amazon’s Alexa a question to get the facts or data we are looking for. Using your voice, you can say, “Where’s the nearest gas station?

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Sharing The Story of Innovation

Our goal for a more veteran-centered and innovative VA is shared. Our approach to innovation is collaborative. Our approach to innovation is driven by listening, understanding and responding to the experiences and stories of the Veterans we serve. We were huddled on squeaky chairs in the social room of a transitional housing facility in Los Angeles. It was early fall of 2014, when Chris gently picked up his trumpet, raised it to his lips, and began playing.

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Emma: Friendly Presence and Innovative USCIS Resource Available 24/7

We are working hard to serve you and continue to make improvements to Emma, our Spanish-speaking Interactive Virtual Assistant. Help us improve Emma’s knowledge by continuing to ask your immigration-related questions on USCIS.gov/es from any device. This blog will help you understand a little bit more about how Emma works and how you can help her serve you better. Our Interactive Virtual Assistant (IVA) “Emma” is available in English at USCIS.

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Creative Usability Test Methods—or My Brief Career as a Robot Voice

When you want to do a usability test, sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone and get creative to get the job done. That’s just what happened to us. We’re well practiced at usability testing at USAGov—in person, remote, hallway tests, first-click tests—all of these things we manage without blinking an eye. But this spring, we tried something new. Our office was planning to make some changes to our IVR script.

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Smithsonian Learning Lab: Designing for the Classroom

The Smithsonian’s mission statement is wonderfully simple: “The increase and diffusion of knowledge.” The “increasing” is arguably the straightforward part – the Smithsonian has amassed a collection of over 138 million objects and specimens, and the Institution’s curators and scientists obsessively add to the world’s knowledge base, publishing papers, creating exhibitions, and sharing their expertise. But how can all this informational goodness get passed along to teachers, our nation’s most powerful “diffusers” of knowledge?

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Celebrating the 18th Anniversary of the Section 508 Rehabilitation Act

August 8, 2016, marks the 18th anniversary of the amendment to the Section 508 Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which covers access to information technology in the federal sector. To recognize the importance of IT accessibility, we wanted to highlight some agency initiatives to improve accessibility across the federal landscape. As amended, the Act requires: …access to the federal government’s electronic and information technology. It applies to all federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use such technology.

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Build Empathy With Stakeholder Interviews, Part 2: Conversation

A few weeks ago, the State Department held its first conference dedicated to user experience design, UX Exponential. The conference organizers invited me to speak, and in this two-part series I hope to summarize (as best as possible) the presentation I gave, “Foster The People: Building Empathy with Stakeholder Interviews.” In the first post of this series, I covered what stakeholder interviews are, why they’re valuable, and how to prepare for them.

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Summer Health and Safety: A New Resource Brought to You by CDC and NIH

****We have previously written about microsites in the federal government. A microsite is a small collection of web pages—a subset of an organization’s full website. Partners can embed microsites that present curated information on a specific topic or campaign directly within their own websites. And perhaps best of all, microsites that are API-enabled are maintained and updated by the source organization so that when updates are made, those updates are automatically made on partner sites in real time.

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Confirming the Cancellation: A VHA A/B Testing Quick Study

Summary: Clinicians using electronic health record (EHR) systems to make requests for patients need an intuitive, but safe, method of confirming that they want to cancel a started function or form. Recently, Veterans Health Administration (VHA) developers asked Human Factors Engineering (HFE) to assess a concern that a confirmation dialog in the EHR contained unclear button labeling that might easily confuse or slow down clinicians who encountered it, and created inconsistent messaging across the application.

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Catch the Mall! With Pokemon and Public Services

“… I have never seen so many people of all ages walking around our civic spaces and small businesses interacting as I have this morning. Teens catching them. People catching them in line for coffee. Moms outsmarting their kids. Local youths teaching my toddler how to throw a ball. Full grown adults. Marines. Kids on scooters. Kids on bikes. 20-somethings walking in packs. How are other small towns faring? Awesome to be outside right now building a community over something so silly and fun.

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The Content Corner: How to Leverage User-Generated Content to Resonate With Your Audience

User-Generated Content (UGC) is a buzzword as of late, popularized recently due to the ever increasing demand for new content. To define the phrase, let’s look to a shining example of it,Wikipedia, as a source, “any form of content such as blogs, wikis, discussion forums, posts, chats,tweets, podcasts, digital images, video, audio files, advertisements, and other forms of media that was created by users of an online system or service, often made available via social media websites.

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Introducing the Digital Audio/Video Community of Practice

Tech giants have changed the world of broadcast forever. In a little more than a year, video on Facebook went from being a seldomly seen media type on a user’s timeline to a strategic priority for Mark Zuckerberg. The platform now serves over 8 billion video views a day and Facebook continues to roll out improvements to Facebook Live, a tool that lets any Facebook user easily broadcast from their mobile phone.

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The Data Briefing: I, For One, Welcome Our New Chatbot Blockchain Digital Autonomous Organizations

It is at the intersections of fields where you find the most fascinating and innovative concepts. Recently, a conference on “Open Human Resources and the Cognitive Era” explored the use of chatbots and blockchain technologies in human resources. Human Resources (HR) is quietly undergoing a revolution as many HR practitioners are transforming HR by using open source concepts. It is fascinating to see how cognitive technologies and cloud technologies are changing HR from a transactional and compliance function to an essential strategic organizational asset.

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Welcome to the New DHS.gov

Today, I am happy to announce the newly optimized DHS.gov website. Over the past year, DHS has worked behind the scenes to update and modernize our flagship website, making it faster and easier to use. Some of the specific differences you’ll see are: Compatibility for both desktop computers and mobile devices (phones and tablets) Cleaner, easier-to-read site format and presentation Faster and more accurate site navigation using our internal search function and external search engines (like Google and Bing) DHS.

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GSA Introduces New Web-Based Leasing Tool

Recently, Regional Administrator Sara Manzano-Díaz of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) introduced a web-based leasing tool, the Automated Advanced Acquisition Program (AAAP), to 60 lessors and/or brokers at the Dow Building in Philadelphia. The AAAP tool was designed to consolidate and streamline the leasing process, making for a more efficient, transparent process that also gets the best deal for the American taxpayer. Ms. Manzano-Diaz said that the AAAP will transform how the GSA Mid-Atlantic Region conducts its leasing by transitioning the system to an electronic platform that will serve as the primary procurement vehicle for GSA to acquire office space.

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The User-Centered Redesign of IdentityTheft.gov

I first came across the redesigned IdentityTheft.gov on Reddit, of all places. Someone had posted a link to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) newly redesigned site and wrote: I hope this never happens to any of you as the entire thing can be really stressful. The identitytheft.gov website is a true breath of fresh air…You can talk to an actual person. They also have this extremely easy wizard to click through your situation and it will auto-generate a “Recovery Plan” including dispute letters, steps to contact law enforcement, putting credit freezes, and basically protecting yourself.

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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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Kids.Gov Reenvisioned

At USAGov, we always put our customers first. In the wake of our rebranding efforts, our desire to create a positive user experience across the organization has pushed us to turn a scrutinous eye toward Kids.gov — a site focused on providing information and resources to parents, teachers, and kids. In a cross-organizational effort, individuals from the marketing, user experience, and performance measurement teams have joined forces to “reenvision” the site’s content and presentation to better suit the public’s needs.

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Accessible Workplace Technology: Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Last week, I had a brush with a bona fide music legend — the great Stevie Wonder. Was I starstruck? Of course. I’ve long admired his musical accomplishments and advocacy for people with disabilities. His appearance at the Grammy Awards in February highlighted once again the need to improve accessible technology, particularly in the workplace. What brought me, Stevie Wonder and hundreds of other accessibility advocates together was the International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference.

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Redesigning We the People

Summary: Improving the way you engage with the White House through our online petitions platform In July 2015, we announced a big change in the way we would answer petitions on We the People. We committed to responding to you within a 60-day timeframe, whenever possible. We assembled a team of people dedicated to getting your policy questions and requests to the right people so you get the most informed response.

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The USAGov Bilingual Style Guide Is Now Online!

About a year and a half ago, the Federal Citizen Information Center—today called USAGov—embarked on a very ambitious task: integrating our content operations. We blurred lines that defined silos and adopted a bilingual content approach to offer a more consistent experience, regardless of language preference or point of access to our information. See more about our rebirth. As we were figuring out our new content model, we saw the need to reinvent our style guidelines to reflect our new organization.

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Worth a Thousand Words? Announcing Ready-to-Go Interactive Graphics with BLS News Releases

Last spring I wrote about how we’ve been using more and better charts and maps to help you understand our statistics. Today I’m excited to tell you about a new set of graphical tools to make our news releases more illuminating at the moment of their posting. We want everyone to be able to “see” quickly what’s in the hundreds of news releases we publish every year—on price trends, pay and benefits, productivity, employment and unemployment, job openings and labor turnover, and other topics.

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UX Exponential: State Department Turning Bad User Experiences into Good

How many times a day do you have a bad user experience? Did you have one: Riding the metro to work this morning this morning? Waiting for your email to open? Watching a way-too-long training video? Trying to find your way around a new-to-you building? How many times have you thought, “there has to be a better way to do this!” If you’re like us, you think that all the time.

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Three Teams Using the Draft U.S. Web Design Standards Talk about Their Experiences

In the five months since we launched the Draft U.S. Web Design Standards — the U.S. government’s very own set of common UI components and visual styles for websites — over a dozen websites have used components of the Draft Standards on their sites. Recently, we talked to three federal web designers about their experiences using the Draft Standards, which were designed with accessibility and flexibility in mind: Maria Marrero is the User Experience Designer for USA.

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How to Integrate the Draft U.S. Web Design Standards into Existing Projects

One of the most common questions we receive is: Should I integrate the Draft U.S. Web Design Standards into my existing project? The answer is: it depends. A lot of design research supports the notion that many people who use government websites or services may benefit from consistency across interactions, user experiences, and behavior across those websites. A consistent look and feel with common design elements will feel familiar, trustworthy, and secure—and users will be able to navigate government websites more easily because of a common palette and design.

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Making the Draft U.S. Web Design Standards Better Through Your Feedback

Since our launch of the Draft U.S. Web Design Standards last September, hundreds of people have provided feedback on the project through GitHub issues and via email. We’ve received dozens of feature requests as well as over 400 contributions from the open source community. Over the past five months, we’ve incorporated suggestions from the feedback we’ve received, resolved a number of outstanding issues, and made various updates to our content and structure.

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Picture This: 3 Ways to Zoom In On Cross-Agency Collaboration

Cross-agency collaboration in the federal government has become a prevalent topic, more widely spoken and written about in the recent past than ever before, thanks, in part, to a bigger-than-ever focus on customer experience as a way of thinking within government. Rising customer expectations, advances in technology, and recommendations from government oversight organizations continue to challenge agencies’ efforts to forge partnerships that benefit citizens and customers. A 2015 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that some agencies have forged collaborative relationships that work.

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How People Learn to Navigate Government Services

This is part three of a series detailing the findings of a team of researchers from 18F and the General Services Administration who studied broad trends in people’s perceptions of and interactions with the government. You can find the introduction to the series on our website and a complete pdf of the research findings on a new microsite that details the themes the research team is investigating. In yesterday’s post, we shared the strategies people use when interacting with the government.

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Informing the Future of the Federal Front Door

In our last post, we introduced the Federal Front Door project and briefly described a six-week discovery phase, in which we set out to better understand how the general public feels about and interacts with the federal government, so that we can design and build products that improve people’s experience across government agencies. We think of the federal front door as the places the public first interacts with their government.

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Paying Incentives for Federal User Research

Paying incentives to test participants is standard practice in research and usability testing. While some people may be willing to participate for free, many aren’t. Incentive payments help ensure people will take the time to travel to your office and give you 30, 60 or even 90 minutes of their time. However, government researchers and user experience specialists have limitations on how—and how much—they can pay participants. Recently, federal user experience practitioners discussed the mechanics of how to get the right payments to the right people for the right research.

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Tips for Hallway Testing from NIH

Over the course of the last year, the National Library of Medicine (NLM) has sought to increase its use of usability testing to improve the user experience on our Web resources. To do this, we conducted hallway usability testing10-tips-for-creating-the-perfect-open-opportunity-task/) at the NIH Clinical Center on NLM’s site search feature. Our goal is to update the user interface and improve user satisfaction with results. We set out to learn the specific difficulties and successes users have with our search interface through user testing.

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How ABMC Got Started with Mobile App Development

In the sea of apps, users get choosey with which apps can take up space on their phone. With one uninstall click the user can decide to breakup with the app if they have a bad experience. To keep your app from being all alone, the MobileGov Community of Practice put together six Mobile User Experience Guidelines to help keep mobile users in love. DigitalGov University hosted a webinar in which the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) highlighted two of these guidelines.

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The Data Briefing: Design for Developer Experience (DX) and Data Prosumer Experience (DPX)

Recently, DigitalGov devoted an entire month to exploring how good user experience (UX) helps government design better digital products and services. UX is the art and science of understanding how people will use a website or mobile app to solve a problem or meet a need. UX is a combination of neuroscience, communication theory, information architecture, content strategy, graphic design, and responsive programming to build an experience that is inviting and beneficial to users.

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How FSA Revamped Their Online Presence with Mobile Moments in Mind

Let the mic drop! Mobile moments are created with the expectation that an app can stun the crowd. Do not let your audience down; they may never come back. Federal Student Aid (FSA), in an effort to provide better customer service, decided to build a mobile-responsive website. Kaegy Pabulos, a Borrower Experience Specialist and project manager for StudentAid.gov, described this as a challenge because of the need to combine over 12 different websites into one access center.

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Best Practices for Remote User Experience Research

Once simply an idea, remote data gathering is now a very important reality in UCD (user-centered design) work. However, there are some challenges, particularly when your agency serves the entire nation and all of the groups in it. Identifying and finding solutions for these issues will help you best use this important tool. One of the most difficult problems is that you don’t have physical access to your users. In some cases, this is just the way it is—it’s basically impossible to try and observe everyone doing everything.

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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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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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Gov Analytics Breakdown #2: Mobile Is Bigger than Ever

A review of the Digital Analytics Program (DAP) data confirms what many are already saying: Content is being viewed on mobile devices more than ever before, and the percentage of sessions via mobile devices is growing. Three things are evident when looking at the breakdown of sessions on federal government websites across device types over the last three years: Percentage of tablet sessions stayed about the same (~7%) Share of sessions via desktop (includes laptop) dropped significantly (from 80% to 66%) Share of sessions via mobile devices (not including tablet) more than doubled (from 13% to 27%) Within the last year, we saw the combined mobile and tablet percentage exceed one-third of all sessions.

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National Customer Service Week Is Over, but Our Work Is Not!

Get your customer personas right, and you will improve the customer experience (CX) for the rest of your audience. That’s advice Rick Parrish from Forrester Research gave in response to an audience question during the September 29 DigitalGov University webinar on the state of CX in the federal government. Your key customers are those that are most important to the organization, and often most difficult to serve, he explained.

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Why Your User Experience Must Include Design for Accessibility

Too often, usability and accessibility are confused with each other by our clients (stakeholders). They shouldn’t be, because while they are related, they are very different. So, how do you bring these two concepts together? They should really be working side-by-side throughout the ENTIRE process. This might seem like a no-brainer but it can be a challenge. First things first, Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act is a LAW.

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Gov Analytics Breakdown #1 – Browsers: Chrome Takes the Cake

If you were visiting a federal government website two years ago, the best odds were that you’d have been using Internet Explorer as your Internet browser. But today, that’s no longer the case. Within just the last year, Chrome has taken over the top spot as the browser most used to view federal websites, according to data from the Digital Analytics Program (DAP), and it seems to show no signs of slowing.

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How a Two-Day Sprint Moved an Agency Twenty Years Forward

At 18F Consulting, we experiment with ways to empower agencies to build cost-efficient, excellent digital solutions. Recently we partnered with the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) to run a two day “Design/Dev Agile Sprint.” Background: Investigators in Wage and Hour Division The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division is responsible for enforcing a wide variety of federal labor laws, including those requiring the minimum wage, overtime, child labor protections, and family and medical leave laws.

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FAQs Done Right

Top FAQ Tips {.post-title} Designing and Editing FAQs {.post-title} Turning FAQs Into Web Content {.post-title} In the circle of Web content life, FAQ sections are an endangered species. We’ve previously discussed the relevance of FAQs: Should FAQs go extinct, or are they a useful tool in your content ecosystem? Kathryn Catania, Chief of the Plain Language and Content Division at the U.

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Journey Mapping the Customer Experience: A USA.gov Case Study

Journey maps are a visual representation of a customer’s end to end journey with your product or service. They are a powerful tool for exploring key interactions and experiences with your organization, programs, and/or services. Journey maps describe a customer’s entire journey, even the parts that occur before and after contact with your organization. They typically contain elements such as the customer’s attitudes, emotions, and needs. We recently updated USA.

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Help Us Add Resources to the Updated Mobile User Experience Guidelines!

Government agencies need to make sure their mobile websites and native apps don’t become one of the estimated billions of applications that end up in the app graveyard. The need for digital products to work better is not new in the federal government. Resources like the Digital Playbook and Public Participation Playbook have had impact helping agencies become user-friendly and both of these resources note the importance of developing usable products for mobile users.

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The Content Corner: Determining Your User’s Needs

I recently wrapped up a series of user interviews as part of a review of our judiciary-wide intranet in order to provide better digital services to our customers (and yes, our internal users are our customers, not just the general public). As I prepare to delve back into determining user and content needs for a more varied audience and wider platform, I thought it might be helpful to share lessons learned during my recent effort and any new strategies that might be helpful for anyone getting ready to jump into their users’ brains.

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2015 Customer Service Trends: a Mid-Year Update

Earlier this year, we published 15 Government Customer Service Trends for 2015. We’re halfway through the year now—how are these trends holding up? 1. Centralized Customer Offices A few agencies have created centralized customer offices, while others question the need for a single organization that focuses on the customer. As the public’s overall satisfaction with the federal government continues to fall, a single organization can monitor customer feedback from across the enterprise to identify and address problems with the customer experience (CX).

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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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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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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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Creating a Veterans-Centered Experience Through ExploreVA

Good customer service includes user-centered design. For one digital team at the Department of Veterans Affairs, creating a veterans-centered experience started with one word: explore. The ExploreVA website provides a single location for veterans and their families to research the benefits that they may be entitled to receive. Benefits include health care, education, employment, and many more services. VA’s Megan Moloney, Director of Digital Media Engagement, and Josh Tuscher, New Media Technologist, spoke about ExploreVA and the process it took to develop this user-centered, interactive platform.

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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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Focus Groups: Are They Right for You?

The short answer is: it depends on your goals. If you Google “focus group,” you will have a host of positive and negative feedback, but the truth is that it depends on what your needs are. What Is a Focus Group? Focus groups are an inexpensive way to identify people’s preferences, motivations, thoughts, feelings and attitude towards a product or service. In a typical focus group, approximately 6 to 10 people spend 60 to 90 minutes voicing their opinions about your website or application.

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Usability Testing with People Who Have Vision Impairment

It’s a forgone conclusion that usability studies are effective in identifying weak points within a website, but what about testing people who are visually impaired? How hard is it to accommodate them? There are some additional challenges that you may encounter when conducting testing with people with disabilities; however, these challenges should not be considered overwhelming. I spoke with Peter McNally, a Senior Usability Consultant at the User Experience Center at Bentley University, to get his take on usability testing with users who have visual impairment.

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Using Personas to Better Understand Customers: USA.gov Case Study

Personas are fictional characters that describe an organization’s customer behaviors, emotions, attributes, motivations, and goals. They are an important tool to share customer insights and understanding across an organization. Personas also serve as a check to make sure your organization’s actions meet the needs of the majority of customers, including visitors to your website, contact center, in-person visits, and interactive voice response (IVR) self service customers. Why We Updated our Personas Personas aren’t new to USA.

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CareerOneStop’s Newest Online Resources: Targeted to User Needs

When the Employment and Training Administration’s CareerOneStop team embarked on a redesign of the site’s online career, training, and job resources, they didn’t dive right into the technical work. Instead, they embraced a user-centered approach that focused on the user experience (UX). Focusing on UX means taking a step back to learn about users’ core needs and preferences. The team asked real users several questions about the site.

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Usability Design for Kids: Things Federal Workers Should Know

I used to teach 8th grade science in inner city Denver in the 1990s. After that, I supported special education students and their teachers in North Carolina. Around that time (mid-late 1990s), the Internet wasn’t really designed for kids –most of the electronic materials I came across for the classroom were on CDs and such. After learning more about design, Information Architecture, and now user experience, I began to realize that while digital services for kids looked really good on the outside, on the inside they were awful.

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Getting Started with Usability Testing

At the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), our new open data policy will begin making more Agency-funded data broadly accessible to the public. It completely changes the way we do business, and it also means that in the coming years, the amount of data we host on our open data website (known as the Development Data Library) will dramatically increase. So the question is: when we’re done overhauling our website, how will the user make sense of all that information to find exactly what they’re looking for?

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At Last: User Experience Performance Descriptions!

To improve your digital systems with user experience (UX), you need people. And to get people in government, you need position descriptions. While DigitalGov has collected a wide variety of position descriptions, I thought I would create a post specifically on UX positions, and explain the difference between these jobs. Yes, there is overlap. But this is still an excellent place to get started. I am indebted to the helpful heroes at USAJOBS for scouring through their vast job database to find these examples.

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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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GoodGovUX Addresses UX of IT Contracts

How do you define user experience (UX)? That was the question posed to more than 100 people at the GoodGovUX event at the Artisphere in Arlington, Virginia, on February 24th. Attendees learned how government can improve the user experience of digital products, from intranets to forms to good ol’ fashioned websites. GoodGovUX co-founder Keith Deaven collected responses from the crowd, which was a diverse mix of people working in private industry, federal, and local governments.

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The Usability ‘Aha!’ Moment: How to Turn Cynics into Converts

User Experience (UX) is the comprehensive experience a person has when using a product or application, and usability is the ease of use (or lack thereof) when using it. Many of us have discovered the vast advantages of evaluating usability on our own; however, getting others to jump on board is often a different story. The most difficult part of integrating an effective UX program in your organization is getting the initial buy-in from developers and stakeholders.

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Persona Development Case Study: NCI and Spanish Language Outreach

Government websites need to address the needs of diverse audiences. Although translations are a first step towards engaging non-English speaking audiences, the intended audience may be alienated if information is not presented in a culturally relevant way. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) engaged in user experience research in order to better serve the U.S. Latino population. The research eventually led to the creation of Spanish language personas that NCI uses to design programs, products, and services that are culturally and linguistically appropriate.

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Trends on Tuesday: Mobile Web Lessons From the CrowdSource Mobile Testing Program

Practice makes perfect. But in the mobile world, it’s testing that makes products better. For federal agencies that have developed their own apps or mobile-friendly sites, the CrowdSource Mobile Testing Program offers a simple way to collect feedback on compatibility testing. Since the program’s inception in March 2013, eight federal mobile websites (including responsive design) have been tested by 65 federal employees from 41 agencies. The benefits are twofold: agencies receive actionable feedback about their mobile websites, and testers gain valuable knowledge about mobile websites that they can share with their own agencies.

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Institutionalizing User Experience: Building Usability into Your Organization

So, you have some systems or tools your customers or employees access. Maybe you want to put together a robust capability to conduct usability testing. How do you start formalizing user experience (UX) into your organization? Brad Ludlow at GSA tossed this topic out on the User Experience community listserv, and I’ve encapsulated the superb discussion that followed below. Here, then, are four easy steps to building User Experience into your office:

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Top Task Usability: Design for Your Users

Being able to design a website that users love is not too far away from being able to read their minds. While designers can’t read minds, that doesn’t stop them from using their website’s top tasks to make it seem like they can. A website’s top tasks include 5-10 tasks (depending on the scope of the site) that the majority of the website’s users want or need to do on the site.

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Agency Perspectives on Personas (Use, Development and Challenges)

Personas are tools your agency can use to learn about your end users and drive decisions. Personas are so useful because they serve as a communication tool for your team. You can keep these personas in mind to guide any work that your agency performs. Let’s delve a bit deeper into personas and review two examples from the federal community. Below, we have personas from the Department of Human and Health Services (HHS) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

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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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7 Ways to Ignite User-Centered Design at Your Agency

So you’ve done a couple of usability studies, and a few people are starting to “see the light.” Now you’d like to take it to the next level and help your organization embrace user-centered design (UCD) as the philosophy that drives all your digital projects. But what is best way to do this? How can you change your organizational culture so the UCD seed you’re planting will take root and flourish?

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How to Run an Agile Project in Government

For a seminar organized by DigitalGov University, Robert Read, the Managing Director at 18F, gave a presentation on agile methodologies in the federal government. Risk mitigation is a big advantage of using the agile methodology. The methodology deals with risk through the use of multiple iterations or “sprints” that ultimately lead to the development of a better product. “Sprints” involve the release of software that is functional and will allow for testing.

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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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Personas 101

Personas are a tool organizations can use to learn more about their users. They are used to learn as much as you can about end users in order to better the product or service you provide. If you are able to think as a user during the design and development of a product or service, this will help greatly in creating something that satiates the users’ needs. Personas are descriptions that give you an understanding of your users and how they use your product or service.

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Past, Present, Future: Usability Testing at the National Library of Medicine

Usability testing has provided our organization many important insights to improve our Web presence. Since the early 2000s, the National Library of Medicine (NLM)’s Web teams have actively sought and used usability testing tools; we have run “full service” usability testing almost yearly for various Web properties for sites such as NIHSeniorHealth.gov and MedlinePlus.gov. In recent years we gained new insights about mobile device usability through GSA’s First Fridays usability testing program (now called the DigitalGov User Experience Program), and through testing responsive Web designs with the help of a usability firm.

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Countdown to 2015 with Our Most Popular Articles This Year

As we round out 2014, we’re reflecting on the exciting year we’ve had at DigitalGov since we launched in February. Our mission is to share information and resources from agencies across the federal government that are working in the digital space, and highlight the services and communities that can help you meet your digital government goals. We look forward to bringing you more great content in 2015, but first we wanted to highlight the most popular articles on DigitalGov this year.

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Using Focus Groups to Make Better Videos

There’s what you expect your audience to think, and then there’s what your audience is actually thinking. Sometimes, these can be entirely different. But, you won’t know unless you test it. For the release of the 2014 Consumer Action Handbook (CAH), the Federal Citizen Information Center’s marketing team piloted a series of videos. The videos intended to showcase the expertise of the CAH’s editor-in-chief, Marietta Jelks. Using letters received from the public asking consumer questions, Marietta gave her advice, trying to help not only the writer, but other members of the public who may have similar problems.

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Large Scale Development Culture Change: Google and the U.S. Government

As part of 18F’s mission to deliver effective, user-centric services focused on the interaction between government and the people and businesses it serves, we are also committed to demonstrating how open source and agile-inspired methodologies are critical to an effective, efficient, modern delivery process. We believe these methods produce better software and services at lower cost than previous models, build trust and goodwill amongst citizens and the tech industry, and help to attract and retain technical talent.

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10 Years of Digital Government—A Retrospective

In December of 2004, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued the first Policies for Federal Public Websites. Over the past decade, we’ve seen technology completely transform how government delivers information and services to the public. On this 10-year anniversary, we’re taking a walk down memory lane to recap some of the pivotal moments that have shaped today’s digital government landscape. Year Activity 2004 February—Facebook launches (for colleges; opens to the public 2007) March—Interagency Committee on Government Information (ICGI) convenes to draft Web recommendations June—ICGI issues Recommendations for Federal Web Policies July—ICGI becomes the Web Content Management Working Group (predecessor to Federal Web Managers Council) August—HHS publishes its seminal Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines (foundation for Usability.

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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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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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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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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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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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Secrets to a Dynamite Public Sector Analytics Program

Uncovering meaningful analytics from months or years of Web metrics is daunting, at best. So how do you make great Web improvements using metrics? Whether you’re just getting started in Web analytics or you want to take your program to the next level, you should focus on accurate data, customer service, and concrete goals, said Sam Bronson, Web Analytics Program Manager at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in a Sept.

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Customer Service Week 2014

They say that customer experience (CX) is the new marketing. People will tell their friends about their experience with your agency, and social media makes it easy to broadcast whether the experience was easy and enjoyable, or terrible. In 1992, Congress proclaimed the first full week in October as National Customer Service Week, and as we close out Customer Service Week 2014, here’s a recap of some great customer-service-related articles published on DigitalGov.

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User Acceptance Testing Versus Usability Testing…What’s the Dif?

Editor’s note: Building off the great discussion started around Customer Experience, we’re looking at the difference between User Acceptance Testing and Usability Testing. If you develop software, you’ve probably heard of User Acceptance Testing. You may also have heard the term Usability Testing. Same thing, right? Nope. And confusion here can cause big problems. Last year I was developing a mobile game for Android—think Whack-A-Mole meets mutant veggies. Eight months into the project we decided to do some user acceptance testing to find some bugs before launch.

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National Cancer Institute Launches New User Experience Lab

Why does a Cancer institute need a User Experience lab? Simply put: To learn about their customers—people living with cancer and those who care about them—and build the best possible products with them in mind. “Cancer has a journey and we wanted to create a lab to capture the substance of that journey, understand what is needed and help design technologies to support people affected by cancer,” said Silvia Inéz Salazar, an Informatics Research Laboratory Manager at the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

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System Usability Scale (SUS): Improving Products Since 1986

Trying to measure usability can be a head scratcher. How easy something is to use depends on where you are, who you are, and a number of other factors. Luckily in the world of usability, there exists a post-test survey known as the System Usability Scale, introduced in 1986 by an engineer named John Brooke, who was trying to solve this very dilemma. The SUS is no stranger to federal agencies.

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API Usability Case Study: openFDA

Last March, the openFDA team shared their still-in-progress API to potential users as part of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA)’s API Usability Program. FDA created openFDA to allow researchers and developers to search their vast trove of public data, including information about adverse events (reports of undesirable experiences associated with the use of a medical product in a patient) submitted to the agency. The API Usability Program brings together developers from agency APIs and the private sector to evaluate how the API can be improved to be more user friendly.

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Redesigning with Customer Feedback: Child Support Enforcement Usability Case Study

After an agency-wide redesign of program websites that targeted the public and prioritized a common “look and feel,” the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement at the Administration for Children and Families had a visually appealing website. The problem: Key stakeholders—state and tribal child support agencies, employers, and other partners who deliver program services and access the site daily—complained they could no longer easily find needed information. Their feedback prompted us to facilitate a UX-minded focus group to recommend improvements that met both users’ business needs and the redesign goals.

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How to Choose a User Experience Technique

The good news: Your boss is interested in User Experience! The news: She wants you to do something about it… NOW. Well, don’t be alarmed; you can start by figuring out two simple things: Identify the Stage you’re in in the development cycle. Write it down. Choose a User Experience (UX) Technique that makes sense in your development stage. While choosing the technique you should first know what the technique offers and how long it takes, so you can make an informed decision.

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Heat Mapping Case Study: Epa.gov Homepage

Most people relate the term “heat map” with something they see during the weather forecast on the nightly news, those colorful maps that vividly illustrate how hot it’s going to be during an impending heat wave. The word “heat map” may not usually however, conjure up images of a widely used Web usability tool; but for those who manage Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website, that is exactly what the phrase brings to mind.

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Design Sketching: The Easiest Prototype Method Ever

When it comes to Web and software design, the pen(cil) is often mightier than the Design Suite. What I mean is: Tech is cool, but don’t fall under its spell. It’s often when you remove the technological layers between you and your thoughts that the best ideas sprout. You’ve heard of great ideas that started on bar napkins, right? One way that low-tech beats high-tech is when it comes to conceptualizing early-stage design ideas.

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Celebrate the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 508

Happy anniversary, baby! Seventies pop songs aside, July 26, 2014, was the 24th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and on August 7 of this year, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended in 1998, will have its 16th anniversary. Sometimes these two laws are mistaken one for the other, but they serve different purposes. The ADA is a law that protects the rights of people with disabilities, by ensuring that they have equal access to the same opportunities, benefits, and services that people without disabilities have.

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Customization is Key to Better Mobile User Experience

Resources like Theresa Neil’s Mobile Design Product Gallery book and Mobile-patterns.com describe, and provide examples of, common features mobile developers can implement and tailored further to satisfy their users. As mentioned in this week’s Trends on Tuesday, customizing apps to meet users’ needs is a crucial part in maximizing user experience. Today, we wanted to highlight how some agencies are implementing search, maps & geolocation and custom navigation to better their mobile product’s user experience.

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Trends on Tuesday: Avoid the “App Graveyard”

Apps that are downloaded, used a few times and then never used again, are considered part of the “app graveyard.” In fact, 95% of apps are discarded within a month of download by users, according to Smashing Magazine. By focusing on creating a great user experience, you can make sure your agency apps are used consistently and don’t end up in the app graveyard. Smashing Magazine lists some “Lessons Learned From the App Graveyard” that government agencies should heed.

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How the American Battle Monument Commission Developed its First Mobile App

The job of the American Battle Monument Commission (AMBC) is to manage all overseas cemeteries and memorials from WWI and WWII. There are over 200,000 veterans who are buried or memorialized at these cemeteries. When ABMC began thinking about releasing a native mobile application, they had two primary objectives: 1) The app should be able to serve as a “tour guide” to the millions of visitors who visit the memorials in person.

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Improving Content, Increasing Participation: A NARA Usability Case Study

Over the years, the staff intranet at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) had become increasingly difficult to use. Old, irrelevant content routinely bubbled to the top of search results, and essential employee tools were hard to find. NARA staff agreed that the site was due for an upgrade: fixing NARA@work was voted a top priority for 2013 in the annual Employee Viewpoint Survey. NARA managers, from the Archivist of the United States on down, supported the effort and helped recruit staff to participate.

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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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Using Top Tasks to be Top-Notch: Federal Reserve Board Usability Case Study

In 2012, the Federal Reserve Board used the Top-task methodology to redesign our intranet, called Inside the Board, which had not been significantly updated since it was launched in 1995. After determining the top tasks the audience needs to accomplish on a website, you can run usability tests to gain knowledge and improve the site. The project was wildly successful. Task completion ratings rose to more than 90% after the redesign, from 58% on the legacy site—drastically increasing the productivity of the Board’s employees.

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Using Analytics to Create Change: USA.gov Usability Case Study

While many people tout the death of the home page, it’s still an important piece of the user experience on USA.gov. In 2013, 30% of all sessions on USA.gov included the home page—that’s 8.67 million sessions. The numbers for GobiernoUSA.gov are even higher—79% of all sessions included the home page. According to Jakob Nielsen, “A homepage has two main goals: to give users information, and to provide top-level navigation to additional information inside the site.

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508 Accessible Videos—Why (and How) to Make Them

Making Web content and video accessible to people with disabilitiesis the law. Ensuring a video is accessible requires planning. Taking steps from day one will save you time and money. To verify that a video is accessible you’d need to incorporate three elements: Captioning Audio descriptions An Accessible video player Why Accessibility Matters Many government agencies are taking advantage of the popularity of online video to further their missions and meet the Presidential mandate forincreasing the efficiency and effectiveness of government information to serve the American public.

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The API Briefing: Department of State’s Model App – Education USA

Not only does the Department of State have a great set of APIs, State also has an excellent example of how to build an informative and useful app. EducationUSA is a network of State Department advisers who help international students apply for U.S. university programs. The EducationUSA app has the most popular resources and services from the EducationUSA website, such as the ability to: Search for EducationUSA advising center information Follow the primary social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, & YouTube) View Frequently Asked Questions (in 8 languages) Discover new financial aid opportunities, and Utilize the Ask an Adviser (in five languages) function The EducationUSA app is an excellent example of designing for multiple-device experiences.

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Talking Usability with Kids over Milk and Cookies

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently created a new Web page made especially for students, so who better to give it a test run than children attending “Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day”? We took advantage of this event held on April 24, 2014, at the Department of Labor to hear what students had to say about the new website. The K-12 page is made for kids from kindergarten through grade 12.

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DigitalGov IRL: 6 Ways To Get It Right

This morning I was walking down 18th Street, crossing Pennsylvania Avenue by the World Bank when I heard what sounded like “a test from the Emergency Broadcast System.” I looked behind me and realized it was coming from my purse and that my phone was jiggling. I pulled out my phone to see that there was a flash flood warning. I looked up and saw dozens of people on the crowded sidewalks pulling out devices.

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Consumer Action Handbook – Usability Case Study

The annual Consumer Action Handbook, from GSA, is a guide to making smarter decisions with your money. In both its print and online formats, it includes a compilation of buying tips from across government agencies, updates on the latest scams, and a robust consumer contact directory. But the most popular part of the book is the sample consumer complaint letter. The letter template is printed in every edition of the Handbook.

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Overcoming Barriers—DigitalGov Summit Recap

As government innovators, we work to improve public services every day. In essence we are already in a public private partnership. But how can your agency capitalize on existing public private partnerships to engage citizens and enhance services? Four panelists from across government shared their public private partnerships success stories at the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit last Friday. The three other panels were on performance analysis, customer service across channels, and inter-agency work.

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The Importance of Cross-Channel Customer Service—DigitalGov Summit Recap

During the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit last Friday, customer service experts from across government came together on a panel to share what customer service means to them and their organization and specific ways they leverage it. The other panels were on performance analysis, public private partnerships, and inter-agency work. The panelists spoke about the strategies they use to integrate multi-channel customer service and the organizational barriers they’ve encountered. The panelists acknowledged that while the the government, as a whole, has room for improvement in providing truly integrated cross-channel customer service, leadership is beginning to recognize the importance and cost-savings, not to mention happy customers, it brings.

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Harnessing the Power of Many—DigitalGov Summit Recap

At the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit last Friday, Jacob Parcell, Manager, Mobile Programs at the General Services Administration led a panel on the challenges and benefits of Inter-Agency work. The other panels were on performance analysis, customer service across channels, and public private partnerships. “The challenges are real,” said Parcell, who quoted President Obama’s famous salmon quandary: “The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they’re in saltwater,” Obama said.

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Turning Data Into Action—DigitalGov Summit Recap

At the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit last Friday, more than 200 innovators across government and industry came together to share how digital services can improve citizen services and reduce cost. Four panels convened to share information on performance analysis, customer service across channels, public private partnerships and inter-agency work. We have a recap of the Performance Analysis Panel below. How do you show and track performance in 21st century digital government?

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DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit a Success

We had a GREAT DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit today. There were more than 200 digital innovators from across government and industry working to build the 21st century government the public expects. The four panels focused on performance analysis, customer service across channels, inter-agency work, and public private partnerships. Here’s what you missed in a short highlight video. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIWwnomPxo4&w=600]

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How to Make a Mobile Paper Prototype

What if a single piece of paper could make your mobile app work 20% better? It’s hard to imagine something as unimpressive as paper influencing our 21st century smartphones, but it’s true. Well before we get into the design and coding phases, we can show customers a mockup of an idea of what our product might look like. It’s called a prototype (or a wireframe)—it’s a model of a design that’s still in development.

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Ignite with Us

Have a DigitalGov success?—published an API? Got buy-in from leadership? Changed a part of your customer-service paradigm? Developed a cool dashboard? Got the app out the door? Heck! Have you prototyped a wearable, drivable or flyable? Have a DigitalGov opinion?—think we should be focusing more or less on something? Have an idea on how to improve development? Want to share your digital gov mantra? Internet of things? You are doing and thinking a lot, and we have a place for a few of you smarties to share with other agencies.

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The Road to Better Websites Gets Easier with Usability Walkthroughs

The road to more user-friendly government websites does not have to be long and scary. In fact, there is a growing network of people and resources to guide you along the way. My office in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has been fortunate enough to benefit from some of this support, most recently in the form of a “usability walkthrough.” Where the Road Begins We were coming off the heels of having completely redesigned and relaunched our website, response.

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Packaging Up API Usability Testing for Agency Reuse

Over the past year, a GSA collaboration has seen a project that offers API Usability Testing to federal agencies go from the pilot stage to a regular, robust series. Already, 13 agencies and programs have participated, and several more participate with every monthly session that passes. The best examples from across the government have made clear that one of the most important tasks of API producers is to regularly engage their developer community and listen to what they have to say.

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Sign up For DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit, Friday, May 30

We won’t build the government of the 21st century by drawing within the lines. We don’t have to tell you the hard work of building a digital government doesn’t exist in a vacuum or a bubble. Show us social media without mobile, Web without data and user experience without APIs. You can’t? That’s right—in reality, digital government intersects and cuts across boundaries every day in order to deliver the digital goods.

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What Is a “Terms of Service” and How Do I Get One?

Imagine this: You just found a great online tool that can help you do your federal job 100% better. You’re all ready to download it and start conquering the world when someone asks, “Have you checked the Terms of Service?” You’re not sure what they’re talking about, what a Terms of Service is, or why you need one. Let’s answer this and more in our Terms of Service Flowchart (click the image to the right to download your own PDF copy of this chart for reference) and our Terms of Service FAQ:

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Citizen Engagement at NASA

Recently, the White House hosted Stakeholder Engagement Workshops—an informal meet-up for citizens and federal agencies to discuss progress on Open Government. The third version of our Open Gov Plan is due June 1st. My Open Innovation teammates and I took the opportunity to attend the event. We gained valuable insights from citizen activists on what they want to see in agency plans, as well as how they will judge our progress on White House mandates for transparency, collaboration, and participation.

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Make Gov APIs Better with User Experience

APIs and User Experience go together like gummi bears and ice cream. An API is a product just like a car, a website or a ballpoint pen. It’s designed to help someone do something. Products are either designed well—they meet expectations and deliver value—or they are designed poorly and create frustration and confusion. Inevitably, bad products are abandoned without a thought, like an old T-shirt with holes in it.

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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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GSA Acquisition Portal – Usability Case Study

Incorporating usability testing throughout the entire design process, especially before launch, allows you catch glitches and/or make design changes prior to anyone seeing it live. When more than minor adjustments need to be made to your site, it’s much better to have completed them before the public sees it. For Christina Mullins, a Contracting Officer at the Public Building Service in the General Services Administration (GSA)’s Region 3 based in Philadelphia, usability testing was a new frontier, and one that quickly proved valuable.

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NOAA National Ocean Service – Usability Case Study

For a small shop with a small staff, limited time, and a small budget, redesigning a website (and testing that redesign for usability) can be daunting. At least it seemed so to us when we redesigned the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s National Ocean Service website in November of 2013. We met the challenge by keeping things simple. One solution was to adopt the popular, open-source Twitter Bootstrapframework, which is very flexible and well documented.

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FDA Consumer Graphics – Usability Case Study

User testing isn’t just for websites—it’s for any product that has an audience. Which is everything, really. And that includes print materials, signage and infographics as well. Focusing on the User Experience is especially vital for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is committed to effectively communicating about products that affect the public on a daily basis. Brian Lappin works for the Risk Communication Staff at FDA. His team supports the agency in making sure that all types of communications—video, graphic and Web—are easily understood.

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Heatmapping Tools Show What’s “Hot” on Your Pages

Most analytics tools can tell you how many times a link on your page is clicked on, but they can’t help you draw conclusions about a page with just a mere list of top links. A tool called a heatmap turns data into a data visualization, so you can more easily see how people are interacting with the design. With it, you can find out some really important stuff: if the page design plays a part in clickthroughs, where on the page your users are moving, and what on your page might be worth featuring/not featuring.

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Kids.gov – Usability Case Study

For a children’s site, Kids.gov is pretty old—it was launched back in 2001. And it has the unenviable task of trying to keep pace with the rapidly changing online habits of youngsters. So in 2012, Kids.gov Director Arlene Hernandez thought her site was due a usability test with its two main audiences: kids and their parents. Hernandez already had a good deal of data on the current design based on Web traffic and emailed feedback.

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Measuring User Experience: A Few Tips

With a calculated process, the right tools, and a staff willing to make it work, you can measure user experience (UX) on your websites and implement usability changes that show results. In a recent DigitalGov University webinar entitled “Measuring User Experience”, UX supporters and practitioners heard from Achaia Walton, Senior Digital Analyst at the Department of Health and Human Services, about finding what critical things to measure to make websites more user-friendly.

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Data.gov – Usability Case Study

We all know listening to your customers is important. Not just reading their comments, but talking to them, actually getting in a room with them, and having them test your product. But if basing a whole-scale redesign around one series of user conversations makes you nervous – it should. That’s because sometimes when we listen, we only see a bit of the bigger picture. It’s only when we get customer feedback, tweak the design, and THEN ask customers a second time that we really validate what customers want.

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What Do People Think of Your Content? Ask Your Contact Center!

All of us want to improve the content and information we provide to the public, but we’re intimidated by where to start: Does our website provide clear content? Is the best information hidden on pages a few layers down? What should we tweet about this month? What are customers saying about our information? The best source of this information is a resource right in your agency–your agency’s Contact Center.

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Finding Inspiration Through Design Constraints

If you could only communicate through a business-card sized screen, what would you say and how would you say it? In which ways could people respond to your message? These are some of the questions constraints lead us to ask, and the reason why constraints are so great at spurring innovative thinking. It’s pretty common to start a project in “the sky is the limit” mode as we starting thinking of all the things we can do to create amazing user experiences.

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What Happened at Our User Experience Summit (with slides!)

We were hoping for 30, but we got more than 100 user experience professionals and novices on Jan 28, 2014, for our User Experience (UX) Summit at the General Services Administration. The event was sponsored by the User Experience Community of Practice and the DigitalGov User Experience Program. Here’s what we discussed: The Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) Three speakers shed some light on the vitally important PRA process: Bridget C.

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Mobile Gov User Experience Resources and Design Tools

In September 2013, the Mobile Gov Community of Practice released user experience guidelines and recommendations for federal agencies to use in order to create good mobile user experiences. This article highlights private sector and government resources and tools to assist agencies in implementing those user experience guidelines. **Mobile User Experience Resources and Tools From the Private Sector ** There are a number of resources in the private sector for designing excellent User Experience.

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Step away from the PDFs!

Every year, one of our office’s biggest projects is to prepare the Information Sharing Environment Annual Report to the Congress. This report examines the progress of Congress’s mandate in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 to develop a better environment of terrorism-related information sharing. It’s a bigger and bigger PDF every year, but this year we created a web version as well. We used Bootstrap to build a simple site for the report, inspired by the Digital Government Strategy.

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Great Customer Experience through Open Dialogue

While we think about the audience, we don’t often map out the experience we want them to have when using our services. This is critical information for the design. In other cases, we may not have the data to analyze existing customers’ needs–or worse–may not consider who the potential customers are. Making decisions on a limited customer base can lead to services p/s that don’t meet the overall needs.

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Creating Cross-Channel Experiences

One of the most important jobs for an organization is to think about the entire ecosystem of their brand and what the user experience is across each channel. Whether it is through accessing information on your site through various devices, calling a help line, engaging through social media, and/or having a face-to-face conversation, there may be any number of combinations for how people interact with your organization. And the expectation is that the tone, interactions, functions, and visual design will all be cohesive.

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5 Tips for Communicating Technical Information: iPad Pilot

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.” — Mark Twain It’s simple—you’re the technical expert; you know the topic inside out, so of course you can easily explain it to a captive audience. Right? Not always. Communicators in every industry know that message development matters. External audiences, internal audiences and stakeholders of all kinds need clear information about your services, benefits and products.

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With Measurable Usability Goals – We All Score

Setting measurable usability goals will help your team to assess the performance of your site throughout development. Whether your assessment is at the beginning of the process, throughout iterative wireframe testing, after release, or all of the above, bench marking and improving on task performance can only improve the usability of your site. Measuring Top Task Completion The most effective usability goals measure the ability for users to complete top tasks when visiting your site.

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Mobile First

Mobile First is the idea that web sites should first be designed for mobile devices, including only those tasks/items that website visitors use most. Then as screen real estate increases, add in tasks/features as needed based on user priority. This means the site will work (to some degree) on that shiny new web-enabled gizmo sitting under your neighbor’s Christmas tree 4 years from now. Allows websites to reach more people (77% of the world’s population has a mobile device, 85% of phones sold in 2011 equipped with browser) Forces designers to focus on core content and functionality (What do you do when you lose 80% of your screen real estate?

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Plain Language Ninja

A few days ago a coworker asked me to look at a paragraph. He said it was on the top customer service priorities in our division. So I scooted my chair over and looked at it. Then I looked at him and asked, “But what is it supposed to do?” He said, “It’s supposed to convey, at a very high level, what we’re doing in the next year.” I said, “Oh.

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Mobile Gov User Experience Guidelines and Recommendations: Content

Content refers to the various types of material in different formats, such as text, images and video, that provide information to the user (it also fits into a mobile product’s information architecture). From the 42 Mobile Gov User Experience guidelines and recommendations released last week, you deemed 7 ‘critical’ around the content element. Specifically, it is critical that mobile gov products; Provide user-centered content Eliminate unnecessary elements Use analytics to identify content priorities (e.

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Making Mobile Gov: User Experience Recommendations

How We Did It Last November, as part of revisiting the state of Mobile Gov, government mobile innovators identified a need for guidelines to help create amazing and engaging mobile user experiences. We convened a group to workshop around elements of mobile user experience with the goal to develop user experience practices for government. We then asked you to set priorities and help hone a set of useful, actionable user experience guidelines and recommendations that agencies could adopt.

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StudentAid.gov’s 1st Year: What We’ve Learned and Where We’re Going

Guest post by Brenda Wensil, Chief Customer Experience Officer for Federal Student Aid. Established in late 2010, FSA’s Customer Experience Office is responsible for identifying, measuring and reporting customer expectations and satisfaction with the financial aid services and products offered at Federal Student Aid. In my last post, I shared about last year’s launch of StudentAid.gov by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA). The new site consolidates and combines content and interactive tools from multiple web sites and features instructional videos and infographics to help answer frequent questions about federal financial aid.

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StudentAid.gov: Improving the College Financing Experience

_ Guest post by_ Brenda Wensil, Chief Customer Experience Officer for Federal Student Aid (FSA). Established in late 2010, FSA’s Customer Experience Office is responsible for identifying, measuring and reporting customer expectations and satisfaction with the financial aid services and products offered at Federal Student Aid. The launch of StudentAid.gov in July 2012, by Federal Student Aid (FSA), part of the U.S. Department of Education, not only consolidated content from 14+ sites into one and retired five Web portals.

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Looking at User Experience through Two Lenses

Usability and accessibility are slightly different lenses to assess user experience. It is possible to be strong in one area and weak in the other. Using either approach alone could result in an inaccurate view of your site’s user experience. Evaluating your website with both usability and accessibility in mind gives all users the best possible user experience. What is Usability? Usability relates to the how easy things are to use.

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Improving the User Experience with the Usability.gov Reboot

Plan and analyze. Write and design. Test and refine. As Web Manager for Usability.gov, I have found that taking a user-centered approach is vital each time you improve or build a digital product, especially when the content is about improving user experience. In our recent reboot of Usability.gov we put our own advice to the test by evaluating the existing site and analyzing the extensive feedback on the concepts for the redesign.

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Understanding Your Customer

Do you know who your customers are? And what they expect from your organization? One of the most critical components of a successful customer experience program is to understand your customer. The first step is knowing who your customers are. Are they veterans, students, senior citizens or other federal workers? In some cases your customers could wear many different hats when interacting with your agency. They could be a veteran, a caregiver, a parent, and a federal worker, all rolled into one.

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6 Easy Ways to Improve User Experience on Websites

If you want a better user experience on your government website, there’s a simple secret: early planning. Good designers know that it’s much more difficult to make changes to something after it’s built than before. This is true for designing just about anything, whether it’s a website, car, or new kitchen. So if you’re in the early stages of designing — or redesigning — your website, here are some easy, “almost-no-budget-needed” steps you can take to ensure your users will be happier (or at least less frustrated):

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Army.mil – Usability Case Study

If you want to make a website more efficient and user friendly, then it’s not enough just to have your most valuable information on the site. People are busy—they want to find what they’re looking for, and they want it fast. You don’t always need to redesign an entire site to make things easier to find. Sometimes, a few small changes can do the trick. The DigitalGov User Experience team looked at Army.

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5 Steps for Delivering a Better Customer Experience

Everyone wants to know how to provide outstanding customer experience in government. It can be difficult, because everyday our customers are also doing business with companies like Starbucks, Zappos, and Virgin America, that excel in customer service. Those experiences drive high expectations for interacting with any organization, including government agencies. Customer experience–referred to in the industry as “CX”–is more than just a product. It’s about the perception your customer has every time they interact with your office, your agency or any product within your organization.

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CDC’s Solve the Outbreak App

Mobile Gov Experiences are agency stories about creating anytime, anywhere, any device government services and info. This entry is a story shared by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) launched a free, educational iPad app called “Solve the Outbreak,” which lets users play the role of Epidemic Intelligence Service agents – the “Disease Detectives” who are on the front lines of new outbreaks wherever they occur.

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Tips for Creating Great Digital Content for Kids

Great websites for kids have many of the same features as websites for adults, but some key differences are worth noting when writing digital content for kids or teens. Kids have short attention spans, so it’s important to keep your site engaging, fun, and active. Here are a few tips from Kids.gov on ways to create great online content for kids: Make your kids’ website fun and interactive When your site is interactive, kids don’t even realize that they’re learning.

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Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report

Techcrunch. com reports Mary Meeker’s much anticipated annual Internet Trends report released at the D11 Conference last week shows astounding growth regarding use of smartphones and tablets. Among the highlights; Mobile Internet users have reached 1.5 billion, up from 1.1 billion a year ago, a 30% increase The number of smartphones is up to 5 billion mobile phones worldwide Mobile usage is now 15% of all Internet traffic, up 50% from 10% the year before Tablet shipments outpaced desktop and notebook shipments 3 years after being introduced There seems to be a shift from smartphones and tablets to other types of mobile enabled devices that Meeker is calling Wearables, Drivables, Flyables and Scannables See the complete slideshare for more Government mobile strategists who pay attention to Meeker’s stats will likely stay ahead of the curve regarding the expected continuing exponential growth in mobile usage, devices and applications and keep citizens and stakeholders engaged on whatever device they use.

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Government Websites and Keyword Search Strategy

Having a keyword search strategy is critical for government agencies to: Gain awareness, Secure a strong online presence and Help the public obtain the information they need. Since the public relies heavily on Government-related information for research, and a myriad of other tasks, each government agency should shape its online presence around specific keywords, which are based on what the user searches on the search engine.

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Internet Time Travel

The first public page on the world wide web went live twenty years ago on April 30, 1993. Take a look because this is the page that explains all things www at the time. ReadWriteWeb put it in perspective: CERN, the European science laboratory where the Web was born (and where physicists are now exploring the origins of the universe with the world’s largest particle accelerator) first made the page public on April 30, 1993.

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How to Do Usability Testing with Kids

What do kids know about Web design? As we found out, quite a lot. Recently our DigitalGov User Experience Program teamed up with the Kids.gov team to get some big time feedback from some pint-sized testers in a hallway test. We tested with almost 20 kids ages 6 to 14 at our GSA office, made possible by “Take Your Child to Work Day.” We also tweeted some results under the hashtag #kidsgovtest

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SaferBus Mobile App – Usability Case Study

When designing a site, remember that your terms and icons are like signposts that show people where your links and pages lead. Make sure that you use words and pictures that are easily understood or people will have trouble using your site. Small changes like underlining links or adding arrows to indicate expandable information can vastly improve the usability of your site. The DigitalGov User Experience Program helped test SaferBus, the U.

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Contractor Vehicle Navigator – Usability Case Study

When users interact with a website to find information, it is important that we help them find their way by using plain language, clear terminology and visible help text. On December 7, 2012, the DigitalGov User Experience Program helped test the U.S. General Services Administration’s Contract Vehicle Navigator website. This Navigator site helps contracting officers find contracts that best meet their needs. Through usability testing, three key problems were identified.

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You’ll Have Them at Swipe: Making An Awesome Mobile User Experience Webinar

Learn how to create amazing and engaging Mobile Gov User Experiences by watching this webinar. Anytime, anywhere government will be used in numerous contexts and requires developers to think about more than just content, security and privacy during implementation. In fact, Smashing magazine has listed 12 elements to consider for building good mobile user experiences. In this webinar, Mobile Gov developers from the National Institutes of Health and Department of Veteran’s Affairs talk about how mobile user experience is different from traditional channels, discuss how to approach user experience during mobile implementations, and demonstrate their successful practices.

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SAM.gov – Usability Case Study

One of the most vital parts of any website is its starting point. When a visitor arrives on the main page of your site, they should be able to quickly tell what the main tasks are and how to perform them. Visual cues and plain language are the best ways to accomplish this. The SAM.gov site was created to consolidate several acquisition and bidding systems in one central location. It’s a large site, and with so many potential tasks available, it’s important that visitors are able to quickly figure out where they need to go.

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IRS – Usability Case Study

Acronyms and jargon are fine when you want to communicate quickly to an internal audiences or to like-minded readers. Once the scope of your audience widens, however, these elements can make your pages harder to understand. The IRS recognized that its pages about tax planning for retirement were reaching an audience beyond tax professionals, and asked the DigitalGov User Experience Program to help test for usability and user experience.

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Weather.gov – Usability Case Study

After conducting a usability test and listening to customer feedback, the Weather.gov team and the DigitalGov User Experience Program identified these three issues as both important and quickly solvable. Problem 1: Terminology and Labels Confusing The terminology and labels used were either too technical or too abstract for users to understand—a far cry from the plain language style required in government. On the homepage, users encountered map tabs for “Graphical Forecasts” and “National Maps”.

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NSF.gov – Usability Case Study

Many government websites are informational in nature – you don’t sign up for things or buy anything. Instead, you look for something – a name, a ruling, some contact information. Informational sites – and scientific sites in particular – can be a challenge to design. With so much information, how do you make the important content stand out? The National Science Foundation’s NSF.gov site conducted a usability test with some help from the DigitalGov User Experience Program.

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GSA Intranet (Insite) – Usability Case Study

Not all usability changes are dramatic. Sometimes a few small tweaks can make a site significantly easier to navigate, or make important but hidden content pop off the page. The DigitalGov User Experience Program helped test Insite, GSA’s intranet, on September 21, 2011. GSA took the feedback from their usability test and made some changes to the existing design. While seemingly small, the changes made a huge difference in the usability of the site for GSA employees.

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FedRAMP – Usability Case Study

Websites allow newer government programs to establish a visual identity that introduces them to users and conveys the importance of their work. On April 18, 2012, the DigitalGov User Experience Program helped test GSA’s Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) site, which at that point was less than six months old. Three immediate needs were identified. Problem 1: Purpose of Program Not Clear The homepage text was filled with jargon and acronyms, and provided no clear guidance for the user to understand why they should engage with FedRAMP.

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Office of Natural Resources Revenue – Usability Case Study

Any government product – whether used by millions or a very specific audience group – need to be as easy to use as possible. The Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR) collects and dispenses revenue related to energy production on leased federal and American Indian lands. As a result, their audience has very definite information needs that need to be met quickly. The DigitalGov User Experience Program tested the ONRR site in August 2011.

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How Kids Search

Kids and adults use Web search tools differently. Kids fail more often, because they often don’t have enough knowledge or experience to search using the right keywords, or understand search results. If you’re designing websites for kids, remember that they use search tools differently than adults. Kids prefer surfing over searching. If kids can’t easily find what they want, they will likely: Miss important content Become frustrated Leave your website and not come back Help Kids Search Successfully If you’re thinking about putting a customized search engine just for kids on your site, you should understand how kids use search engines.

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AIDS.gov Responsive Design

_ Mobile Gov Experiences are agency stories about creating anytime, anywhere, any device government services and info. This entry is a story shared by AIDS.gov._ _ _ AIDS.gov implemented an innovative model for responsive design by combining the former AIDS.gov and m.aids.gov to a fluid site accessible on computers, smartphones and tablets. View the webinar on AIDs.gov’s responsive design. Why We Did It Testing showed that more and more people were trying to access the website via mobile device but not all mobile devices were receiving the m.

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Find Free Video Stock Footage

[ ](https://s3.amazonaws.com/digitalgov/_legacy-img/2013/12/b8-stock-footage.jpg) If you’re creating video, stock footage can be your best friend. If you need shots of people walking around, a photo of Chicago, the sound of footsteps or a Latin soundtrack, someone else has already probably already created it and made it available for free! Also known as B–roll, stock footage is extra material that may or may not have appeared in previous productions. Be sure to read about copyright, to ensure you don’t grab licensed video or music by accident.

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