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.
USAJOBS’ Analytics Success: using analytics to create accurate testing strategies. Accurate testing strategies are crucial to ensure quality products. Hi-fidelity approaches ensure QA efforts are testing in a true-to-life manner, similar to real-world users. Inaccurate, lo-fidelity testing can miss situational bugs that become showstoppers in production. USAJOBS is leveraging the Digital Analytics Program (DAP) to form high-fidelity, accurate testing strategies that mimic production site-usage in the most accurate way possible.
The Office of Personnel Management released a new look and functionality to USAJOBS in February. I recently contacted Michelle Earley, the USAJOBS Program Manager, to ask about the changes to USAJOBS and the data it provides. 1. What are the priorities this year for the USAJOBS team and the site? “The priorities for this year include: Unifying the experience Incorporating a comprehensive content strategy to transform the readability of the website Improving the Job Opportunity Announcement (Represents the agency) Improving the User Profile (Represents the job seeker/applicant) Improving Search, which is the mechanism that brings together the job seekers and agencies USAJOBS hopes to continue to act as a trusted public service career platform that creates a responsive and transparent experience for its users.
Employee engagement, evidenced by displays of dedication, persistence, effort and overall attachment to organization and mission, is a key factor in business success, but it can be a struggle for government organizations. Organizational leaders seeking to cultivate a culture of engagement need tangible examples of how to successfully move the needle in a positive direction. The annual Employee Viewpoint Survey (EVS) can provide agencies with a tangible way to measure employee engagement.
Need to get in touch with your audience? Give them a little push. Push notifications allow agencies to connect with their audiences for immediate communication. The Office of Personnel Management’s OPM Alert app provides a real time look at the current operating status for federal offices in the Washington, DC, area and uses push technology to alert users of status changes. While the most well-known use of the OPM Alert is for weather closings, the app can be used to alert users of other events: for example, the app was used to announce the lapse in federal appropriations in 2013 and the resulting office closures (and the later re-opening).
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is looking for agency subject matter experts (SMEs) to participate in an occupational study of the Public Affairs Series 1035. OPM is accepting SME submissions until Wednesday, December 9th. The study will review the “current classification and qualification standards for public affairs work” and allow OPM to make any revisions or updates. OPM is interested to learn from agencies how public affairs work has changed since the current position classification standard was issued in 1981.
Around this month’s Communities Theme, the DigitalGov team thought we’d round up your community rock stars. These are people in your communities who’ve gone above and beyond, who’ve contributed content, organized events, participated in developing toolkits and more. Let’s kick it off with the DigitalGov Summit Sounding Board. DigitalGov Summit Sounding Board For the 2015 DigitalGov Summit we pulled together innovators from across the federal government to guide the programming, promote the CrowdHall (and Summit overall) and help identify speakers.
Access to clean water is fast becoming a vital issue in the 21st century. Changing climate patterns are drying up aquifers and limiting the amount of water runoff from thawing snow packs. Drought conditions in California are effecting hydroelectric production while dry conditions in the West have increased the frequency and harmful effects of forest fire. Monitoring and mapping water conditions across the U.S. is a vital government service.
The recent Ebola outbreaks demonstrate the need for current and authoritative health news. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the federal information source for Ebola and other infectious diseases, along with other public health data. Data.CDC.gov lists 48 datasets and views containing statistics from smoking to infectious diseases. Developers can use the Socrata Open Data API to pull JSON data into their apps. For those who are not developers, the CDC offers a way to embed health data into blogs, websites, and social media.
Glad to be back after a three-week absence. I was preparing for the South Eastern Conference on Public Administration held in Atlanta this year. Great conversations and I can tell you that the academic community is hungry for more government data and APIs. A great example is this week’s API Briefing: the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s TOXNET Web Service. TOXNET lists 16 databases ranging from TOXNET, which maps chemical releases, to the Hazard Substances Data Bank (HSDB).
If you have ever been a caregiver for an elderly family member or friend, you know that there are many resources to help you in giving care. But finding these resources can be difficult and frustrating. The Administration on Aging in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been guiding people to local resources since 1991. Starting with a phone service, the Administration on Aging created its first website in 2001.
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.
Here at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, we recently announced two exciting new government-wide working group teams with the mission of helping us use social media in ways we haven’t explored before. We’re hoping to recruit federal employees who are eager to dive in and help us tackle two important topics: employee recognition and recruitment and hiring. The first team will work on building a government-wide digital recognition program.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has an enormous collection of aerospace and science data sets. NASA missions and projects can create amazing amounts of data. One example: the Earth Observing System Data and Information System has collected enough information to fill the Library of Congress (Data.NASA.gov). A more recent example: the Solar Dynamics Observatory receives 1.5 terabytes of data a day. As NASA admits, this much information can be overwhelming for agency API development.
As the new school season approaches, it is a good time to see what federal datasets are available for educational app developers. Visit the developers’ page at ED.gov to find 36 educational datasets for educational levels. The datasets can be accessed in CSV, JSON, XML, and API formats. What is especially helpful is a PDF document that explains the data and the methodology behind the data collection. This is useful information for app developers when they combine datasets.
Up till now, all the APIs that have been written about in The API Briefing were read-only APIs. That means that information is only one way: from the API to the user or app. These APIs do allow limited interactivity in that the database behind the API can be searched, but the existing data cannot be edited, or new data added to the database. There are some federal government APIs that are writable.
Once a federal agency releases an API, there are several ways they can be used in apps. The most common method is through hackathons. Hackathons are where an agency or agencies present the API(s) and invite developers to create prototype apps. The apps are then presented to subject matter experts for suggestions on creating the final app. There are many government hackathons on a variety of public issues. Visit Challenge.
It is easy to start a business today and especially an Internet-based business. Using the cloud, APIs, and hosted applications, an entrepreneur can quickly build a website/mobile app. The entrepreneur can hire freelancers to do everything from creating a logo to writing a business plan. Virtual assistant services can provide on-demand staff to meet business needs. Yes, it is easy to start a business. The hard part is creating and sustaining a business.
This week, we will look at three different APIs that demonstrate how agencies use different technologies to serve out data. Presenting data in various formats encourages developers to build on federal APIs. As past columns have shown, the innovative apps created with federal data are quickly growing. The latest API news this week is how quickly the Department of Labor (DOL) built a Software Developer Kit (SDK) for Apple’s new programming language.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just released the OpenFDA Research Project. At the heart of the project is the OpenFDA API, which allows developers to perform searches on FDA’s drug information database. Coming soon is the ability to search FDA information on medical devices and information about food. Visit the FDA’s API Basics page to learn how to access OpenFDA including interactive sample queries. The FDA’s API documentation is a great example of how to create detailed guidance for developers.
Around the D.C. area, one of the first signs of spring are the numerous farmers markets. In my neighborhood alone, I regularly visit four farmers markets that have a wide variety of produce and baked goods. Farmers markets are good for the local economy, and the easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables helps local communities. Realizing the importance of farmers markets, the USDA released the Farmers Market Directory API so that developers can create apps to help people find farmers markets in their area.
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.
“PolicyOps” is a better way to create and implement government policies and programs through cutting-edge data analytics and new collaboration methods. PolicyOps (“Policy” plus “Operations”) is a new proposal for improving policy making and policy implementation. Based on a cutting-edge IT management method, DevOps (“Development” plus “Operations”), PolicyOps has two major concepts. First, closer collaboration and coordination between policy designers and policy implementers. Second, a single view of the policy environment reality agreed on by the policy designers and policy implementers.
Hallway testing is a usability test set-up in a high foot traffic area, utilizing bystanders to test your product. Your participants will be people who happen to be walking down the hall and are able to afford 5-10 minutes of their day. We on the USAJOBS team have found hallway tests successful for multiple reasons, most notably the number and variety of test participants available. In the five hallway test sessions we have conducted recently, we averaged better than thirteen participants per test.
Did that snowstorm (or thunderstorm as the case may be) affect DC feds’ operating status? Now you’ll know even faster with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management‘s newest mobile app OPM Alert. The app features: Real time data on the current operating status for the Federal Government Optional push notifications to alert you whenever status changes occur The ability to review an archive of previous status updates. Don’t know what to do if the Government is closed?
In his May 23rd, 2012 Presidential Memorandum, President Obama directed Executive Departments and Agencies to: Implement the requirements of the Digital Government Strategy, and Create a page at www.[agency].gov/digitalstrategy to publicly report progress of this implementation. Consistent with Milestone Actions #2.1 (open data) and #7.1 (mobile optimization), agencies will post candidate data sets and services to open up over the next several months on these pages.