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User Experience

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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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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Government Launches Login.Gov to Simplify Access to Public Services

Joel Minton, a member of the U.S. Digital Service, is working with GSA’s Technology Transformation Service as the director of login.gov. Tom Mills is the Chief Technology Architect at U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In early April, the U.S. Digital Service and 18F launched login.gov, a single sign-on solution for government websites that will enable citizens to access public services across agencies with the same username and password. Login.gov is currently in action at the U.

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Shedding Light on Underserved Users through Research

How user interviews helped spotlight the needs of a previously forgotten group. We may not like to admit it, but, most web services or sites have users that (for whatever reason) just aren’t well understood—and in turn, not well served. Conducting user interviews and making sure you get good participation from those groups can help you accomplish several things: you get a better understanding of a once mysterious user group, you show members of that group that you are trying to understand them, and you raise awareness among management that this user group is worthy of your attention.

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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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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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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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A Complete Redesign with You in Mind

We’re excited to launch a complete redesign of USDA.gov featuring stronger visual storytelling components, a more modern user-experience with easy to find services and resources, and to top it off, a completely mobile-friendly design. Through careful planning, thoughtful design, and a primary focus on user experience and usability, we’ve taken the best of government and industry expertise and put it into creating our new website. This has been a year-long project, but to do this right, we wanted to make sure we tapped into every possible resource.

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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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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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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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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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Analytics Success Series: USA.gov

USA.gov’s Analytics Success: using analytics data to inform design and responsivity to create a better experience for the user Last year, the USA.gov team found themselves facing a challenge. We were in need of a new content management system for our websites, USA.gov and Gobierno.USA.gov, which help people find and understand the most frequently requested government information. We wanted to align the content on those websites with content in the knowledge base used by our contact center; up until this point, the information in those two places had been similar but unique.

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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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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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Analytics Success Series: Health Resources & Services Administration

Health Resources and Services Administration’s Analytics Success: Using Analytics to Reduce Content and Improve User Experience Unlike out-of-town guests, you want your web visitors to stick around. So, if your site continues to see a bounce rate that stubbornly refuses to drop—it’s time to make some changes. That’s exactly what happened to the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Maternal and Child Health Bureau’s (MCHB) website. Last year, in 2015, the site’s average bounce rate was 63% — and more than 70% for some key landing pages.

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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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Analytics Success Series: 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.

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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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Analytics Success Series: Federal Trade Commission

FTC’s Analytics Success: Making mission-related tasks easier for the user to find In the summer of 2015, members of the Federal Trade Commission’s Office of Public Affairs (OPA) Web team worked with their FTC colleagues to analyze Digital Analytics Program (DAP) Google Analytics data (onsite search queries, landing pages, pageviews, etc.) for FTC.gov. We found that many visitors were coming to the site to perform mission-related tasks, such as filing a complaint or reporting identity theft.

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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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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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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 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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Using Plain Language to Bridge the Gap Between Government and Industry

Much of our work with government partners to deliver better digital services has resulted in full websites, applications, and embarking on large-scale transformation efforts. In addition to those types of projects, we also work on shorter, faster, smaller-scale projects designed to show our partners different points of view and different techniques to approach their most challenging problems. Recently, we partnered with the Office of Integrated Technology Services (ITS) here within the General Services Administration (GSA) on a four-month effort to develop a plain language guide, informed by research and interviews, to help technology companies interested in doing business with the federal government better understand how to join IT Schedule 70.

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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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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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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 Data Briefing: Chatbots and the Rise of Conversational Commerce and Citizen Experience

Ten months ago, I wrote about the rise of the post-app world in which mobile personal assistants would do the work of five to 10 apps combined. These mobile personal assistants, now known as chatbots, would work through conversational interfaces (voice and instant messaging, for example). The idea is to build more natural interfaces for people to access information services and perform complicated online tasks. Facebook has now joined in the new conversational commerce marketspace along with Google and Apple.

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The Content Corner: Branches—Stick to the Vine

A branch that does not stick to its source of nutrition will wither away and die. Just ask anyone who has received a bouquet of beautiful flowers about how long they really last. In the same way, as communicators we must stay connected to our audience, or we risk the chance of fading away into insignificance. First-time visitors are great, but return visitors are your loyal following. In the argument of whether to target your current audience or seek to grow more, why not stick your focus on equipping your current audience with ways and incentives to share your content?

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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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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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DigitalGov Podcast: Behind the Scenes of the Social and Behavioral Science Team

Enrolling veterans in retirement plans. Helping small farmers access credit. Surveying employees about their workspace. These projects might seem widely different from one another: they span different agencies and diverse audiences. But all three projects have been addressed by a new team in government that is helping agencies build things better, based on behavioral science. The Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST) uses theories, research, and methods from the social and behavioral sciences to address and solve challenges faced by the public.

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Tag Management: A Digital Analyst’s Best Friend

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

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

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

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Trends on Tuesday: Robot Messaging Goes Mainstream

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

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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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Digging Into the Data of Our Customer Survey

As a followup to the recent post about our annual customer satisfaction survey, we wanted to dig into the data and share some of the overall results, to give you some more insights into how we’re using your feedback to improve our programs and services. Background: For the past three years, GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies (OCSIT) has conducted an annual survey to measure customer satisfaction.

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DigitalGov’s 2015 Year in Review

As we look ahead to 2016, we wanted to take a minute to look at our most popular content in 2015 and reflect on our second year. This was a big year for DigitalGov as we saw our session traffic nearly double and our weekly and daily email subscribers increase by 15%. DigitalGov was also named as a 2015 must-read blog by FedTech magazine, which is due to the great contributions from our guest authors, representing 42 agencies and departments across the federal government!

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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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Good Content Needs Plain Language

If good content is essential to good user experience, as Tyrus Manuel proposes in his November 23, 2015, DigitalGov post, then plain language is also part of good user experience. Plain language helps the public do what they need to do—find forms, apply for benefits, look up information and more—when they use federal websites and other digital tools. All federal agencies are supposed to implement the Plain Writing Actplain-writing-act-of-2010/), the law that requires plain language when we communicate with the public.

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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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Government Product Managers Play a Key Role in UX

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

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

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

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The Content Corner: Good UX Needs Good Content

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

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UX vs. CX: What’s the Dif? Part 2

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

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Trends on Tuesday: 5 Tips for Designing Touch Interactions

Josh Clark, one of the pioneers of touch Web design, and author of Tapworthy and Designing for Touch, published an excellent article on A List Apart analyzing How We Hold Our Gadgetsthat has a wealth of data and graphics about this interesting and emerging design challenge. Below are 5 notable lessons from the post: 1. Portrait (vertical) orientation dominates over landscape (horizontal) usage with a 60-40 split. This is often driven by the app or content experience and will probably continue to grow more divided as many applications now aren’t even offering landscape orientations anymore—including Facebook, Flipboard, Instagram, Pandora, even Netflix (on Android, however, along with video playback, Netflix’s library browsing mode can still be viewed horizontally).

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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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Trends on Tuesday: Forecasting the Internet of Things

An industry group tracking the growth and production of the “Internet of Things,” a term given to Internet-connected devices and accessories, is predicting that growth will slow over the next 6 months, but then surge 3 times as fast, over the following year. The research was organized by the IoT M2M Council, which is made up of 140 executives in the Internet of Things space. MediaPost described it as “the calm before the IoT storm.

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

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

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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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The Content Corner: Helping Your Content Contributors

Recently, I shared some suggestions and personal lessons learned for agencies either shopping for a new CMS or preparing to revamp their content strategy and workflow. Let’s take things one step further and focus on arguably the most important parts of your CMS: the content creator or user. Arguments can be made that content is the most important, but the user creates that content, so either way we have a tight first and second most important ranking.

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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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Introducing the U.S. Web Design Standards

Joanne is a young Army Veteran who is looking to make use of her GI Bill Benefits and apply for federal student loans to attend college. In trying to access the federal programs which will allow her to afford college, Joanne must navigate the websites of multiple agencies. She finds dozens of government websites which all seem relevant to what she’s looking for. Joanne is confused. Are these programs related to each other?

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Under the Hood: Building a New College Scorecard with Students

Summary: How the U.S. Digital Service worked with students, families, schools, developers and teams across the federal government to rebuild the new College Scorecard tool. My niece is a smart kid. I’m biased, but I swear she is. And just as I started working on the College Scorecard project as the U.S. Digital Service’s new Chief Digital Service Officer at the Department of Education, I got a call from her—she was trying to decide where to go to school.

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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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Mobile Content: Less is More

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

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What Is Mobile Device Compatibility Testing?

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

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Trends on Tuesday: Mobile Web Audiences Abandon Sites with Interstitial Ads

David Morell, a software engineer with Google, posted an interesting case study from the tech giant, sharing data about how users interacted with interstitials (ie webpages displayed before or after an expected content page) on their website. Their analysis showed that 69% of users completely abandoned the page and their original intent after being shown an interstitial. Interstitials take many forms on the Web—native app installation prompts, advertisements, survey opt-in requests (popular on some government sites), email sign-up forms, etc.

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The Emulator Dilemma: Can Mobile Device Testing Be Completed Without Mobile Devices?

Government agencies have created a variety of apps to meet the needs of the public. As you join in on the mobile first trend and begin developing your shiny new mobile application, you will need to test it. There are a basic set of questions that must be answered: Does it function properly? Does it function properly on the different mobile devices your customers are using? Do all developers and testers need a collection of devices to physically test the application with?

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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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5 Crucial Steps for Conducting an Effective Customer Interview

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

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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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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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The Content Corner: Building a Content Strategy

I recently read a disheartening statistic which stated that only 32% of B2B organizations and 27% of B2C organizations had a documented content strategy. When you combine these results with the general assumption that the federal government lags behind in areas such as this (especially since content strategies have a marketing basis), then the number of federal agencies (large or small) that have a documented content strategy must be even smaller.

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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 New FedRAMP.gov Is Here

On Wednesday, March 11, FedRAMP unveiled a redesigned FedRAMP.gov. The new site focuses on user experience that fosters a better understanding of FedRAMP from basic knowledge, to in-depth program requirements and includes the launch of a training program. User experience is at the heart of the website redesign. Using feedback from customer interviews, the new FedRAMP.gov is easily navigable and helps visitors: Understand FedRAMP and its strategic direction Quickly find current templates and other key documents Access educational opportunities and information on FedRAMP events The FedRAMP team addressed these objectives and many others developing the website.

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

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

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Avoid Weak ‘Links’ in Your Digital Chain

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

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8 New Federal-Friendly Apps and Services

Tackling technology tasks just got easier. Recently, federal agencies negotiated eight new Terms of Service (TOS) Agreements for free apps and services. DigitalGov has an extensive list of federal-friendly TOS agreements for free products, and the list is updated as new TOS agreements are created. Cyfe Cyfe, a business dashboard app, helps users monitor diverse data streams in one location. It displays information related to social media, analytics, marketing, sales, support, and infrastructure tools.

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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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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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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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The Best E-gov Websites in the World

In Design Secrets of the World’s Best e-Government Web Sites, the Asia-Pacific online communications powerhouse FutureGov singles out eight national e-government portals as the best-designed in the world, and identifies the best practices these sites exemplify. “Ultimately, these websites are the best in the world because they are designed to be practical, simple, quick and adaptable,” writes Joshua Chambers, editor of FirstGov Digital. “One core principle stands out above all others: a well-designed government website must make it as easy as possible for citizens to find the information and services that they need.

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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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Making Prototypes with Tools You Already Have

They say that necessity is the mother of invention. For me, the necessity resulted from long product development cycles paired with short windows for user testing and little room for iteration. The “invention” was the discovery of a powerful set of tools for prototyping that are available on just about every office computer. I found that you can use “Developer Tools” in Microsoft Office’s Excel, Powerpoint and Word to not only draw the basic outlines of a wireframe but also build a functioning prototype that simulates many of the features you want in your final product.

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

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

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User Experience Impossible: The Line Between Accessibility and Usability

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

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Institute of Education Sciences – Usability Case Study

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

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World Usability Day 2014 theme: Engagement

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

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4 Tips on Great Survey Design

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

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Welcome to User Experience Month!

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

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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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Strategy Pivot Yields Results: DigitalGov.Gov Six Months Later

Six months ago, we launched this DigitalGov.gov platform to support federal agencies in delivering 21st century digital services and information to the public. It seems a good time to share some of the thinking that went into the development of the platform, and what we’ve learned so far. Looking back, we knew we had great content for digital innovators. Here at the Center for Digital Government at GSA, we created the go-to references for federal agencies around Web, mobile, social media, challenges and prizes, and were growing API content.

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Finding Participants for User Experience Studies

How do you find participants for your usability studies? I spoke recently with the User Experience Community of Practice about how we recruit participants for usability and cognitive studies at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Hopefully I can give you some new ideas about recruiting volunteers to fuel your user research. At BLS, we need different types of participants for different studies. Very often, we are looking for members of the general public.

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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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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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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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Trends on Tuesday: What’s Your Mobile [App]etite?

In a few short years, the number of mobile apps has exploded, and the time spent on apps continues to increase. However, one thing hasn’t changed: the number of apps individuals use. The average smartphone owner uses 22 to 28 apps in a month, according to new data from Nielsen. Here are a few highlights from the report: U.S. smartphone users age 18 and over spend 30 hours, 15 minutes using apps each month, 65 % more time than they did just two years ago.

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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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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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Facebook Increases Public Service Verification to Improve Citizen Engagement

Facebook is now the first social media platform to start verifying all federal government pages with their signature blue checkmark using the Federal Social Media Registry API. The Federal Social Media Registry provides the singular source that allows social media platforms to quickly collect real government accounts—emphasizing the critical need to ensure the trust, quality and security of citizen engagement. When the public searches for the new Central Intelligence Agency Facebook account, many different accounts pop up—but only one of them is managed by the actual CIA.

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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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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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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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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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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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Trends on Tuesday: Mobile Download Speeds on the Rise

Mobile devices are uploading data faster and mobile users are starting to expect better performance, according to Citrix. Fifty percent of web pages are taking 37.5% less time to load on a mobile device than they did just a year ago according the Citrix Mobile Analytics Report. This infographic from the study shows the percentage of users who abandon a mobile website based on the speed with which it loads:

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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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10 Tips for Better Hallway Usability Testing

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.

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NOAA’s National Ocean Service Goes Responsive

Let’s ponder this for a moment: Maybe you live in South Florida. Maybe the weather is warm, beautiful, sunny. Maybe you’re looking forward to a few days of boating while the rest of the country battles ice storms, snow drifts and various states of emergency. (We can dream, can’t we?) But before you venture out onto that blue paradise, you probably need a few important items to ensure smooth sailing.

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Trends on Tuesday: Optimizing Infographics for Mobile

Mobile first means more than just focusing on text content; it’s also includes considering visual content as important element of the user experience. The infographic from Design for Infographics highlights what happens when a visual experience doesn’t meet mobile users expectations. Here are some tips on making sure your visual content, like infographics, create good visual user experiences. 1. Infographics should tell a story. Explain the key point’s people need to consider in your graphic.

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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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Trends on Tuesday: Federal Agency Mobile Gov Trends in 2013

Today we want to tell you about the federal agency trends we saw this year in the development of public facing mobile products. Digital Government Strategy drove Mobile Gov Development Digital Government Strategy milestone 7.2 required agencies to implement two public facing mobile products in May. The White House highlighted these agency mobile product implementations. Responsive Design Proliferated. During the summer and fall a number of agencies like the Department of State, Department of Commerce, Department of Energy, USA.

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Citizen Needs Come First for UK Websites

We have long believed that “governments learn best from other governments” and encourage far-ranging discussions with experts from other countries, as well as state and local governments. An example of this came to fruition when Michael Bracken, creator and director of the United Kingdom’s Government Digital Service, spoke to a cadre of Presidential Innovation Fellows and others in the GSA auditorium. Bracken is in charge of using the new and ground-breaking gov.

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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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Trends on Tuesday: Pew Cell Phone Activities Report

Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project recently released their report on Cell Phone Activities for 2013. The report stated that 91% of American adults own a cell phone and many use their devices for more than just phone calls. In Pew’s recent survey, they found the most popular activities people perform on the smartphones are what you might expect; texting, accessing the web, and emailing. App downloads by phone owners have increased to 50% – up from 22% in 2009.

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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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Mobile Product Testing Guidelines and Resources

You have started developing your mobile product, but you may be wondering what and how to test. As with any form of software development, mobile testing should be done intermittently throughout all development stages. This article was developed as part of the Mobile Application Development Program to provide agencies with some general testing strategies, types, tools and testing scripts. The information on these testing pages has been pulled from the Mobile Gov Community of Practice and private sector resources.

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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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Business.USA.gov – Usability Case Study

When redesigning a site, it’s easy to place menu items, text and other content wherever you can make them fit. It’s harder to take a step back and ask the strategic question: Is this the best place for this? A good rule of thumb is to never make any changes randomly—base your decisions on user data. The DigitalGov User Experience Program team evaluated Business.USA.gov on June 1, 2012, and their usability recommendations were adopted by the Business.

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Fueleconomy.gov – Usability Case Study

Many technical websites have a hard time explaining information to the general public. This happens because users don’t understand the industry-specific or scientific terms. Fortunately, solutions to these problems are fairly easy—changing menu and navigation item text, or adding a line of explanatory text on key pages or complex graphics. The DigitalGov User Experience Program helped conduct a usability test on the Department of Energy’s fueleconomy.gov mobile site in February 2013 that resulted in three top usability problems and solutions.

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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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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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What We’re (Really) Talking About When We’re Talking About Mobile (Hint: It’s the User)

It used to be when we said mobile we meant activities and devices defined strictly by mobility and the features associated with it, such as GPS, SMS, barcode readers, cell phones, etc. But when I found myself in my easy chair watching a ballgame on my laptop because it was closer than the TV, while checking other scores on my smartphone, mobility had little to do with it. If anything, I was the anti-mobile user.

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ATF.gov – Usability Case Study

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has some really valuable information for the public that a lot of people search for on ATF.gov. It’s important that the information is easily and quickly accessible. Government agencies reach a wide audience with their information, so making sure everyone can understand your content is important. The DigitalGov User Experience Program performed an expert usability evaluation of ATF.gov in December 2012. The team identified the following three major issues that could quickly be fixed to make the site more usable.

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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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Regulations.gov – Usability Case Study

More and more people use search as their primary means of finding what they are looking for. When users get confused by the search results, or can’t immediately find what they are looking for, they’re going to get frustrated. They may even leave the site for good. The DigitalGov User Experience Program helped test Regulations.gov on October 5, 2012, to find three high–priority, fixable problems that could make the user experience much easier and more pleasant.

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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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Commerce Departmental Library – Usability Case Study

A website with too much information on the homepage, or any page, will overwhelm users in less than a second. They will be unable to find a starting point to accomplish what they came there to do. If users are not able to locate the information they need and/or are unable to get past the homepage, they will go to another website to look for the information they are seeking.

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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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