This past year, I led an effort to redesign the staff Intranet site for the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). After months of surveying, planning, and testing (see the part 1 blog post, How Do You Redesign a ‘Dinosaur’? Redesigning an Intranet Site: the Beginning Stages), the site was launched in Fall 2017. I learned several helpful lessons along the way that I wanted to share:
My team at the Federal Reserve is about to launch our first style guide and now that we have gone through the process and created this valuable resource, I can’t imagine creating another app or website without it. Here’s why your team needs a style guide and lessons learned from our experience. CFPB Design Manual, Page Components: A pair of 50/50 image and text components, as seen on a landing page template.
This post was originally published on the USA.gov blog. An agency information sharing exercise to improve the customer experience, as related to the Office of Products and Programs’ Information Exchange Project Some people experience challenges navigating government services – especially if they need to work with more than one agency. Based on this premise, we set out to find out how agencies could share information with one another to improve the customer experience.
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.
The team behind the U.S. Web Design Standards (the Standards) held their first Ask Me Anything (AMA), in August, to answer questions from their public Slack channel community. There was great excitement in the channel leading up to the chat, and more than 40 new people joined the already robust community of federal, state and local government, higher education, industry, nonprofit, and U.K. and Canada government officials that are interested in working with–and growing–the Standards.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Many content managers in the digital world understand the irrepressible desire to improve, fix, edit, add, and move things around. It’s our job, after all, to nurture the ongoing process of creating, updating, and testing. But, there are those sites or pages that never seem to make it to the high-priority list. For our Web team, this was our Center’s staff Intranet site. Our Web team recognized that the Intranet was in need of attention.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the sea of apps, users get choosey with which apps can take up space on their phone. With one uninstall click the user can decide to breakup with the app if they have a bad experience. To keep your app from being all alone, the MobileGov Community of Practice put together six Mobile User Experience Guidelines to help keep mobile users in love. DigitalGov University hosted a webinar in which the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) highlighted two of these guidelines.
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.
The new Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST) aims to make government programs more effective and efficient. Amira Choueiki from the SBST joined us to explain what the SBST does, and to discuss some of the projects they’ve worked on. Amira also shared how agencies can propose projects for the SBST to tackle, and explained how social and behavioral sciences, customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX) work together to enhance government products and services.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One of the challenges UX practitioners can face is how to communicate much of the data that’s out there. The key word is “communicate.” Since many of us are used to qualitative findings, making the jump to “hard data” can be a challenge. There are tools out there that make this easier, but we still need some explanations and/or translations. First, let me be clear that I am not endorsing any product or technique.
My office is preparing to embark on a complete redesign of a 10-year-old system that averages 20,000 users a month. The success and adoption of the new system design and the product as a whole will be heavily determined by how well our team translates users’ needs. Providing a good user experience will also play a critical role in reducing struggles long-time users may encounter with a new system. Note: Due to the early stages of this project and various procurement concerns, I am leaving out some of the specifics but still felt that this practical discussion of user research could be beneficial.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Around this month’s Communities Theme, the DigitalGov team thought we’d round up your community rock stars. These are people in your communities who’ve gone above and beyond, who’ve contributed content, organized events, participated in developing toolkits and more. Let’s kick it off with the DigitalGov Summit Sounding Board. DigitalGov Summit Sounding Board For the 2015 DigitalGov Summit we pulled together innovators from across the federal government to guide the programming, promote the CrowdHall (and Summit overall) and help identify speakers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Audit. It’s a word that generally has no positive connotations whatsoever. We hear the word audit and we think of tax audits or timesheet audits, etc. The word normally strikes fear or dread in the hearts of most mortals. But it is also a task that all websites will need to perform from time to time, and hopefully after reading today’s column you can view content audits as positive opportunities and not as dreadful chores.
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.
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.
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:
Personas are tools your agency can use to learn about your end users and drive decisions. Personas are so useful because they serve as a communication tool for your team. You can keep these personas in mind to guide any work that your agency performs. Let’s delve a bit deeper into personas and review two examples from the federal community. Below, we have personas from the Department of Human and Health Services (HHS) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
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?
For a seminar organized by DigitalGov University, Robert Read, the Managing Director at 18F, gave a presentation on agile methodologies in the federal government. Risk mitigation is a big advantage of using the agile methodology. The methodology deals with risk through the use of multiple iterations or “sprints” that ultimately lead to the development of a better product. “Sprints” involve the release of software that is functional and will allow for testing.
Personas are a tool organizations can use to learn more about their users. They are used to learn as much as you can about end users in order to better the product or service you provide. If you are able to think as a user during the design and development of a product or service, this will help greatly in creating something that satiates the users’ needs. Personas are descriptions that give you an understanding of your users and how they use your product or service.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We had a GREAT DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit today. There were more than 200 digital innovators from across government and industry working to build the 21st century government the public expects. The four panels focused on performance analysis, customer service across channels, inter-agency work, and public private partnerships. Here’s what you missed in a short highlight video. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIWwnomPxo4&w=600]
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.
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.
In September 2013, the Mobile Gov Community of Practice released user experience guidelines and recommendations for federal agencies to use in order to create good mobile user experiences. This article highlights private sector and government resources and tools to assist agencies in implementing those user experience guidelines. **Mobile User Experience Resources and Tools From the Private Sector ** There are a number of resources in the private sector for designing excellent User Experience.
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.
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.
I’m the kind of guy who loves tests. Not SATs, or BMI tests, but usability tests: connecting target customers with a government website and watching how they interact with it. Our DigitalGov User Experience Program (formerly known as First Fridays)has taught dozens of agencies how to conduct these vital tests, and we even created a monthly group to talk about how to run these tests, and make them better. We call it the User Experience Community, and all federal employees who are interested in usability testing are welcome to join.
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.
Accessibility testing is a subset of usability testing and is the inclusive practice of making websites and mobile applications usable by people of all abilities and disabilities. You do this by testing mobile websites and/or applications on all leading browsers, mobile devices and screen readers. This article was developed as part of the Mobile Application Development Program. See our general guidelines to testing article for more resources on mobile product testing.
Responsive Web design refers to a fluidly constructed Web page layout that scales from handheld device displays to large, high-resolution computer displays using flexible typography, flexible images, fluid grids, and CSS3 media queries. For years, most Web teams designed for the desktop. Branding, navigation, work flows – the overall look & feel of online applications – were all considered reasonable areas to distinguish one’s online presence from others. Things have changed so dramatically over the past few years that starting with the desktop may now be the backwards way of creating a web site.
Functionality testing verifies that the functions of a product or service is working as intended. Each function is tested by providing appropriate input, verifying the output and comparing the actual results with the expected results. Usability testing measures the ease of use and intuitiveness of a product or service by asking users to perform a task and observing what they do, where they succeed and where they have difficulties.
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
Kids and adults use Web search tools differently. Kids fail more often, because they often don’t have enough knowledge or experience to search using the right keywords, or understand search results. If you’re designing websites for kids, remember that they use search tools differently than adults. Kids prefer surfing over searching. If kids can’t easily find what they want, they will likely: Miss important content Become frustrated Leave your website and not come back Help Kids Search Successfully If you’re thinking about putting a customized search engine just for kids on your site, you should understand how kids use search engines.