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. The DigitalGov User Experience Program worked with SAM.gov to find ways to make their site more usable for their multiple audiences. After watching several testers use the site, problems were identified and solutions suggested. Several of the problems dealt specifically with the homepage and its various starting points.

The navigation on the homepage provided very little information.

The buttons on the navigation bar were clarified.

Problem 2: Account Creation and Registration Confusing

Visitors were confused as to whether creating an account was the same as registering their entity.

Solution 2: Simplify Text with Plain Language

The “What is SAM” text was moved out of the blue boxes and replaced with plain language text that explained how to create an account as well as how to register an entity, along with clear buttons to identify the way forward.

Problem 3: Search Box Confusing

The purpose and scope of the search box wasn’t clear to visitors.

Solution 3: Define Searchable Content

What was searchable on the site was clarified.

In just a few short weeks, the SAM.gov Web team was able to make a few seemingly small changes that made a huge impact on the usability of the homepage.

None of these changes are dramatic, but it took an outside perspective to see that they were needed. By taking a day to observe how real visitors encounter their site, the SAM.gov team was able to identify changes both simple and complex that needed to be made. And by taking on the simple changes quickly, they were able to make a drastic difference in the usability of their site.

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