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.
Along with UX, there are two new types of experiences that organizations are encouraged to design for: the developer experience (DX) and the data prosumer experience (DPX). Both types of experiences recognize the role that data plays in building digital products and services and have much in common with UX. Even so, DX differs fundamentally from DPX, and both are a different twist on UX.
Developer experience (DX) focuses on the developers who use APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to build mobile apps and other online products and services. Like UX, DX is built around the concept of “empathy” or deeply understanding the needs and expectations of the developers. However, developers’ expectations of APIs are different from the average user who may never directly work with an API. To create a good DX, API designers need to do the following:
- Create documentation for the API, which is thorough and complete. API designers need to approach the task of documenting an API as if they were encountering the API for the first time and without prior knowledge of the API’s architecture, functions, and data.
- Use good programming practices to create robust and understandable endpoints (how to request data from the API).
- Create understandable and informative status codes, error codes, and data structures.
- Respect the developers’ time and resources by providing code samples (in as many of the more popular languages as you can), easy-to-use authentication methods, and multiple ways to contact someone for help.
The fifth piece of advice for building a good DX is to never assume. Never assuming is also good advice for creating a good data prosumer experience. Data prosumers differ from developers in that data prosumers create and use data at the same time—even though they may not be developers. For example, data prosumers create data when they query a federal website about a topic such as securing a small business loan. The data prosumer creates data for the federal government by giving information about their small business and personal financial situation. In return, this information is paired with pre-existing government information to determine the best small business loan alternatives. Both the data prosumer and the federal government benefit from the exchange of data. Designing for a good exchange of data ensures that the information form interfaces are intuitive and well-designed. It also means that all parties’ privacy is well-protected and how the data will be used is understood by both sides.
At the heart of UX, DX, and DPX is the experience that is built on empathy. Federal government website builders, API developers, data designers, and government communicators must overcome their “curse of knowledge” of their data and APIs to emphasize how users may approach the data or API. Creating a good experience means that the data or API will be more readily used, which is a benefit to both the agency and the American public.Each week, The Data Briefing showcases the latest federal data news and trends. Dr. William Brantley is the Training Administrator for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Global Intellectual Property Academy. You can find out more about his personal work in open data, analytics, and related topics at BillBrantley.com. All opinions are his own and do not reflect the opinions of the USPTO or GSA.
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