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. We, in eDiplomacy hate to settle for bad.

Screen capture of the State Department's UX Exponential homepage

Which is why, on April 8, we, and lots of the people at the State Department are going to change the bad user experiences into good ones. All of us know that there are processes, platforms and procedures that the humans in the State Department can improve! “UX exponential” will bring together experts and dreamers to inspire us to tackle even the most arcane platforms—the ones we’re so used to that we forget we can make them better. While the event is specifically for State Department colleagues, we wanted to share our approach in case you’d like to use it. We are not waiting for change to happen from the top down, we’re empowering every user to make change happen from within—within yourself or within your office or within your bureau. Deputy Secretary Higginbottom, who is the captain of the ship of resources, has jumped aboard and will begin the day with words of encouragement. She is hoping we will fling our nets wide.

Let me make clear that no one in our office is an event planner and no one is a usability testing expert. We think what we’re doing is needed, so we are doing it. An event like this has never happened at the State Department before.

Because lots of good ideas come from the public, we welcomed Lance Weiler’s offer to come help us. Lance started Columbia University’s LearnDoShare initiative, and we met him at DigSouth when eDiplomacy and Lance were both on the speaking circuit. Lance is helping us to shake up the way we think, and the way we inspire each other. He will create a collaborative field guide documenting what we do and where we’re going. The guide will be created in real time by everyone and will sit on a public site. This allows anyone who wants to copy and fork what we did, to do so. Our hearts are big and our minds are open that we’ll help other agencies or offices who want to run something similar to do it. Just like the Virtual Student Foreign Service (VSFS) program—also coordinated by Diplomacy—that is now at 26 USG agencies, we want to help. We want to share what works and what’s good.

So check it out—http://www.uxexponential.org! We’ve got an incredible assortment of talent, in and out of government ready to help the State Department make important UX improvements! Wanna reach the behind-the-scenes team? Send us an email.

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