What do you like about your favorite restaurant? It may be the service, the quality, the consistency — but what’s that thing that brings you back?
You trust that they’ll get it right, that they’ll deliver what you want each time. You trust your decision to order from them. That trust can be built upon with good experiences and broken with bad ones. One cold pizza can leave even the most loyal customer reconsidering their next order.
Websites aren’t all that different. Providing information and service that customers can rely on helps build the trust that keeps them coming back.
Our audiences want to feel like experts, like they get it. If they trust that they can find what they need — delivered simply and clearly, where and when they need it — we validate them. The more easily they can complete tasks, the more confident they’ll feel.
There are lots of ways to make things easier for the people that use our sites and digital services. You’re designing this experience, so help your users succeed!
Let your users be your guide
There’s that user experience adage, meet people where they are. But where are they?
Check site visit data to get an idea where people are going, and engagement metrics to learn what kind of information your visitors are interested in.
Determine how customers are currently connecting with you, and:
- Offer a consistent place to go for information (often your website).
- Remind people with clear, regular communications (like email or social media).
- Update page descriptions and keep sentences short; use common words and phrases for search engine optimization and findability.
Check out this article on the difference between customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX) and ways they overlap.
Identify and fix CX and UX pitfalls
A poor or confusing experience around their intended task can impact the way a customer feels about your whole site or organization.
Listen to what people are saying about their experiences.
- Conduct user testing for major user journeys and audiences.
- Review help desk feedback and site surveys to identify targeted improvements (following the requirements for information collections in the Paperwork Reduction Act, of course!).
- Perform automated and manual scans to test for accessibility and usability issues.
Respect people’s time
Information overload is real. When given too many options, people can get fatigued, frustrated, or afraid they’ll make the wrong choice. It creates work for the reader and implies that we expect them to sort through it all to find what they need.
Our sites are a crucial part of connecting government, industry, and the public.
We’re legally required to communicate clearly, and less is often more when it comes to clarity.
- Be direct, with clear calls-to-action.
- Consistently use definitions, labels, and tags across pages and sites.
- Cut the acronyms and jargon to reduce complexity.
- Define any confusing terms or topics.
- Focus on top tasks at site and page level, removing anything unnecessary or unused.
- Structure information for easy navigation (especially when user journeys span sites or include multiple tasks).
- Use plain language, easy-to-read fonts, and scannable layouts.
Use formats that work for everyone
Pretty is nice, but can people read it? If a person can’t find, use, and understand web content the first time, it’s not doing its job (or complying with federal plain language guidelines).
Accessibility is paramount, and a best practice for reaching your widest possible audience. Make your information easy to find by putting it in accessible, convenient locations and formats.
Remember that you’re designing for people, and real people have a wide variety of needs and expectations. Promotional videos can annoy, distract, or slow load times. Images intended to provide clarity can confuse readers or bury useful information.
Remove unnecessary barriers where you can.
- Keep it simple: only include extras that add value, context, or are required by law.
- Try U.S. Web Design System components for consistent, accessible designs.
- Use active voice and easy-to-understand words.
- Use accessible PDFs, but only when absolutely necessary. Opt for HTML for more accessible, searchable content. If you need assistance, reach out to your agency’s 508 Program Manager.
Make it easy on yourself
When we focus on making things easier for the people using our sites and digital services, there’s a surprise benefit: it gets easier on us, too!
Maintaining less information in fewer places means faster reviews and posting times, freeing us up for more strategic work and ultimately benefiting our users.
- Streamline journeys and limit the number of places people have to go to find what they need.
- Review content regularly and remove anything that shows no or low engagement.
- Strategically promote your content and comms channels so people know where to go.
- Use the same words when talking about the same thing across pages and platforms.
Join the UX Community
The User Experience Community of Practice (UX CoP) brings together government user experience practitioners to create better user-centered products for the public.
Join the CX Community
The Customer Experience Community of Practice (CX CoP) unites federal employees to improve the experience that the public has with government services, organizations, and agencies.
- Digital.gov YouTube playlist: Government Customer Experience
- 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (21st Century IDEA)
- U.S. Web Design System
- Guide to the Paperwork Reduction Act
- Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government
- President’s Management Agenda (PMA) Priority 2: Delivering Excellent, Equitable, and Secure Federal Services and Customer Experience
- Required Web Content and Links
- Go-Live Checklist for Federal Websites