What is design?
American designer Charles Eames has described design as “a plan for arranging elements to accomplish a particular purpose.” This can easily be applied to government websites, as the purpose of most agency websites is to enable users to accomplish specific tasks.
Why does design matter?
Like a tour guide or museum docent, well-designed websites are helpful, courteous, informational, and relevant, escorting people through their journey to a successful outcome. When agencies deliver customer-centric digital services that work well, it increases satisfaction, confidence, and trust in government.
Poorly-designed websites often present information from an organizational (rather than customer-centric) viewpoint. This results in websites that don’t communicate clearly, and leave users stranded without answering their questions. When users are forced to abandon a website, they often call or email for help instead, which can be significantly more expensive for agencies than providing the self-service solutions preferred by most people.
How to design websites that work well for users
There are four key pillars to meet the federal web requirements related to design and user experience (UX).
- Design a consistent user experience
- Continually test products and services to ensure they meet user needs
- Listen to and act on customer feedback
- Be device-agnostic
Great websites are rooted in customer understanding, so learn what your customers really need, and observe how they interact with your products in the real world, including on different devices, to identify and address design issues that cause confusion or impede the customer journey.
- Start with real user needs - Follow USWDS design principles
- Methods - Employ the appropriate method to meet your research goals
- Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) - Comply with PRA rules when collecting feedback from ten or more people (non-feds)
- USWDS Patterns - Employ patterns to provide a m.ore consistent user experience
- Eight principles of mobile-friendliness - Test your site to ensure it works well on any size of screen
- Sunrise to Sunset: Building a Customer-centric Digital Ecosystem - Learn how GSA built the Digital Lifecycle Program to help GSA web teams manage a website throughout its entire lifecycle.
- The U.S. Web Design System (USWDS) and onrr.gov - Read this USWDS case study from Dept. of Interior
- Barriers to Government’s Adoption of User-centered Design — And How To Address Them - Practical advice to help government agencies get started with user research
Connect with others interested in design
Want to learn more? Join our communities of practice.
The UX Community of Practice is a group of managers, subject matter experts, designers, developers, writers and others interested in creating efficient, effective and useful technologies. Join the UX Community.
The Web Managers Community of Practice is a group of government employees who manage government websites and digital services. They work to create a trusted, seamless online experience for all. Join the Web Managers Community.
Developed in collaboration with GSA’s Service Design Program, Office of Customer Experience.