We’re excited to launch a complete redesign of USDA.gov featuring stronger visual storytelling components, a more modern user-experience with easy to find services and resources, and to top it off, a completely mobile-friendly design. Through careful planning, thoughtful design, and a primary focus on user experience and usability, we’ve taken the best of government and industry expertise and put it into creating our new website. This has been a year-long project, but to do this right, we wanted to make sure we tapped into every possible resource.
Draft Web Design Standards
The U.S. Web Design Standards are a library of design guidelines and code to help government developers quickly create trustworthy, accessible, and consistent digital government services. Last month, we announced the 1.0 release of the Standards, a milestone that signals the Standards are a stable, trustworthy resource for government designers and developers. By using the well-tested and easy-to-implement code from the Standards, developers can quickly create new websites or have a leg-up in updating existing services to have a modern, consistent feel.
One year ago this week, we launched vote.gov (also known as vote.usa.gov). It’s a concise and simple site with a single mission: direct citizens through the voter registration process as quickly as possible. It was created by a joint team of USA.gov staffers and Presidential Innovation Fellows, all of whom work within the General Services Administration (GSA). Did it work? Yes. In fact, it worked so well that Facebook made it the destination for their 2016 voter registration drive.
In the five months since we launched the Draft U.S. Web Design Standards — the U.S. government’s very own set of common UI components and visual styles for websites — over a dozen websites have used components of the Draft Standards on their sites. Recently, we talked to three federal web designers about their experiences using the Draft Standards, which were designed with accessibility and flexibility in mind: Maria Marrero is the User Experience Designer for USA.
One of the most common questions we receive is: Should I integrate the Draft U.S. Web Design Standards into my existing project? The answer is: it depends. A lot of design research supports the notion that many people who use government websites or services may benefit from consistency across interactions, user experiences, and behavior across those websites. A consistent look and feel with common design elements will feel familiar, trustworthy, and secure—and users will be able to navigate government websites more easily because of a common palette and design.
Since our launch of the Draft U.S. Web Design Standards last September, hundreds of people have provided feedback on the project through GitHub issues and via email. We’ve received dozens of feature requests as well as over 400 contributions from the open source community. Over the past five months, we’ve incorporated suggestions from the feedback we’ve received, resolved a number of outstanding issues, and made various updates to our content and structure.
In our last post, we introduced the Federal Front Door project and briefly described a six-week discovery phase, in which we set out to better understand how the general public feels about and interacts with the federal government, so that we can design and build products that improve people’s experience across government agencies. We think of the federal front door as the places the public first interacts with their government.
What It Is Do you remember the days when web pages had banners announcing that they were “best viewed with browser X”? Veteran web developers and designers certainly do, because they had to consider numerous exceptions for certain browsers and their versions. Today, building websites isn’t as challenging and that’s because developers are moving toward standards. Why It’s Important Developing with standard-compliant code—that is, using code as it is intended—will help you build your website so that it can be viewed and accessed on more web browsers, platforms, and devices than developing with browser-specific code.