Federal Agencies Put Greater Emphasis on User Experience

As the nation moves more and more online, Federal agencies are following suit to move more of their civilian interactions to an online or mobile setting. As this becomes the primary way that the agencies interact with citizens, making the online experience as comfortable as possible is a primary driver for the Departments of Education and Homeland Security (DHS), as well as the U.S. Air Force (USAF).

Walking a fine line between what is best for the consumer and what’s best for leadership can be a challenge, according to Surendra Babu, Information System Security Manager & Information System Security Officer at the Department of Education, who spoke at the GovLoop and Carahsoft Government CX Virtual Summit on Wednesday. When that’s accomplished well, those best practices can be used for the future, however.

When it comes to user experience and walking that fine line, Cathleen Tracy, IT Project Manager at DHS spoke about tailoring websites specifically to the needs of what the customer might be looking for—not loading everything up to the main DHS website.

“What do people need to simplify the user experience?” Tracy would ask. To DHS, that means making the search as easy as possible. Tracy gave the example of a natural disaster that the DHS would need to provide information on. During such a disaster, internet access might be limited or mobile phone power might be critical to preserve, so having a user jump through hoops to find what they might need on the DHS site in terms of assistance or services is not easing the process. Instead, individually tailored sites like fema.gov are more efficient for the user and thus simplifying the user experience.

To get to the point of ease and considering what the user might want, Frank Konieczny, chief technology officer at Office of Information Dominance at the Air Force, suggests involving the community along in the process of improving the user experience. It’s easier to know what the user wants if they’re asked. Babu mentioned the use of forums and open sessions to receive that kind of feedback.

From a technology standpoint, there are pitfalls to avoid that can also affect the user experience. Tracy mentioned keeping an eye on open source information. Konieczny said to be aware of operating two systems when migrating to the cloud because they’re both operating in some capacity, simultaneously. Introduce trainings for employees if need be.

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