Reorienting Federal Programs, User-Centered Design

I’m obsessed with the concept of user-centered design. Aren’t you?  After all, then it’s all about me—which feels about right.  More accurately, it’s all about you or each of us. The more I learn, the more little mini-makeovers I do on everything from grocery store lines to my town’s well-intended but crappy website.

Putting users at the center when developing products or services or just the interface between us and them is so totally basic that it’s often ignored or assumed. So, it’s not surprising that of all of the stereotypes about federal programs, user centered would not be one of them. 

Jonathan Rubin and his team at the General Services Administration (GSA) are trying to change that.  Through the DigitalGov User Experience Program—and their outlet howto.gov-- they’re working to reintegrate the user or customer into largely established programs. Their work started with a focus on federal websites but has expanded. Their impressive list of clients and the before and after gallery will suck you in—block out at least 10 minutes for clicking around.  But after browsing a couple of examples, you can’t help but get a sense of the big impact of some seemingly small changes.

Whether the demand exists yet or not, there is a tremendous need to reexamine so many programs and services from this angle—and not just those touching the general public. Starting with programs that enable other government functions would go a long way to improve effectiveness.