Federal Agencies: Three Ideas to Improve Your Digital Experiences

New law should inspire agencies to adopt standard, industry-proven techniques. 

Since the signing of the Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEAct), agencies have rapidly moved to answer the call to improve the citizen-government digital experience. Across the act's eight specific requirement areas - from adopting e-signatures to digitizing specific forms and services - there is the wide-ranging requirement to "improve the customer experience." Parsing this incredibly broad mandate requires that agencies, in our view, figure out what “superior digital experience” means to their audiences, and isolate a set of clear measures to ensure their progress reporting against this mandate accurately reflects improvements made. After all, each agency has different audiences with different goals and digital "pain points," but best practice digital experience design aligns across a set of key principles.

First, agencies need to understand and map audience needs to digital content and functionality in a way that delivers value and removes headaches over a single website visit or multiple visits, spanning a multi-year relationship. Applying this best practice of ‘human-centered design’ provides significant value to the citizen, and goodwill to the agency involved. For example, if a service-disabled veteran looking to register and renew their certification online is unable to properly navigate a website and follow the necessary criteria to register a certificate, everyone loses – the agency, the vet, and citizens who don’t want to let our vets down. Detailed understanding of how different audiences navigate, search, consume content, and furnish data can be translated into digital experience designs that can be surprisingly straightforward to address with usability tested page templates, content components, navigation affordances, and optimized form designs. While agencies might not hit the Amazon “1-click purchase” standard, citizens can and should expect their government to apply human centered design for website content and forms.

Second, agencies need to identify and isolate key audience segments and corresponding critical digital ‘moments’ for personalization. Often, this critical 'moment’ is search-related, and there are AI and other technologies that can greatly enhance these experiences for citizens. The key to setting up and prioritizing segments for personalized digital experiences is listening to audience inputs from surveys and website analytics demographics and converting these learnings into segment criteria. Armed with these insights, agencies can then create profiles of distinct audiences and personalize their search – the Department of Energy, for example, leverages AI to deliver a different type of search to academic researchers than to schoolteachers, complete with different content types (statistical charts vs. syllabus topic outlines). Each segment is ‘surprised and delighted,’ and agencies looking to deliver on IDEAct requirements can and should look to deliver to this standard.

Third, IDEAct is looking to ensure mobile-optimized experiences by using digital affordances to reinforce data privacy in a transparent, consistent fashion across all screens. Creating consistency requires agencies to gain a deep understanding of when citizens are most likely to use mobile screens to access their site so they can tailor that site away from the “fat finger syndrome.” If you can’t navigate your agency’s website without your finger accidentally hitting the wrong link or button, it's time to act. Agencies looking for inspiration can look to CMSWire, which focuses its attention towards the specific usages of each screen. (Did you know young people are increasingly completing marriage certificate applications on mobile screens? Not really surprising!) A good starting point for agencies looking to direct mobile enhancement efforts is to measure and compare visitor satisfaction across mobile vs. desktop.

The IDEAct can and should serve as a catalyst for agencies to adopt a set of standard, industry-proven techniques for improving digital experience design. The key is for each agency to first "make IDEA theirs" through data-driven and customer insights-driven processes, addressing the three key preference drivers for digital experience design - value delivered at each visit, personalized ‘moments that matter’ (like site search), and a mobile-friendly design. Each agency, and their audiences, deserve nothing less.

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Sean Breen

Chief Executive Officer

Industry Leading Insights 

Our latest thinking on personalization, digital transformation and experience design


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