Bottom Line Up Front: If you develop websites for the Federal Government, they will soon begin grading their User Experience (UX).
Government websites are notoriously horrible. From the local driver’s license website that TELLS ME ABOUT STUPID BOAT LICENSES BUT WON’T TELL ME WHERE NEW RESIDENTS CAN REGISTER FOR DRIVER LICENSES… deep breath… to Federal passport offices that DON’T TELL YOU WHAT DOGGONE DOCUMENTS YOU NEED… we have all dealt with websites that look like they were designed by the proverbial thousand monkeys at the thousand typewriters and have execrable User Experience.
Well, that is about to change. As this article says, the Department of Health and Human Services is becoming the first Federal organization that assigns its websites “Customer Experience” scores.
“UX” vs “CX”
User Experience (UX) is the same thing as Customer Experience (CX), but the Federal Government likes the “Customer” name better. The reason the name is different is that last year, the Feds got together and decided that it would help them focus their design efforts if they thought of their users as “Customers.” Governments are not accustomed to think of taxpayers as “customers,” so it’s been a challenge to shift perspectives, but they’re working on it.
The IDEA Act
If you read the article, you’ll see that their checklist of user experience specifications come from something called the “21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act,” or the “IDEA Act.” It’s a law passed in 2018 to legislate UX into the Federal Government. Although commercial industry understands that if they want to stay in business, making things user-friendly is indispensable, Governments have no such need. Government entities remain open whether their public face is friendly or impenetrable; it makes no difference.
This is why it took a literal Act of Congress to make it happen. Beginning in 2018, all Federal digital products must take UX into consideration.
What Does It Mean For Me?
Are you a UX worker? Or are you a UX firm? Well, a HUGE new market just opened up! Government bureaucracies and techie types do not have a strong background in UX evaluations, but you do. You could offer it as a service.
For commercial industry, UX is old hat, but for the Government, it’s new and revolutionary. They don’t have any internal UX expertise for all the work required by the IDEA Act, so they’re going to need help from UX companies. Also, they are going to need UX workers to help them out internally. So go check out the State and Federal government job pages and keep an eye out for UX jobs!