Designing Government Websites.

How we made NYC.gov just like any New Yorker: fast, direct & helpful.

Fern Diaz
June 27, 2014
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Government websites provide most of the frustrating user experiences on the web. Most often, the problem that plagues public-facing government hubs is the simplest: the failure to prioritize the citizen. A city website that buries parking information in favor of press releases might advance an administration's agenda, but won't help the everyday user get to the content or functionality they're looking for. So what if a government website could do both, and do it well? 

A recent presentation at Huge Brooklyn looked at the transformation of NYC.gov in contrast to the failure of Healthcare.gov and established the value of simplicity in UX for government websites. First, Ana Breton, Engagement Director, and Jay Barbarich, Senior Interaction Designer, broke down the strategy behind the NYC.gov redesign. Its first redesign in a decade, the goal of the NYC.gov rehaul was the opposite of what most clients are looking for: less time spent by each user on the site. Months spent on stakeholder interviews, user interviews, a content audit, and an analytics review resulted in a strategy that actually responded to the needs of the user while boosting the administration's efficiency and image. 

As Barbarich pointed out, on the old site it was nearly impossible for someone who lost something in a taxi cab to find help — an illustrative case of bad user experience making an already-stressful situation worse. But when a similar inefficiency takes over an initiative as monumental and stressful as a new healthcare marketplace, the process needs a careful re-consideration. Adam Slagowski, VP of Government Services at Huge, took an in-depth look at the many steps along the creation of Healthcare.gov, starting pre-design with the choice of agency and vendor, and through the engineering process that continued to repeat many of the same mistakes while introducing a new subset of problems to look out for when designing a government website.

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