My write up about the Hawaii False Alarm left me a little unsatisfied in that it really didn’t offer much in the way of actionable responses. Fortunately, better minds than mine came to the rescue today.
What Healthcare.gov has to do with the Hawaii false alarm — and what to do about it showed up in my Twitter feed from Code for America and offered some more immediate actions for those who want to help. In that article, Erie Meyer suggests:
- Usability Test Your Most Important Services
- Adopt the Digital Services Playbook
- Get Help
Usability Test Your Most Important Services
While that might seems obvious to many, apparently enthusiastic government lawyers have been preventing usability testing in the past, according to an earlier post. Hopefully, the air is clearing on this.
Recently, our Tech Comm students at Mercer University have been usability testing the Department of Homeland Security’s website to help improve it. Every little bit helps.
Adopt the Digital Services Playbook
I hadn’t see this before, but the U.S. Digital Service’s Digital Services Playbook is an excellent and easy to ready resource for how to design a good service.
Everyone planning to launch a service or website should review it, whether they are a government organization or not. The U.S. Government has a lot of great resources for digital and content design (Honest!) for no charge, such as:
Erie’s article concludes with a long list of resources for people tasked with procuring government systems. Designers and developers can use those same resources to find out where they can help out and put their expertise and passion to work.
Hidden in this list is the disappointing observation that, “Government contractors can do incredible work, but the work is typically not set up for success.” Yet she continues to offer some supportive advice, “The key to getting the best out of a contract is to include usability testing and the digital service playbook in the statement of work, but also in breaking down the contract into the smallest pieces possible. 18F is doing groundbreaking work on this front and is happy to help” (Emphasis mine).
Their problems are really our responsibility
In the end, it’s really up to all of us as taxpayers. Erie quotes this tweet:
The challenge isn’t redesigning the user experience of a government system to avoid pushing the wrong button by mistake. That’s the easy part. The hard part is convincing a decision-maker to prioritize the redesign and allocate taxpayer dollars to fixing it.
— Angela Colter (@angelacolter) January 15, 2018
I feel better knowing that there are so many ways to actually make the situation better. Hopefully, by adopting these improvements, the improvements will get as much press (or even 1/10 the press) as the Hawaii False Alarm and it will become easier and easier to improve these vital services.