As our digital world progresses, it often seems that government agency websites are “behind-the-cue-ball” and stagnant. Having a website that is accessible, easy to navigate, and designed with your user’s experience in mind is vital to operability and success.
In this three-part blog series, we ask our expert team of Content Strategists, UX Designers, and Accessibility Specialists to list the crème-de-la-crème of government websites that are getting the user experience right. These are inspiring examples to help get your agency started on the journey towards adopting and implementing a Human-Centered Design (HCD) process in your organization.
UX Design is the process of creating products or services that offer a great, meaningful, and relevant user experience for the public. Enabling users to complete tasks effectively and efficiently using evidence-based research is central to UX Design. This ensures that your website is usable, enjoyable, and accessible for users while improving their quality of life.
Having a great UX Design for your website will create a meaningful experience and increase successful transaction rates.
Best UX Design on a Government Website: VA.GOV
According to our Director of UX Design, Taylor Collins, VA.GOV wins the best government agency website for UX Design.
What is VA.GOV?
Veterans Affairs is one of the forefront federal government agency advocates for Human-Centered Design (HCD), and known for putting their user at the center of everything they do. Their website is a shining example of how improving the customer experience can increase trust in government. In fact, a recent survey showed a 24% jump in trust in VA over the past few years.
What UX Design Principles are present on the VA.GOV website?
The VA.GOV uses a design system outlined by the United States Web Design System (USWDS). A design system is a set of design standards, documentation, principles, styles, and re-usable components or pattern library. This allows design and development teams to use flexible colors, type styles, and elements to create consistent page templates, interactions, and experiences while also increasing trust and credibility from the user.
The USWDS is a design system for the federal government. It is chock-full of resources for design best practices, components, principles, and templates. Using a design system, VA.GOV creates a seamless user experience and makes it easy for the public to navigate their website.
#1 - Consistent Style
The VA.gov site is clearly organized with consistent headings, quick links, and has clear visual states for everything. For example, a link appears blue when default, takes on a gray highlight on a hover state, and changes to purple after a user visits it.
Using color intentionally is a common theme within the VA's site as they continue using blues, greens, and red to convey importance, formatting, callouts, and highlighting areas for login.
"Styling can't be consistent unless content is consistent… the styling is just the cherry on top of the content."
#2 - Easy Navigation
There is a lot a veteran can do on this website, which can make for a messy Information Architecture (IA) and navigation. However, VA.GOV has intentionally thought about their user, what their top tasks are, and how those would be easiest to find and organized their service offerings accordingly.
With dozens of pages, VA.GOV only has two main dropdown menus for selection on the homepage. Nested under these are clear categories that are in order of most used from top to bottom.
#3 - Guiding People Through Tasks
When completing a task or transaction, this website gives simple, clear, step-by-step instructions so people can easily navigate their journey from beginning to end.
Something as complex as filing an appeal seems like a daunting task, but when broken down in the correct way it becomes digestible. VA.GOV makes each step bite-sized and the transparency of what is to come next helps ease the users’ mind and instill trust.
A design system is an asset for any government agency to have, and to follow. It is the central hub, or single source of truth for your design and development teams, uniting design, code, and content. This saves your team time and breaks down communication barriers so that everyone is on the same page about the UI/UX. It creates design consistency, and developer efficiency. By following a design system, your website will look consistent, cohesive, and be much easier to navigate for the public.
Creating a great government website that serves the people effectively is no easy feat. It often requires a team of Content Strategists, UX Designers, UX Researchers, Accessibility Specialists, and Organizational Change Managers to be done correctly and in a way that will not only sustain but innovate.
There are many moving parts but, in the end, it is about getting the public the information and access to the services they need as efficiently as possible. You can begin by taking the time to address the pain points on your website and prioritizing projects. Be sure to measure your goals and celebrate small wins. Remember, user experience is not a sprint, it’s a journey!