For the last year or so, my efforts at work have been focused primarily on trying to improve the user experience for visitors to GAO.gov. We’ve undertaken a usability testing process and incorporated new, sound analytics into our decisionmaking. On every web project, we are in the room to ask what each new proposed element could mean for users — a perspective that was simply not part of the conversation before. I’m really enjoying it.
As a field, user experience is not new. But, at least within the federal government here in the U.S., this line of thinking is borderline revolutionary. It is catching on, and with it comes an evolving conception of what government websites and applications are actually supposed to be — that is, less a dumping ground for information about procedures and policies that satisfies a burdensome statutory requirement to provide information to the public, and more a place where actual users should be able to complete actual tasks without pulling out all (or even any!) of their actual hair.
Thinking about this over the last few months, the term “citizen experience” popped into my head. It struck me as a more appropriate moniker for this emerging field — a term that emphasizes the viewpoint of the citizen as we consider our designs for all aspects of civic life. Certain I had just coined a brilliant new term and possibly opened the first door to an exciting new universe, I turned to Google and promptly discovered that, of course, many people are way, way ahead of me on this.
One of them is Jess McMullin at Canada’s Centre for Citizen Experience. Reading through their website feels like how I imagine reading the Declaration of Independence felt to the French in the run-up to their revolution — you just look at it and think, “How have I not read this before? This makes so much sense. We need to do this.”
This video captures a lot of the thinking I am talking about:
There’s so much to say on this subject, and so much more to do. I’m looking forward to joining the great conversations already underway.