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Collaborating for Better Design, Technology and User Experience

In February 2018, the White House released its implementation plan to modernize IT infrastructure across the federal government. As a result, several initiatives are underway to achieve this goal. Paying specific attention to mobile friendliness, customer experience, and innovation, the federal government is changing how we approach design, development and user experience. GSA’s Office of Government-wide Policy (OGP) is working to align with these initiatives, and improve collaboration to promote a unified message about IT design and accessibility.

Last year, OGP started an executive engagement campaign to promote universal design as a way to transform how the federal government approaches IT accessibility. By providing agencies with tools and guidance to incorporate universal design into accessibility programs, we can build better products. Universal design can help agencies develop innovative products that are usable by more people. An accessible work environment enables people with disabilities to enter the workforce on an equal basis, and helps agencies retain and develop talent. Agencies who procure solutions that are more accessible save money in the long term, because they do not need to retrofit products for accessibility. We are also engaging with federal chief information officers (CIOs) to adopt universal design as a way to achieve these benefits.

To provide the best service, we need to understand who our users are, know their specific needs, and shape the experiences we want them to have. Recently, we connected with the Customer Experience Center of Excellence (CoE) to learn more about their work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to improve customer experience. The CoE is conducting interviews and observations to map end-to-end customer journeys across the organization, and will use human-centered design methods to shape USDA’s future strategy and IT implementation. The end goal is to take best practices learned at USDA, and apply them at other agencies to improve customer experience across the federal government.

Additionally, the new Connected Government Act requires that agencies’ websites are mobile friendly. GSA’s MobileGov Community of Practice supports agency efforts to make government information and services available to anyone, anytime and on any device. The MobileGov team will be monitoring agencies’ response to the Connected Government Act and continue to promote accessibility of government information and services on mobile devices.

Cross-collaboration is essential when it comes to design and development of federal products. We connected with the developer community and the IT Accessibility Guild from 18F to learn more about their mission, which states, in part “anyone who needs to use a government service[s] should be able to, regardless of ability.” Pairing design and development teams from the outset of a project can ensure accessibility is addressed as a core requirement, and will result in a better, more accessible user experience.

OGP is not the only team working to make government tools better. The US Web Design System has designed a template based on user research that is accessible and mobile friendly. 18F also just released Accessibility for Teams, a guide for embedding accessibility and inclusive design practices into your team’s workflow.

We’re looking to conduct a mapping exercise to understand touchpoints for collaboration across each initiative, to ensure GSA presents unified recommendations for the federal government on IT design methodologies. Whether using universal design, human-centered design or design thinking, it’s critical to understand our user base, and involve users throughout the development, testing and implementation phases. This will result in better government products that are more innovative, usable and accessible for all.

If you know of other initiatives in the federal government that focus on improving design, development or user experience, please let us know! Email GSA at

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