Government agencies provide vital information and services on websites that affect people’s daily lives. They have the responsibilities of responding to the needs of its citizens, running as effectively and efficiently as possible, and being timely and accurate with its information. By putting people first and embracing user-centered web design (UCD), agencies improve the quality of their information and services by making websites more useful and usable and by saving money long-term through making iterative improvements.
But what’s the best way to do this? How can you change your organizational culture so the UCD seed you’re planting will take root and flourish? The best way is to embark on a project to raise awareness of UCD and embed UCD processes into your culture. Here are some tips for success when introducing UCD to your organization.
Tip 1: Know your organization
First, decide if your organization is a good fit for institutionalizing UCD. Start by asking yourself:
· How willing is the organization to recognize problems and fix them?
· How open is the organization to embracing change?
· How is funding allocated for web-related activities?
If you work for an organization with leadership that embraces change and wants to fix problems, you’ll likely be more successful at introducing UCD. In addition, think about how website funding is allocated—if it is centrally funded and managed, it can be easier to start a long-term and systemic change such as this.
Tip 2: Find a champion (or better yet, several champions)
The champion is basically the face of this effort, so look for a champion who:
· Can help the organization understand the value of UCD
· Understands the current development process and how UCD could fit in
· Can identify pockets of resistance and bring them on board
· Has the authority to direct human and financial resources
· Can keep the initiative moving over the long term
Tip 3: Find the right wake-up call
Once you have a champion on board, it’s time to wake up the rest of the organization to the need for UCD. Wake-up calls can take many forms; the ones you choose will depend on your organization. Effective wake-up calls can include:
· Capitalizing on a new product that launches and doesn’t do as well as expected
· Sharing case studies from other organizations as they go through a UCD process
· Having your website reviewed by an external user experience (UX) consultant
· Using inexpensive click tracking and heatmapping tools to show customer patterns
· Conducting a small pilot usability study of your own website
Tip 4: Partner with a Web User Experience consultant
At some point, consider hiring an external UX consultant—the right consultant will help you move down the UCD road more quickly than you can on your own. They can also help you decide on your strategy, train staff on UX processes, provide templates and examples, and assist with overflow UX work as the demand grows.
Look for UX consultants who:
· Are leaders in their field
· Are a good cultural fit
· Enjoy mentoring
· Are experienced helping organizations with UCD
Tip 5: Grow UCD from the top-down and from the bottom-up
For UCD to really take root and grow, it needs to be embraced by people at all levels of the organization—from the strategic decision-makers to the designers and writers. So information and training at all levels of the organization is key.
Tip 6: Raise awareness first—then introduce the rules
Whenever you are introducing a change, some people will resist it—so start by simply raising people’s awareness of the value of UCD.
1. Give talks on what UCD is and why it is valuable
2. Demonstrate UX tools to spark curiosity
3. Look for and promote government pilot projects so people can see what other agencies are doing and learning
Once you have some support for UCD, you can introduce governance processes to help standardize how you practice UCD as an organization.
Tip 7: Put an infrastructure in place
Once you have people excited about UCD, it’s time to build an infrastructure to ensure lasting success. Some things you’ll want to plan for are:
· Ongoing knowledge and skills trainings
· Rules, standards, and processes
· Templates and examples
· Analysis and design tools
· Testing facilities
User-centered website design is a win-win as it is a direct path to better citizen engagement and it can also reduce the workload of employees in the agency. Getting buy-in in a smart and planned manner will increase the chances that you will get the support you need. When it comes time to choose a UX partner, contact New Target. Our team is at the forefront of UCD consulting, and our public sector experience in the UX arena is unparalleled in the industry.