The U.S. Digital Service

Building a more awesome government through technology

At USDS, we work on complex, enterprise systems that typically consist of a public facing web app where folks apply for and manage their benefits. Internally, we build systems that help the government manage these benefits.

I have led design teams at FEMA, USCIS, and the Small Business Administration. On each project, I wear many hats - researcher, product designer, bureaucracy hacker, teacher. I spend most of my time implementing design process so teams have the space to research and understand the people they are serving, and as a result, can build better products faster.


Timeline

2016 - 2018

Services

Depending on the project, I spend my time influencing stakeholders, facilitating workshops, mentoring contractors, creating communications and launch plans, and hiring designers. I also do the hands-on work of researching and designing web tools.  

Approach

There are a few principles I follow on each project.

  • Make the research meaningful - most of the stakeholders we work with have never done user research or witnessed its impact. I find that by measuring impact, whether it is how many users can perform a simple task online or how many jobs are created as a result of our service, stakeholders begin to buy-in to the research process.

  • Empower the team - at USDS, we cycle through projects relatively quickly, and federal employees and contractors continue the work when we are gone. I spend my time clearing blockers and trying to empower these teams. I help them set up sustainable design practices and a realistic research cadence. I hire new teams and influence design contracts to ensure that the right talent is set up to do the job.

  • Re-use as much as possible - similar problems exist across the government, by working with colleagues across agencies, we can reduce duplicative work and design a more consistent experience for the public.

  • Focus on accessibility from the outset - too many teams rely on only the most basic accessibility testing, or avoid it entirely. It is the government's responsibility to serve all citizens, regardless of their abilities. I work with my teams to ensure users of all abilities can use our software.

Outcome

Some of the ways USDS made an impact in 2017

Read about USDS projects in the July 2017 Report to Congress


Next project: FEMA product design