Address the whole experience, from start to finish.

"We need to understand the different ways people will interact with our services, including the actions they take online, through a mobile application, on a phone, or in person. Every encounter — whether it's online or offline — should move the user closer towards their goal." - CIO Playbook

Continuing my series on the USDS Digital Playbook:

Play 2: Address the whole experience, from start to finish

I recently had the opportunity to work with the most amazing user experience professionals on an abbreviated project (a 36-hour "code fest").  We designed, deployed and submitted three applications for consideration by the GSA in pursuit of a coveted spot on their new Agile Services  Delivery BPA.

Together with two of our key capability partners Three Wire Systems and Fermata Creative, I am very proud to report that we won a spot on this innovative new delivery contract!  I think a key factor of our win was that we embraced the playbook, and rule two in particular.  See this press release for more information on this important project:

What I found particularly impressive about this team was the enthusiasm with which they embraced user feedback - even late in this abbreviated development cycle.  Given the short turnaround of these projects, it would have been easy to neglect user assessment in the design and testing phases and/or dismiss the need for user feedback altogether.  Given the restraints of this particular project, we certainly could have taken a substance over form approach. But something worth building, is worth designing with the user in mind!

During our short development cycle, we made time to have three people who had nothing to do with the design of our software, use our applications. Watching them struggle with things we thought were obvious, and then listening to their valuable feedback gave us ideas for improvements that solved problems that we otherwise would not have even known about.

It never ceases to amaze me how unpredictable users can be once they get an application in hand. We think we know how an application will be used, but it often does not play out that way.  It is easy to discount or even forget the user in the design and testing phases, but it is a mistake to do so.  How we think a user will behave and how they actually do behave are often very different.  This is why employing user experience (UX) professionals is so important.  They bring users into the design phase early, and serve as their advocate throughout production.

I believe this is one of the greatest advantages of Agile methodologies.  We have potential to put the user in the designer’s seat, and the ability to iterate on the design in such a way that the application evolves around real needs, desires and environment of the target user.

From the Playbook:


  • Understand the different points at which people will interact with the service – both online and in person
  • Identify pain points in the current way users interact with the service, and prioritize these according to user needs
  • Design the digital parts of the service so that they are integrated with the offline touch points people use to interact with the service
  • Develop metrics that will measure how well the service is meeting user needs at each step of the service

Key Questions

  • What are the different ways (both online and offline) that people currently accomplish the task the digital service is designed to help with?
  • Where are user pain points in the current way people accomplish the task?
  • Where does this specific project fit into the larger way people currently obtain the service being offered?
  • What metrics will best indicate how well the service is working for its users?

- Robert  -  (


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