Just like a 1,000 other people, I’m following the progress of the ProjectMyGov group through their Twitter feeds. It’s an exciting project in which a team of five Presidential Innovations Fellows have been tasked with designing a better portal for citizens to interact with the federal government. They started their work on August 23rd and plan to wrap up the project within six months.
What I find especially interesting about the project is that underlying the initiative is an implicit acknowledgement that the current portal, USA.gov, is not meeting the needs of citizens. Not surprisingly, that was the conclusion that I drew from reviewing data ForeSee gathered from citizens during the time period, November 2003 to December 2011 when USA.gov was a ForeSee client.
I like the idea of bringing in a group of expert web developers who haven’t previously worked in the federal government to take a fresh look at coming up with a prototype design that would meet or exceed citizen expectations. Besides bringing a different perspective to the project, the team seems to have brought a sense of urgency to their work as well. Just last week they announced they are extending invitations to view and comment on a beta site for MyGov.gov to be rolled out later this month. You can request an invite to take part in the beta testing here.
Designing a government portal that citizens find to be trustworthy and easy to navigate, and that offers personalized services and focuses on the issues and services that people care most about is no easy task. Just ask the folks at the Government Digital Services (GDS) in the United Kingdom about the effort that they expended over 2011-2012 to create a brand new portal for UK citizens.
Fortunately, the ProjectMyGov group is observing a best practice by asking for input from citizen-users, developers, bloggers, tech folks, and anybody else who has ideas and suggestions on how to build this better mousetrap. Of course, this blogger took advantage of their offer and recommended that they follow another best practice – to use a scientific approach to gathering feedback from actual users of both the current portal site and the beta site, and then incorporate that data into their decision-making process. By doing so, they won’t fall into the trap of making their decisions solely based on their own “expert opinions.”
After all, if there was one thing I learned in my 30+ year career working on improving customer service delivery in the federal government as well as my 6+ years of experience at ForeSee working with the top web managers in the federal government, it’s that the best way to come up with a web design that truly meets the test of “by and for the people” is to incorporate customer experience analytics into the process.
ForeSee has been measuring the citizen experience with e-gov for since 2001 and has witnessed websites that have had significant improvements in satisfaction since they began measuring. ForeSee has proven that a highly satisfied citizen is more likely to: return to the site; participate with the government entity; have more trust in the agency; use the site as a primary resource over more costly channels such as branch office or contact center; and recommend the site to others. With increased satisfaction agencies are able to put taxpayer dollars to better use.