Across the private sector, companies now deliver more products and services digitally than before. The public sector, however, is not generating the same amount – or quality – of digital experiences.
On Thursday, during GovLoop’s latest online training, a government thought leader explained why. According to Jim Tyrell, Senior Principal Solutions Architect at Red Hat, an open-source software provider, the answer is applications. Often called apps, these tools are computer programs that are designed to carry out specific tasks like playing media for end users.
Unfortunately, many agencies are not designing easy-to-use apps for citizens. When apps are too challenging, citizens may grow frustrated with the agencies serving them.
“Unless you are impossibly lucky, all software at some point will be consumed by humans,” Tyrell said. “You are everyday making design decisions that could impact your users.”
Tyrell shared three ways agencies can create user-friendly apps that also help their workforces achieve mission wins:
1. Start with people
According to Tyrell, human-centered design (HCD) can help agencies deliver better apps to users. HCD is an approach to problem-solving that considers human perspectives during every step of the process. Commonly used in the design and management worlds, HCD can assist agencies with creating any product or service.
“There are massive amounts of headaches that can be dealt with through human-centered design,” Tyrell said. “The practice is about creating empathy with your end-users.”
2. Create consistency
Tyrell recommended that agencies provide the most seamless apps possible to citizens. After all, disruptions not only annoy users – they can prevent them from reaching valuable items like welfare benefits.
“A white screen of death is never OK,” Tyrell said. “Things happening at internet scale are just everywhere. What are you going to do to ensure your software can stand up to this endless onslaught of end users?”
Subsequently, the best apps operate the same no matter where users are accessing them from, whether it is at home or on the go.
3. Gather feedback
Tyrell added that users can become an endless source of insights about apps if agencies pay attention to them.
“You will find so much feedback and empathy talking to end users,” he said. “Listen to what it is they have to say about the challenges they’re facing with your systems.”
Consider the digital tokens some apps require users to have before engaging with the product or service the app delivers. After surveying users, agencies can adjust how long these tokens last, so they do not inconvenience users by expiring too quickly.
The Parting Wisdom
Used properly, HCD can close the gap between agencies and the constituents they serve. At agencies where software developers do not consider the public’s everyday needs, the outcome might be apps that do not help anyone involved.
“You need to get out with your constituents and end users and see where the friction is,” Tyrell said. “You just need to be a fellow human. You will go so much further than you ever thought possible.”
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