Creating User-Friendly Gov Websites Just Got Easier

A collaborative team of government engineers, designers, and content specialists launched the second iteration of a system earlier this month to help federal agencies create better digital experiences for users.

The U.S. Web Design System 2.0 (USWDS 2.0) consists of an update to the library of materials developed to help agencies provide easily accessible, mobile-friendly websites around standard design principles. USWDS currently powers 200 federal websites, but the goal of this update is to make incorporation of the design system into any project even easier. USWDS 2.0 consists of a set of new features to meet the objective of creating user-friendly, consistent digital services, much like the service requirements set out by new legislation like the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA).

The team spent the past two years interviewing project teams and listening to designers, developers and people using USWDS who contributed public feedback. The group also conducted and incorporated its own research into how designers and developers collaborate and what tools they use to facilitate prototype creation.

One new feature that arose from that research and feedback was better incremental adoption of the design system. Instead of completely revamping websites, agency developers and designers can use the components and code provided that work well with existing styles, according to the USWDS team, to make smaller changes. The components use adaptable default styles, so the agency can modify them easily.

Another feature is the use of design tokens, or consistent stylistic palettes on which all visual designs within the USWDS system are based. Practical design tokens can simplify the decision-making process across a team by establishing a common, standard language that designers and developers can use to communicate.

USWDS 2.0 also allows for teams to adapt their website experiences to the audience, mission, and objectives their team must prioritize with customizable themes. This allows for agencies to follow USWDS guidance while also following user-centered design principles and adapting default styles.

The USWDS 2.0 layout grid is a 12-column layout grid that should be familiar to designers and developers. The structure allows for all desired components and layouts to be implemented quickly, and to any screen or situation.

Perhaps most importantly, the development team emphasized that “like any true 2.0, this is a living product.” USWDS was created to grow and adapt to the needs of the community of government professionals it serves. The team recommitted to testing their decisions with feedback and encourages contributions of ideas and code via GitHub, email, or Slack.

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