UX Advantage 2015: Government’s Design Lessons

Dana Chisnell, Co-Founder, Center for Civic Design and Dean Logan, County Clerk, Los Angeles County

– LA County, largest in US, Dean’s been in that role for 9 years; Dana is also now part of US Digital Service for the White House
– getting developers to sketch: were doing “AgileFall” software development; spend months doing flow charts, hand off to analysts that define data elements, hand off to PO and devs; database barfed on the screen; sat in on demos and working with developers; send them back to the drawing board; found that if they sketch ideas first, she can give feedback before there’s code; first dev that did it got a fried chicken sandwich on a donut, nickname is “Design Princess”
– point of pride for Dean: being here, and thought of as someone worth listening to; had a huge problem to solve with voting equipment; largest voting jurisdiction in the country and using tech from 1960s; market solutions didn’t fit and regulatory environment complicated; build our own; no funding, just to purchase; started with data collection (focus groups etc); first design what is best for the voters, then deal with the regulatory and certification stuff; had to fund it creatively using the data to drive it
– brought in IDEO initially, and after developing voting experience, now creating a spec for the voting equipment part of this; will go to market to get it manufactured; participatory design with voters; vendors have never done that
– innovation in government seems impossible: crisis was an instigator; technology has changed radically in 15 years providing more opportunity; more modularity; agile, continuous delivery, and hackathons opened up doors; voter behavior changed radically but market didn’t respond – early voting, electronic voting, absentee, etc; voting by mail is not innovation, the next generation doesn’t use paper mail
– gamechangers in these solutions: uses familiar devices; interactive sample ballot; fill out, go to any voting center, scan and verify; same piece of equipment can support individual variation (e.g. wheel chairs); test with people with low literacy and mild cognitive issues; learned so much; decades of design practice challenged by those users
– more designers in government: yes there’s room for more designers; however, there are people designing all over the government who are not in formal design roles; with some help and access to information, they can do great work; need to become aware of the world of design; easy access to the actual populace for testing
– small changes iterated over time mitigates the fear and the risk at the same time; can track the change; did it work? many small failures for learning instead of one big one; without user testing, compliance testing against regulations can’t create a successful system
– will your work teach the private sector: been too busy to consider it, but it’s obvious that the private sector out there didn’t do this work; still have to change law and regulation to make this work; vendors are watching what’s being done
– working with IDEO has been transformative; stepped out of their comfort zone to do this work, particularly around government procurement; created collaboration spaces in government offices; whiteboards, sticky notes, and sharpies everywhere
– if voters are motivated, they’ll overcome issues with time, space, and equipment; but if the experience is good, they are more likely to do it again and encourage others; media coverage about long lines discourage other voters
– technology and voter behavior are changing faster than ever; need to be able to evolve the systems to keep up without scrapping the whole thing

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