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Raising GSA’s Design Voice Through Data

Tim Shaw

User Experience Director, Forum One

Forum One recently hosted a webinar alongside our partners at the US General Services Administration (GSA) on data-informed design.  A question that we are seeing raised consistently is, “how do we take data and use it to create a more productive user experience?”  

Through data-informed design, we have been able to help develop a better website experience for GSA’s most visited online pages. By using both qualitative and quantitative testing, we have been able to take results and implement them into a data-driven redesign of high-traffic areas.

GSA’s digital challenges and opportunities

GSA.gov is a complex site with a number of different audiences, goals, and tools for its users. With a multitude of authors, with variances in voice and approach, along with the sheer number of webpages, better organization has been high on the priority list. And this is exactly where data comes in to help with design. Many organizations, not just GSA, that have a high number of pages and subsites struggle to find a way to best present content. One case-in-point for GSA was its highly trafficked Per Diem webpage, which was not performing at a level that a priority page should.

GSA’s Per Diem pages

At GSA, the most used pages are within the Per Diem section. Of all GSA page views in the first half of 2019, the Per Diem landing page received 59% of them, with a customer satisfaction score of 83/100.  

Before the data-informed design updates, government employees would land on the Per Diem page, enter a location, and then get sent to a results page to see per diem rates for that place. The M&IE (Meals and Incidental Expense) rates, however, were all the way on the far right-hand side of the page and didn’t include a breakdown of for individual meals. If you wanted to see the breakdown, you would have to click a link at the bottom to be taken to a different page and then complete a manual look-up. To prove this very real confusion, we engaged in usability testing, capturing videos to demonstrate users unsuccessfully navigating this M&IE page, only to find themselves confused and unable to complete the required task. These results provided data to guide solution development and spur the desire for improvements.

Using data to facilitate decision making and design

Data also helped build bridges with implementation partners. When we reached a disagreement about the best design option, we turned to testing rather than just arguing. We settled on two options to A/B test with actual audience members, and, through that process, identified a clear answer. 

Data drove the change in the user experience. By listening to the data, it also settled this internal disagreement about the design and thus built trust between all members of the team. Data facilitated both collaboration and recommended solutions.

— Editor: Peter Janetos

Written By

Tim Shaw

User Experience Director, Forum One

Watch the webinar

To dig deeper into data-informed design, watch “Data-Informed Design: Raising Your Organization’s Design Voice”