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President Biden orders transformation of 'Federal Customer Experience'

Washington discovers UX psychology, A/B tests, and single sign-on

United States president Joe Biden has issued an executive order designed to modernise government services, especially online.

The Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government argues that poorly designed government services impose a "time tax" on citizens and generally gum up the works.

The order therefore states that federal government service delivery "should be driven fundamentally by the voice of the customer through human-centered design methodologies; empirical customer research; an understanding of behavioral science and user testing, especially for digital services; and other mechanisms of engagement."

Congratulations to the US government for discovering UX psychology and A/B tests. The Register knew you'd get there eventually! Well … hoped.

All snark aside, the Executive Order does spell out some interesting new IT projects across the US government, including:

  • Exchanging data between government agencies when appropriate to deliver an "integrated experience";
  • A redesign of the portal to offer a "Federal Front Door" linked to all government benefits, services, and programs;
  • Integrating the secure sign-in service with the Department of Veterans' Affairs website and app;
  • Investigating how to update postal address records for all government services once, instead of agency—by-agency, through the United States Postal Service;
  • Creation of a "roadmap for the development of prioritized common services and standards" including common web design standards, login & identity management, notification capabilities, and "digital products" – all in the service of "increased efficiency, integration, and improved service delivery of designated customer life experiences".

Online passport renewals, arranging customer support call-backs with tax authorities, online health insurance tools, and increased telehealth offerings are also covered by the executive order.

The administration has also used the term "a 'no wrong door' approach" to describe reforms intended to make interaction with one federal program enable connections to others.

"The bottom line is we're going to make the government work more effectively for the American citizens so it's not as confusing and it's straightforward," said Biden at a signing ceremony for the executive order. "And we're going to – because I believe this will go a long way to restoring faith in government." ®


The US government service with which Reg hacks interact most frequently is the court filings access service PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) – a site with such a retro design that the absence of the blink tag feels like an unintended omission. A bipartisan bill to make the service free of charge, rather than the current $0.10/page for document downloads, seems set to become law. But there's no word on whether the site itself will ever get a much-needed update. It is certainly due an injection of president Biden's UX enthusiasm.

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