Now that the long-awaited ACA Exchanges website is up and running, it's time to answer the question we’ve all been asking: Just how bad is government Web design?
Seeing as the White House bungled the messaging roll-out of healthcare reform—so thoroughly, in fact, that Americans now support the Affordable Care Act while opposing ObamaCare—you'd be forgiven for the soft bigotry of low expectations.
But why speculate when we can dive right in:
Okay, a couple quick thoughts on the home page:
1. I don't hate it. I mean, sure, the smiling minority headshot and soft focus background is a tad lazy and patronizing. But if the visual goal here is to be non-threatening—i.e., to keep potential subscribers from remembering how death panelists are soon to be gambling for the clothes of your deceased uncle Steve after denying him life-saving cobra anti venom, but really what was he doing in the Congo anyway?—I'd call it a win.
2. Check out the font they've used for the lead copy. It looks like a sign from Harris Teeter. Clearly, this health sign-up is going to be like a friendly country store, and not at all like a soul-crushing administrative burden. Again, I don't hate it.
Now here's where things get a bit trickier. From a UI perspective, we’ve got ten featured links on this page, including one link labeled “Start Here” and another separate link labeled “Apply Now.” That’s not ideal, but it’s also not horrendous. Let’s see what happens when I click the big, green “Apply Now” button:
Yay! More smiling minorities.
Oddly, I like the construction of this second page better than the home screen UI. Here we’ve got a mere three featured links, and a clear binary choice between individuals and business owners.
Oh wait, I just scrolled down, and this page extends vertically with ten thousand additional links and an infographic-style process outline.
Stunningly, the designers here have been able to make a simple, four-step process look complex and multidimensional. But that’s a bit nitpicky, I suppose.
Heading back to the top of the page now. When I select my state, I’m prompted with a second big, green “Apply Now” button, which takes me to an enrollment screen. But wait, we know from our handy infographic that “Apply” is actually the second step in our four-step process. So twice now, we’ve been asked to click a big, green “Apply Now” button that doesn’t actually let us—you know—apply.
This is why people hate bureaucratic forms; they seem sneakily interminable. I’d really like this site to give me some sort of indication of how long this is going to take, and how far I’ve progressed. In fact, you'll need to click on a separate “Checklist” link just to find out what’s needed to fulfill the application requirements.
Look, healthcare is complex; I get that. And this website seems to be far better than your typical federal webpage:
So all in all, I'm impressed.
Then again, we’ll have to see if the site actually functions. For all we know, the back-end of this thing is controlled from a Hardees in Duluth. Which raises a crucial question: do people still eat at Hardees?
Photo credit: MoDevUX
Mobile continues to be a hotbed of action as the market tries to capitalize on the success of app stores and the consumer adoption of new platforms. However, a successful mobile program goes far beyond just the sheer number of app downloads. Today’s mobile user demands a unique and intuitive mobile experience. Personally, if I choose to invest in the iPad I want to use apps developed and designed specifically for it that deliver on a killer mobile experience.
To address best practices in mobile design and development for end users like myself, the MoDev Network fostered MoDevUX meetups and conferences. The next MoDevUX is being held right in our backyard at the Ritz Carlton Tysons Corner on April 20, from 8am-6pm. The event brings together the nation’s best mobile developers, designers, architects, and creative talent to discuss what works in mobile experience and design and the future of mobile platforms. Topics and presentations will cover UX/UI, structuring content, touchscreen design, HTML5 mobile framework, app creation, app markets, usability and more. You can view the full schedule and information about additional workshops on the 19th and the Hackathon on the 21st here.
To all of the savvy mobile users out there: what are some of your favorite mobile apps or websites?
More than 250 people attended the morning session on Usability and Design featuring usability experts Darren Mauro
; Kelley McDonald
, Navigation Arts
; Craig Sauerwalt
, Sylvan Learning
; Emily Jerome Schroeder
and moderator Drew Diskin
, University of Pennsylvania Health System
The session started with the question, "is the site redesign dead? The panelists seemed to think so and proposed a model of continuous improvement (rather than stagnation and decay). Just as important as the ongoing optimization is the commitment to testing. Panelists suggested tools like usertesting.com
and Googles Website Optimizer
for online usability testing, and pointed out that the ease and low cost enables Web developers to test the same project or page repeatedly.
In terms of content, McDonald pointed out that content is frequently given short shrift. Though Websites are mostly textual content, the content is often an afterthought. The CMS industry perpetuates the idea that content can be automated, leading people to believe that less effort is required.
When asked about designing for the mobile Web, the panelists suggested creating a pared down site that addresses three questions that are specific to your mobile visitors, rather than simply replicating the functionality of your desktop Website. Sauerwalt also suggested that you design with specific devices in mind, since each platform does different things well.
One audience member asked about the appropriate balance of content to call-to-action for an e-commerce site. In Mauros experience at CustomInk, high quality product information and product comparison tools are the most valuable content for visitors. Other narrative content is less valuable for CustomInk visitors. Schroeder reminded us that thoughtful content really helps with SEO; it helps get visitors in the door even if it doesnt influence their purchasing decisions.
Next up the Venture Capital ViewPoint.
- Katie Hanusik