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Federalist was conceived as an answer to the arduous and expensive process federal government agencies face when creating simple, content driven websites. As a static website generator, it utilized technologies familiar to modern website developers but not necessarily familiar to content creators and website owners. To scale Federalist into a successful product required testing our assumptions about our target customers, and validating the market need.

It was the smallest team I have ever worked with: two developers, a visual designer and myself. This allowed us to have informal roles and work fluidly. I shared the product manager responsibilities with the developer who initially conceived the project, and served as strategist , user research lead, and UX designer.

User Research Goals

  • Understand the context and needs of government website managers
  • Inform product-market fit and product roadmap
  • Test assumptions about the technical skill level of potential users

Approach

We needed to talk to real people who were creating new government websites and people managing government websites with primarily static content. To do this, we recruited federal employees to participate in an interview and prototype usability test. These were performed both remote and in-person. With the team being small and distributed nationally, I trained two team members in research observation, note-taking, and basic facilitation. We created a structured system for data gathering which expedited synthesis.

Prototyping

Since we knew some of the common user issues with WYSIWYG website platforms, we experimented to create a new paradigm to better match how people think websites are structured. 

We used low fidelity sketching, wire-framing and visual mockups.

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Product Launch

We partnered with the Social and Behavioral Sciences team as a beta client. We worked with them to create an initial site template which met their needs and would be reusable to meet the needs of other small government groups which need to publicly publish content. The template was successful and has since lead to more templates which are in wide use across government today.

Visit https://federalist.18f.gov/