Working with multiple services or groups within the US federal government is a fragmented and frustrating experience for all involved. The login.gov project is trying to make that experience easier for online users through a unified credential system, including identity verification. The multi-phase ongoing project uses user research, market research, prototyping, interaction design, agile team management and remote collaboration along side production support for the launched product.
My initial engagement with the project was co-leading research with two goals:
- Connecting platform architecture decisions to the capabilities and preferences of likely users.
- Identifying promising (or problematic) interaction design directions
Identity management is full of technical concepts which the user needs to be able to understand on some level to trust the system. We tried out three models to gain insight into the mental models people create for themselves to understand what the application is doing, as well as attitudes and possible complications with these models.
The insights gained where vital to the product direction. What we had guessed would be the most successful approach, resulted in many users having strong negative reactions. We learned that Americans have conflicting attitudes and understanding of how the government uses personal data. This informed many product decisions.
I was involved in the project again after the single sign-on feature of the product was ready for release, and our focus shifted to the online identity verification features.
One of the most challenging aspects of the interface design was finding the right amount of explanation for users. If there was too much information about how things work, users were intimidated and abandoned the process. If we didn’t provide enough information, users became suspicious and exited without completing their verification.
I stepped in to lead the design team. My challenge was to bring cohesion back to a sprawling and fragmented experience which had grown over time with changing priorities and misalignments.
I lead the team through work sessions to develop design priorities based on provisional personas and product goals. This provided the guidance needed to end churn and opinion based decisions.
Due to security breeches of our primary partners, the product had to shift direction to use a different set of data for identity validation. This required quickly reworking the flow of the application. This also provided the opportunity to look at the flow with fresh eyes. We were able to simplify much of the user experience in the process.