Ad Hoc’s UX Principles

UX team principles image, featuring a person looking into the distance through a pair of binoculars

Over the course of 2018, the UX team at Ad Hoc refined our principles. Because a new year is always a great time to reflect on what’s important, we’re sharing our principles here. We hope they prove useful, and we’d love feedback on how we can make them better. Our goal is to make a cohesive list of value statements that we all agree are worth our while, regardless of what project we’re working on.

Now you might be thinking, “Oh, no, am I going to read another list of generic design values expounding on the importance of ‘simplicity’ or ‘white space’?”

We’re trying to avoid this. We want to create something we can align on and immediately use to make our work better. Our goal here is to:

  • Articulate values that reflect our unique role in designing government services
  • Make sure all designers and researchers at our company are thinking about these values while in the process of hands-on designing. To this end, our values will help us create other artifacts, including:
  • An Ad Hoc design process document
  • Ad Hoc customized design heuristic documents, for web and mobile
  • An Ad Hoc reading list

This blog post is the first step in this process.

Value 1: We collaborate with and listen to users, government stakeholders, and agency partners.

What this means:

  • We listen to our clients first. We rely on our government partners to provide expertise in their fields, an understanding of policy, and insight into priorities.
  • We conduct user research and explore real-world user needs and goals. We are data informed rather than data driven. We continually iterate based on research results.
  • We’re driven to meet user needs and build great products, not just to meet our contractual requirements.
  • We join and integrate with other teams and make the effort to be sure all parts of our systems make sense together, rather than building in isolation and presenting a final result. Designing good products requires constant, intentional communication.

Value 2: We design in the open and are transparent about our process.

What this means:

  • We show work in progress and seek frequent feedback in our projects, regardless of where we are in the process. We check in with our partners about what is going well and any challenges we face.
  • We tell clients why we are making the design choices we make.

Value 3: We design for all people and abilities.

What this means:

  • We integrate accessibility into design from the ground up, instead of waiting until the last minute to make sure our designs work for everyone.
  • We understand that we’re designing for millions of people all across the country, with a wide variety of demographics and needs; we can’t just design for a market-driven user base or an “average” user.

Value 4: We create straightforward systems, and we respect users’ time.

What this means:

  • Our goal is to make accessing government services as quick and painless as possible.
  • Our ideal launch is one in which users get what they need and leave so they can get on with their day. We’re not looking for cleverness points or accolades.

Value 5: We design for the long haul.

What this means:

  • We believe meaningful work in government happens over a sustained period of time.
  • We integrate with government partners to build and maintain systems.
  • We plan for change and build products that are flexible and sustainable to account for shifting business rules, requirements, and user needs.
  • We make sure our government partners understand user needs and our solutions, so they can continue to push for the best long-term solutions.

Value 6: We raise expectations for government digital services.

What this means:

  • We see that people’s experiences with well-designed services can change their perceptions of interacting with government.
  • We want to be part of the solution that helps people walk away from online government services feeling satisfied, not frustrated.

Ultimately, the goal of our team is to create user-driven government services that take into account the diversity of the American people and the complexity of government. We keep these values in mind when working on all our projects, whether we’re overhauling to make it easier for Veterans to access the services they need, or building and launching the Quality Payment Program site to help CMS and providers ensure that Americans get the best possible health care.

Illustration by Barb Denney