Ever since I organized the first two National Days of Civic Hacking in Columbia, SC (HackforSC), I’ve wanted to go to the Code for America Summit.  In previous years I was using all my travel budget on Voterheads and startup-related matters.  Now that I’m no longer working on that project and am instead fully focused again on providing services and code to local government, I saw this as a chance.  I’ve also been both irked by the design decisions I was seeing in the local government software my customers were using as well as grappling with the complexities of user interface design for several tools I’ve been working on for my clients, so the opportunity to attend both Code for America and the first International Design in Government Day this side of the pond was too good to pass up. 

Here are my notes and key takeaways from the Day 1 of the conference:

Service Design in Government – Louise Downe (@LouiseDowne)

Overall a great talk; she’s clearly been thinking about this for a while.  I have to admit it’s really easy to fall into the trap of modeling the current bad process instead of taking a step back and gently and respectfully working on the team to see if there’s alternative methods.  I’m looking forward to reading her blog post on it more as well as her book (http://bit.ly/goodservicesbook)when it arrived.

  • Requirements for a well-designed service:
    • Be able to find it
    • Be able to use it the first time without being an expert
    • Be able to complete it from start to finish without dead ends
      • Don’t lose work!
  • Technology is what *can* be done, while design defines what *should* be done
  • Read her blogpost: 15 Principles of Good Service Design – https://blog.louisedowne.com/2018/06/14/15-principles-of-good-service-design/
  • ‘Google is the home page of your service’ – make sure you do the work to have it work well with it.
  • ‘Good services are verbs, bad services are nouns’
    • ‘Start a Business in the City’ vs ‘Business License’
  • Story of British supermarket chain that is progressive enough to have ‘Mx’ as a salutation on the web site.  However, when their call center reached out to the person, they hadn’t been trained on how to use the salutation or its context.  As a result, the callcenter operator changed the salutation to ‘Mrs.’
    • Consider allowing for both an MX honorific and a pronoun preference, but also would need to provide training accordingly.

Emma Gasson

  • Read the Design Council Redpapers on Transformative Design
  • More than half of US now use mobile as their only device but less than half of websites are responsive

Panel Discussion – Remote Work

This panel was in a smaller side room and was a fairly interactive conversation with the audience.  The main takeaways were:

  • If you work at home have rituals around being ‘in work’
    • Light a candle at your desk
    • Put your work laptop in a backpack when not working
  • Take advantage of your schedule flexibility as a remote worker to get out and vary your schedule
  • Use a coworking space and coffee houses to change up the environment
  • Schedule coffees with others in the area, go to meetups if life situation allows
  • Organization Actions to help coworkers
    • Create ‘pods’ of cross-organizational workers and setup weekly ½-hour sessions to facilitate a remote group chat on a topic
      • Helps recreate the ‘water cooler convos’ opportunities
    • Make all project kick-offs start onsite with a Design workshop to team has face-to-face time.
      • Build the project charter to help clarify owner, champion etc.
    • Budget for and have an onsite hand-off completion to customers / support team, etc.
    • UX Coworking Timeslot
      • Standing time
      • Review with Stakeholders
      • Get testing resources allocated.
  • Tools/skills
    • Zoom / Slack Calls / hangouts
    • Mural / Miro
      • Sticky Note capabilities
    • Whimsical / LucidChart – Collaborative diagrams
    • Airtable
    • Figma
      • Higher Fidelity models / cooperative Sketch
  • Create a clear communication channel guideline
    • What tool to use when for what
    • What timeframe you should expect based on tool used

The Promises and Perils of Checking Identity Online

The final breakout I attended was put on by the UK Government Design Services group. The UK doesn’t have a centralized Social Security system, but all facets of government need to confirm the identity of users in order to provide services, etc.  Howie Meg (@HowieMeg) and Laurence Berry (@Laurence_Berry) were part of the design team for gov.uk Verify, the shared tool for government-wide validation.   The presentation was completely eye opening for me.

  • Components of Validation
    • Third-party verification
    • Evidence
    • Validity
    • Activity
    • Fraud Check
    • Verification
  • Research various depths of the above components to build a composite score to validate an identity to the extent necessary for the service being provided.
    • Low score – Pay a parking ticket
    • High Score – Register for unemployment benefits
  • Verification
    • Validate using information provided against external sources
      • UK Post, Barclay’s Experian
      • NIST standards to check Identity
    • Federal ICM Policy – Just passed by OMB
    • Don’t retain information from verification with provider in order to reduce surface area of data
  • Evidence
    • Passport
    • Bank Account
    • Driver’s License
    • Tenancy Agreement
  • Validity – confirm veracity of provided documents
  • Activity – Confirm with external providers or internal services activity they have in the real world
  • Fraud/Death – Check against databases of stolen identity and deaths.
  • Verification
    • Leverage above data to ask questions
    • Selfie
  • Validate based on information collected
  • Do risk assessment and threat modelling early on
  • Important for designers to back in security requirements
  • Fallback to allow for non-online checks to complete verification

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