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Values and principles

We believe good design helps government better serve the public. 18F designers join cross-functional teams to improve interactions between government agencies and the people they serve. Together, we’re helping build a 21st century government that works for all.

Our approach is fundamentally collaborative. This document exists to help our cross-functional and often cross-agency teams collaborate better through a shared understanding of the values and principles that guide us.

We value

  • The needs of the people we serve
  • Building trust between government and the public
  • Collaboration and community
  • Growing the design competency of government
  • Designing iteratively and learning continuously
  • Showing progress in weeks instead of months, months instead of years
  • Measuring our impact

Our principles

The following principles guide our team in meeting 18F’s mission of government consistently delivering digital services that instill trust and securely fulfill the public's needs quickly and at reasonable cost.

  • We start with the diverse needs of real people
  • We design together
  • We use an iterative process of learning and discovery informed by data
  • We coach advocates
  • We finish with the diverse needs of real people

In more depth:

We start with the diverse needs of real people

We always begin by identifying the needs of the people we serve, in context. Through a variety of research methods outlined in depth on the 18F methods site, we explore how to best meet those needs with those people and communities. We start by seeking to understand, then collaboratively figure out how to deliver effective solutions.

We work to primarily support those who need it most. By centering real people's needs, with them, we can work within constraints while also testing ways to change those constraints.

We design together

We collaborate across disciplines and with the public to create a shared understanding of the problems we’re solving and the solutions we’re proposing.

Having a team with varied life experience — particularly around issues of accessibility and technology usage — helps us create more accessible, usable products and services. Working together fosters a sense of trust and shared ownership, and helps us anticipate and solve problems earlier.

We use an iterative process of learning and discovery informed by data

A flexible vision is critical. We use data and direct conversations with relevant members of the public to inform our decisions. We prototype ideas and do frequent rounds of research to give our teams the context to make better decisions about products and services. We deliver early and often, using an iterative cycle of build, test, and learn to refine our ideas over time. Quick feedback loops keep the cost of change low and mean that little mistakes don’t become big failures.

We coach advocates

To better serve the public, we share practices that we've proven work. We publish living documentation of our design methods and UX approaches so others across government and beyond can benefit.

We work on cross-agency teams with civil servants who are experts in their field. Collaborating closely allows us a glimpse into their expertise and them into ours. This shared understanding allows us to recommend next steps and them to advocate for better design practices or policy changes to their colleagues. This advocacy helps other parts of government adopt human-centered design approaches.

We finish with the diverse needs of real people

We hold ourselves and our teams accountable to the public. We accept that a goal has been achieved when we confirm — via design research — that people with real needs can accomplish their goals with minimal frustration.

18F User Experience Guide

An official website of the GSA’s Technology Transformation Services

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