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Values and principles

We believe that good design helps government better serve the public. 18F UX 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 teams and our agency partners better collaborate through a shared understanding of the values and principles that guide 18F UX designers.

We value

  • Our partners’ needs and the needs of the people they serve
  • Building trust between 18F, our partners, and the public
  • Showing progress in weeks instead of months, months instead of years
  • Designing iteratively and learning continuously
  • Growing the design competency of government
  • Measuring our impact

Our principles

The following principles guide our team in meeting 18F’s mission of transforming how the U.S. government builds and buys digital services.

We start with user needs

We always begin with identifying our partners’ needs and the needs of the people they serve. Through a variety of research methods, we explore how to best meet those needs. We seek first to understand who we are designing for, then figure out how to deliver effective solutions. By starting with user needs, we can work within our partners’ constraints while also working to change those constraints.

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

A flexible vision is critical. We use data and direct conversations with users to inform our decisions. We prototype ideas and do frequent rounds of research to give our teams the evidence to make better decisions. 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 little mistakes don’t become big failures.

We promote inclusion

In government, good design serves everyone within an agency’s mandate. To do this, we promote diversity and inclusion throughout our research and design process by accounting for everyone our decisions affect. Having a team with varied life experience—particularly around issues of accessibility and technology usage—helps us create more accessible, usable products and services.

We design together

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

Working together fosters a sense of trust and shared ownership within the team. Open conversation about works-in-progress promotes real agility.

We train advocates

Our partners are experts in their field. Collaborating closely allows us a glimpse into their expertise and them into ours. The shared understanding this work builds allows us to recommend next steps and them to advocate for better design practices to their colleagues. This advocacy for user-centered design lasts long after our partnership ends.

We finish with user needs

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

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18F UX Guide is a product of GSA’s Technology Transformation Services, and is managed by 18F.

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