What Does a UX/UI Designer in Government Do?
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Learn more about the opportunities, responsibilities, and salaries of UX/UI designers working in government here.
Government websites and online services have a reputation for being clunky and difficult to navigate—user experience designers are trying to change that. Although progress has at times been slow due to some of the challenges government workers face, such as funding limitations and shifts in political priorities, many government agencies have awoken to the need to embrace digital technology and improve the digital experiences of their websites and platforms, which has led to increased demand for UX/UI designers.
Part of the urgency that’s driving the hiring of UX designers, researchers, and analysts is the fact that government websites and information portals are used by huge swaths of the population. A PEW Government Online Report found that 61% of adults looked for information or made transactions on a government website in 2010, and that 31% used social media to find government information. Recent public health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic have also brought attention to the importance of government sites and services that are easy to navigate, provide clear information, and offer reliable service.
“You will be hard pressed to find a group of people as passionate about delivering public good as the ones in the public sector,” said Jolene Ng Jia Ying, a designer at Grab who has worked for government agencies. “Whilst the execution might be questionable at times, the original intentions are always good.”
UX design trade publication UX Planet went further in a recent article that discussed not only the good intentions of public sector workers, but the role of UX designers in particular in delivering on those intentions. “Designers have the capacity to show people that government can be an effective instrument of good.”
How Is UX/UI Design Used in Government?
Government is one of the few sectors where UX/UI designers can have a significant impact on the digital experiences of a large portion of the population. This is because government agencies need to serve all citizens, which means their websites and platforms have to be accessible and usable regardless of the end-user’s tech-savviness, disability status, gender identity, sexual orientation, or national origin.
The work of UX/UI designers goes beyond choosing fonts, typography, and aesthetically pleasing web design—UX design is tied to user understanding and quality of service, and strong design can result in fewer points of friction, intuitive navigation, and a great experience that leads to helping citizens and residents access the information they need. It’s a role that requires equal parts design acumen, problem-solving skill, and user empathy.
In government, UX design solutions are primarily used in the following areas:
- User-centered approach. Government agencies have in recent years embraced a user-centered approach to design, which boils down to focusing on the needs and actions performed by the user, and building platforms, websites, and services that meet those needs, whether it’s through a more intuitive user interface or improving overall usability. A user-centered approach requires UX designers and developers to take on user feedback, create systems that make it easier for both users and internal stakeholders to complete transactions, and make information easily accessible. The benefits of this are twofold: users are able to easily find and access the information they need, while agencies can save money in the long term by being efficient.
- Accessibility. Accessibility is a serious issue for government agencies because, unlike other sectors, the government needs to serve everyone. UX/UI designers play a critical role in ensuring accessibility by performing usability testing and coming up with design ideas that factor in users with disabilities, low-tech literacy, and other barriers to entry.
- Continuously iterating and improving. Given the vast array of people who use websites and services provided by government agencies, the UX design process is far from a one-and-done deal—UX designers need to frequently gather user feedback, identify new use cases, understand usage issues that crop up, and test possible solutions. “When learning about the design process, don’t stop halfway,” said Jolene Ng Jia Ying, the designer from Grab. “How you go on to iterate a design solution is just as important and your initial conceptualization…A more specific situation I often encounter is the belief that the research-design-test process only needs to be done once, when it’s really about continuously iterating based on a feedback loop.”
Government UX/UI Designer Job Roles/Responsibilities
Most UX/UI designers bring technical design and UX skills to the table such as the ability to conduct and make sense of research and user testing; experience with creating prototypes, wireframes, mockups, workflows, user flows, site maps, and storyboards; interactive design; graphic design; information architecture; ease of collaboration with cross-functional teams; and proficiency with tools such as Sketch, Invision Studio, Proto.io, Webflow, Balsamiq, Axure, and Illustrator. And while these skills might help a designer create visually appealing web design, the government sector expects its UX/UI designers to be creative and empathetic problem solvers who can understand the usability issues of a diverse population, and develop ways of engaging those users.
Technology development and modernization are inevitable in the public sector, according to UX Planet. “But, if users are not effectively engaged, then the time, effort, and dollars put into these efforts will flounder at the adoption layer.” This is why the research, testing, and iterative work of UX/UI designers is so important in government.
Some of the key responsibilities of UX/UI designers in government roles include:
- Conducting and/or using user research to understand what issues/pain points users face when they engage with public sectors websites, platforms, and services
- Conducting design experiments and A/B testing, listening to user feedback, and staying on top of industry trends to develop user-centered design solutions
- Understanding the goals and desired calls-to-action of a public agency, and finding ways to meet those goals while still advocating for the user
- Designing a consistent user experience across mobile devices and desktop platforms
- Collaborating with UX researchers, data scientists, information architects, and engineers to test, iterate, and launch products and services that satisfy stakeholders
Government UX/UI Designer Salary
Among hiring managers, UX/UI design is one of the top five most in-demand skills, according to a LinkedIn report, with the demand expected to rise throughout 2021. And as government agencies continue to expand their digital presence, we can expect demand to continue rising for designers who can optimize user experiences; make websites, tools platforms more accessible; and transform information delivery for the better.
UX/UI designer salaries are typically determined by education, years of experience, location, and organization type. As of 2021, the average base salary of an entry-level UX/UI designer in the government sector is around $74,000. The average base salary of a senior-level UX/UI designer in the government sector is around $100,966.
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