The 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act, otherwise known as 21st Century IDEA, was signed into law in December 2018. The Act aims to improve the digital experience for government customers and reinforces existing requirements for federal public websites.
At a glance, 21st Century IDEA promotes practices for the design and development of digital experiences such as accessibility, consistency, authority, searchability, security, user-centerity, customizability and mobile-friendliness.
As part of our usual workflow at Mobomo, when we design a new digital product or redesign any existing one, we take into consideration all of these principles. Let’s review some of them and elaborate on how we comply with these requirements:
When we design websites and applications for the public, Section 508 is at the heart of our process. This is the section of the Rehabilitation Act 1973 requiring any information technology agencies buy, build, maintain or use to be accessible to persons with disabilities.
Stylistically this involves a careful selection of color palettes and type sizes to ensure a minimum contrast is achieved to account for visual impairments. While it may prove limiting, constraints are not restraints, and in the context of design we take them as opportunities. The attention that needs to be given to this process makes us come out with a robust solution, and can often take us down innovative paths we may have not explored if not faced by the requirement of 508 compliance.
One good example of our work with these considerations in effect is the NSIDC site: https://nsidc.org
Patterns are our friends. Our designs start from their wireframe state with relatable and consistent standards in terms of components, sections and overall layout. Likewise, we develop style sheets with defined rules for every element that will repeat across the product.
Having a coherent appearance ties the whole experience together and helps users navigate it more naturally, which also results in making them find what they need or perform the tasks it requires faster and successfully.
Consistency also helps us convey authority. This is a principle a bit more related to information architecture, regarding not overlapping or duplicating sites. Broadly it’s also about the overarching brand’s voice and content, but we make every effort to advise and propose solutions that may be in place to achieve it.
Our discovery and research stages would raise concerns regarding this question and it’s where we will alert on global problems that may go outside our scope but we can help contain.
At a micro level, within the context of any product we are designing experience for, we curate the interactions needed to complete tasks as well as the entries to the different sections it has. We also conduct user-testing exercises leading to minimizing any hiccup regarding navigation and wayfinding.
Hinting at this process already from the concepts above, User Centered Design is the core of our practice. From ideation to delivery we consider the user at every stage to inform and steer the solutions we produce. We do this by means of the diverse User Experience tools we employ, namely moodboards, card sorting exercises, tree testing, user interviews.
Feedback is gathered throughout the process in an iterative manner, so that we continuously improve value through measurements. When we jump into an ongoing product, this data-driven analysis becomes crucial, as it provides the necessary information to perform a redesign that addresses users’ pain points and needs. Such is the case with our work in NOAA Fisheries: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov
There’s no idea our customers ask that we won’t give a try, but as the project gets developed there’s also room for users to get a customized experience. We achieve this by using technology in favor of, for instance, getting location information, by which we can provide a streamlined experience based on where the user is. Or providing custom settings in a site or app by leveraging account management / authentication.
In our early days when starting the company, we embraced one value that still holds today: “Mobile First”. Our designs need to be, with no exception, mobile-proof. Even some of the most challenging dashboards we produced considered a mobile version as digital products today are part of daily life and mostly consumed through mobile devices.
Design for desktop has certainly been infused by the mobile first approach, and we create a unified and responsive experience taking advantage of each device’s strengths while working around their limitations.
One of the many examples we have for this is the work we did for PRAC, where complex data visualizations are made easy whatever the screen you browse them on.