Citizens Aren’t the Only Ones Who Expect Good User Experiences

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For some agencies, citizens are not their customers.

For the most part, when federal agencies are thinking about customer experience, they’re thinking about how citizens use their digital services. Not so at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

“We serve both the intelligence and defense communities,” said Corry Robb, product design lead in NGA’s Office of GEOINT Services, during Government Executive’s Digital Citizen Summit on Jan. 31, pointing out that citizens don’t have access to the majority of the agency’s services.

The task for Robb and his team is creating user-friendly interfaces for incredibly complex systems so the users can “expend their brainpower more on important national security issues.”

“We don’t do a good job of that right now,” he said. “We tend to put the complexity of the sensors in everything that we build right in the face of our users. I feel it’s my job to be a proponent of burying that complexity through good UX and design.”

Robb said his office is currently looking to hire more design experts to enable NGA employees to focus on the mission, not struggling to use the tech. That effort is part of a larger initiative the NGA launched recently to bring a wide range of tech talent to their federal ranks. 

“We have a smaller group of individuals at NGA—call it a grassroots group—that is very passionate about design,” Robb said. “But we’re actively seeking out, training, we’re reading books … [getting] education to bring our core competency in design up to speed.”