The Value of User Experience (UX) Design for Government Applications


What is UX?

Successful User Experience Design isn’t just about making a better-looking application. As the name suggests, it’s more about improving the experience of using an application. It’s about understanding the needs of users – their goals, their workflows, their operating environments, their constraints – and building applications that enable users to succeed at their tasks. Although we think about good design being an end result, it’s more of a process than a goal. 

Great UX is more easily achieved when the UX Design process is incorporated into every stage of application development. At the beginning, we research the user needs and align them with business goals. During development, we test and refine our understanding and design accordingly. When an application is released, we continue to build our insights, validating and iterating for the next version.

LaunchPad – Rocket’s application development process

Why Does UX Matter?

In the commercial sector, good UX Design can be a solid market differentiator. The reason it is so successful in that respect is because users gravitate towards the value design brings. The government does not often need differentiators, but the value to the end user shouldn’t be discounted. Thoughtful UX enables better functionality and productivity. It can even expedite product delivery and reduce cost when introduced early in the process. Some of the key benefits for government are:

Avoid Wasted Development Time

Development teams often spend time working on features that are rarely needed or used. Understanding critical workflows and needs will help teams focus their efforts, allowing for more rapid development. As mentioned above, part of the process is observing how users actually use a product and iterating based on those insights. Using lean design processes and agile development, we can get applications into the hands of operators more quickly, resulting in optimal application efficiency.

Reduce Costs

Doing things right the first time is always more cost efficient than doing it a second. Research and understanding helps to ensure that teams are focusing on the right features and implementing them in a way that fully supports their users. IBM reported that the cost of fixing a usability issue after a product is released is 6.5 times more costly than doing so in the design phase, and 100 times the cost if fixed during operations & maintenance.

Figure 1: Source: IBM Systems Sciences Institute

Accelerate Development & Enhance Capabilities

User-interface components, patterns, navigation standards, and iconography are key ingredients of a well-designed application. It’s often the case that software is built by smaller teams that don’t have access to designers, relying more on developers to make those decisions. By including UX Designers with thoughtful UX Design processes, software developers can focus on the real value – coding – rather than making decisions they are not trained for. A program lead at L3Harris Technologies noted their development time  was reduced by 30 percent when working with UX designers.*

By including UX Designers with thoughtful UX Design processes, software developers can focus on the real value – coding – rather than making decisions they are not trained for.

Reduce Training Cost and Improve Efficiencies

One of the most significant challenges facing our government’s operational readiness is the length of time required to train our service men and women. Intuitive, efficient, and consistent user interfaces allow operators to quickly understand processes and workflows – dramatically saving training time and increasing operator efficiency. Consistency across applications and tools not only reduces training time, but also improves response time in critical situations. This is especially challenging in a multi-monitor configuration with several applications running simultaneously.  At best this situation slows operator reactions, and at worst can lead to catastrophic errors.

How to Start Applying UX Design

Modern UX Design is a broad and deep topic, but Rocket Communications is a team of experts. Users can start reaping significant benefits by initiating operator-centric research early in the process and engaging with experienced UX design professionals.

Rocket brings deep space domain expertise and best practices in UX design, along with security cleared personal required to work on key programs and applications.

Astro UXDS

The U.S. Space Force recognized the high training costs and timeframes that resulted from “stovepipe” systems across each program. They invested in a single UX design system for contractors to work independently and continue developing mission unique capabilities, but ensure consistent, intuitive, and modern design. Enabling operators to move across programs with minimal re-training while also improving operator efficiencies was the primary goal. This design system is Astro UXDS. In addition to dramatically lowering training requirements, contractors have seen accelerated development time, as they can skip design decisions and use pre-coded components and interfaces.

Accelerating Development on AEHF

Rocket supported the MilSatCom mission planning element for USSF Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF). We provided UX research, design, and testing to ensure streamlined workflows and simplified interfaces for the new capabilities developed as part of 2022 system improvements. We brought the system into compliance with the USSF requirements for UX and ensured consistency across the various services in the application suite.


* Source: Tony Harris, Program Director, L3Harris