Like many public sector websites, the Virginia Department of Education (VA DOE) portal was developed more than a decade ago, growing over time like a community garden. However, while vibrant, it was lacking in attention, pruning, and cultivation. We spoke with our government insider, Kevin Erickson, about his work to modernize the VA DOE site.
According to Erickson, although well intended, the department’s policy of equitably providing each division with their own area on the site, complete with their own look and feel, created issues with out-of-control content and a lack of a unified, user-focused navigation and theme.
With the 2018 Farm Bill pending for this September 30, the House and Senate are debating to what extent it will effect the 41 million Americans who rely on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) for food stamps.
The Senate is facing increased pressure to pass the House version of the Farm Bill that increases work requirements for SNAP recipients to age 59 (formerly to age 49). Work requirements mean SNAP recipients are required to spend 20 hours a week working, or looking for work, in order to receive food stamps.
Analogous research is an important part of the design process. For our work on the Missouri Department of Transportation (MODOT) website redesign, we’ve been looking at DOT sites for best practices and inspiration. To take this further, I decided to check with the teams behind some sites on the list (Colorado, Iowa, Maine) to learn more about their redevelopment processes.
We found certain goals were consistent across all three sites:
- Strong commitment to letting user feedback drive design and information architecture.
- Focus on adoption and use of modern technologies to better engage with users.
- Rigorous process for content analysis, coupled with more flexible tools for content management.
According to analysts, the July 6 data from Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows continued growth in jobs and workers. More than 600,000 people entered the labor force in June to look for work. And although the unemployment rate rose to 4.0 percent from 3.8 percent in May, it is buffeted by the 0.2 percent increase in labor force participation to 62.9 percent. This reverses the troubling decline in participation since February.
We’ve been paying particular attention to these stats in relation to work we’re doing with Minnesota for the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). A recipient of a Workforce Innovation Fund (WIF) $6 million grant from the Department of Labor, DEED has enlisted GovWebworks to build their new workforce development platform, using 100 percent Federal funds.
Since DEED’s efforts are one part of the overall WIF initiative to bolster employment and participation in the national labor force, positive monthly data from BLS is an indicator of the success of such efforts. But the work is far from done.
What would you do if you had so much physical pain you could no longer work? Such was the case for Anita* who had to apply for food stamps to make ends meet. As a result of the pain and demoralization of losing her job, her confidence suffered as well. She wanted to be able to work, she just didn’t know how to overcome the obstacles.
One of the rewards of developing tools for health and human service agencies is that these digital applications actually help people. For example, our client, Idaho’s Employment & Training (E&T) program, assists citizens enrolled in SNAP (food stamps), like Anita, and TAFI (cash assistance) to find meaningful work.