Since the beginning of this Administration, Secretary DeVos has encouraged creativity and innovation at every level, challenging state and local leaders to “rethink” education for our nation’s students while calling on the Department of Education to “rethink” how we engage with and serve students and parents.
Given that challenge, we set out to “rethink” the primary way in which the American public engages with us online: Ed.gov. The Department’s website is the primary gateway for administrators, teachers, parents, and families to engage with the Department, learn about our programs and access critical resources. We knew a strong, user-friendly redesign would help the public connect with important information and appropriate staff, reduce frustration and improve the overall user experience.
As part of this “rethink” effort, we launched an open innovation challenge in March to improve the overall quality of the design, navigation, interactivity, and presentation of the Department’s website. We used Challenge.gov, a government website that encourages the public to help solve challenges unique to federal agencies, to solicit small-scale prototypes for the redesign and judged prototypes for innovation, design quality, and ability to adhere to federal requirements.
The proposals were evaluated on the following criteria: 1) non-traditional improvements that maximize user experience; 2) new adaptations and innovations in color, layout, typography, animation, illustration, video, and photography; and 3) new technologies and innovative tools. They were also reviewed for the overall quality of proposed redesign with consideration given to the following: 1) clean, simple, modern aesthetic; 2) ease of navigation; and 3) integration social media, video, photography, and plug-ins.
We received an astounding 60 submissions and after several rounds of review, 22 experts from across the Department identified the most innovative, future-forward, and user-friendly designs. The grand prize goes to U.Group of Washington, D.C. The first runner up is Agileana of Brambleton, VA. The companies will share a $50,000 cash prize.
“We are honored for this opportunity to help reimagine the Department of Education’s website to better meet user needs,” explained U.Group CEO, Lena Trudeau. “Our team applied their expertise in digital transformation to create a concept that is human-centered, beautiful, and functional. We hope our design will provide valuable insights into unlocking ED.gov’s potential.”
U.Group offered a human-centered, action-driven platform that puts the information Americans need at their fingertips. Rather than rely on beautiful design alone, U.Group paired its creativity with in-depth research, content strategy, and experience working with government, consumer and education organizations. To respond to this challenge, U.Group hosted user interviews, conducted landscape analyses, and completely rethought the site’s information architecture. A prototype of the winning design can be viewed here.
Agileana investigated who would likely visit the website and why, what devices they would likely use to navigate the site, the speed of those devices, special abilities or disabilities they might have, and in what circumstances they might visit the website. The company tested the solution with a focus group that represents the Department’s target web visitor segments, observed and listened to their feedback. Agileana iteratively improved the prototype based on their feedback. A prototype of their design can be viewed here.
“Our team used an agile, iterative, and user-centered design approach to the challenge to make the ED.gov experience more engaging and accessible for visitors,” said Agileana CEO Blake Newman. “Particularly with the pandemic, as more government agencies strive to deliver citizen services over the web rather than in person, we were honored to take part in this important effort.”
As we continue to think – and rethink – ways to get information quickly to those who need it most, we are excited to take this big first step toward a new ED.gov. Next steps include synthesizing the best elements of the different proposals into a comprehensive redesign plan and the eventual implementation of new design. Our goal is a dramatically improved ED.gov. Interested parties should monitor the Department’s Forecast of Contract Opportunities for more information on the anticipated procurement method, type of competition, estimated solicitation and award dates, point of contact, and other relevant information.