Redesigning that first encounter with online government

Nancy Scola in the Washington Post: “Teardowns,” Samuel Hulick calls them, and by that he means his step-by-step dissections of how some of world’s most popular digital services — Gmail, Evernote, Instragram — welcome new users. But the term might give an overly negative sense of what Hulick is up to. The Portland, Ore., user-experience designer highlights both the good and bad in his critiques, and his annotated slideshows, under the banner of UserOnboard, have gained a following among design aficionados.

Now Hulick is partnering with two of those fans, a pair of Code for America fellows, to encourage the public to do the same for, say, the process of applying for food stamps.  It’s called CitizenOnboard.
Using the original UserOnboard is like taking a tour through some of the digital sites you know best — but with an especially design-savvy friend by your side pointing out the kinks. “The user experience,” or UX on these sites, “is often tacked on haphazardly,” says Hulick, who launched UserOnboard in December 2013 and who is also the author of the recent book “The Elements of User Onboarding.” What’s he looking for in a good UX, he says, is something non-designers can spot, too. “If you were the Web site, what tone would you take? How would you guide people through your process?”
Hulick reviews what’s working and what’s not, and adds a bit of sass: Gmail pre-populates its inbox with a few welcome messages: “Preloading some emails is a nice way to deal with the ‘cold start’ problem,” Hulick notes. Evernote nudges new users to check out its blog and other apps: “It’s like a restaurant rolling out the dessert cart while I’m still trying to decide if I even want to eat there.” Instagram’s first backdrop is a photo of someone taking a picture: “I’m learning how to Instagram by osmosis!”….
CitizenOnboard’s pitch is to get the public to do that same work. They suggest starting with state food stamp programs. Hulick tackled his. The onboarding for Oregon’s SNAP service is 118 slides long, but that’s because there is much to address. In one step, applications must, using a drop-down menu, identify how those in their family are related to one another. “It took a while to figure out who should be the relation ‘of’ the other,” Hulick notes in his teardown. “In fact, I’m still not 100% sure I got it right.”…”