OpenBeta.USASpending.Gov, Part Two, in the wings

Building the next USASpending.Gov, out in the open

The Treasury Department is preparing to release the second beta of USASpending.Gov, its public website for online,  open and transparent agency spending data in compliance with the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act.

OpenBeta.USASpending.Gov “Part Two” is under development and will be released very soon, according to Kaitlin Devine, Treasury’s DATA Act product manager. The new beta’s goals are  to increase user engagement, expand the diversity of its users and identify new user personas to include in future iterations, Devine said at the May 26 DATA Act Summit in Washington, D.C.

Three main principles are guiding the development of the new USASpending.Gov: agile development, transparency and user-centered design. Treasury is heavily focused on the design and is working towards a site in which “all of your features are driven by a demonstrated user need,” Devine said.

The user-centered design process is cyclical, which ensures improvements and frequent iterations without the expense of full-scale development. “We do our research, discover, we make something very easy to make, usually a wireframe or image or mock-up, and then we validate that with user testing,” Devine said.

When 18F and the Treasury first began the OpenBeta.USASpending.Gov. And while each feedback source had its advantages, GitHub tended to elicit response from developers rather than general users.  Setting up stakeholder roundtable meetings, meanwhile, required too much planning and produced only infrequent feedback. And though users were commenting on OpenBeta.USASpending.Gov, that feedback was not providing enough details on the site’s features.

So Devine and her team decided to build personas, which were descriptive profiles and categories of the types of users, to find who is using the site, what their goals are and what they can’t currently do.

The personas were built based on the types of users the team discovered -- agency developers, chief financial officers, budget analysts, data owners, journalists, “helped drive our development at a more in-depth level,” Devine said.

The new beta site will have a redesigned homepage and a new tab for active concepts Treasury is developing -- such as awards summary design and search capabilities. As feedback comes in, new iterations of concepts will be posted. Each concept will also have its own discussion thread.

Future iterations will follow the same cycle -- from designing, to publishing OpenBeta and to capturing feedback. “Over the coming months, we’re going to be doing a lot of these,” Devine said, “We’re going to be doing very tight cycles.”

Devine and her team will be combining the feedback from the site with user interviews. After making the site live, they will conduct individual interviews with users, she said.

Devine encouraged the public to participate – by  signing up to be interviewed and providing feedback throughout the process. “We’re including you every step of the way,” she said. “You’ll see everything here before it goes into development, and this is your chance to comment.”

About the Author

Amanda Ziadeh is a former reporter/producer for GCN.


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