The early history of user experience optimization, UX design, and even conversion rate optimization can be traced all the way back to the Renaissance era, if not earlier.

Back then, optimization looked something like experimenting with different treatments for scurvy while today we know the practice to be focused more on optimizing all digital touchpoints for users through things like personalization, A/B tests, speeding up page load times, etc.

We’ve come a long way since the Renaissance days, but we still have a way to go. The widespread adoption of digital experience optimization (DXO) across industries and disciplines is still an ongoing battle. Specifically, with the government. We may not usually think of the government as being at the forefront of DXO but as I’ll discuss in this article, the US government is taking steps to ensure a positive digital experience for all Americans interacting with government websites.

Executive Order

A person signs a document with a pen

Just a few months ago, the United States government took steps to advance their adoption of more advanced DXO practices when President Biden signed an executive order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience.

The executive order puts the public first, committing to 36 specific customer experience improvements across 17 federal agencies that the American People use every day. Among the best improvements we can expect are dramatically improved wait times for tax returns, easier processes for applying for government aid and other services, and a central platform where you can update your address just one time when you move.

The aim? Simply to improve the lives of millions in their daily interactions with government agencies and services.

Putting the People First

A woman sits at her computer and looks at paperwork with a frustrated expression on her face

Putting the people first.

It’s something that’s baked into the American Constitution as something the government must do. But it should be the focus of all DXO programs, regardless of industry. So often, many get confused that the goal of optimization is to make more money, make more sales, drive higher conversion rates, etc. But the real goal is to listen to the pains and frustrations of your end-users and build products that address and solve those problems. Higher conversion rates, more sales, more revenue, etc. are all outcomes of focusing on that goal, not the goal itself.

In this case, accessing government resources has long been a source of frustration for many. And it’s no secret. In fact, there’s even an unofficial name for it – The Time Tax – referring to the long periods of time Americans have spent trying to navigate government systems. With a focus on DXO, the government will look to “appeal” this Time Tax on the 36 focus areas they’ve identified. They’ll improve the digital experience for the everyday user by addressing the user’s specific needs and concerns for things like filing taxes, claiming government benefits, financing a business, or renewing their passport and, in turn, improve their own success metrics.

First- and Zero-Party Data

A support center employee speaks with a user over the phone; first- and zero-party data

Now, imagine for a moment that one of your digital products was performing so poorly that major news publications were coining a term to describe its lack of efficacy. That’s something you’d want to know about, right?

Well, yeah. So, how did the Government learn about it?

The answer may seem glaringly obvious, after all, they’re the Government, right? Their products and services affect the lives of millions of people, and those millions of people are constantly talking about their products and services in very public ways … how could they miss it?

And you’re right, in a sense, but there’s a more scientific approach to it than “just knowing.” And that’s good news for all of us because, despite their size and wide reach, the way the Government collected data and became informed about these user issues is a replicable process that we can all implement and follow.

And that’s with first- and zero-party data.

With first-party data, the Government was able to notice trends in data they collected first-hand including things like phone call hold times, appointment wait times, security check-point line lengths at the airports, low conversion rates, and high exit rates on government website pages.

And with zero party data, the Government heard straight from the American people with data that they intentionally and actionably provided. This may have included things like online survey data, phone call complaints, mailed in complaints, complaints to representatives, social media complaints, etc.

Here at Blast, we’ve seen firsthand how embracing first- and zero-party data has helped one of our government clients lead the way in optimizing a customer-focused experience. Advanced web analytics data provided them with session replays and on-page interaction data that they were able to use to identify user frustrations in their early stages. Coupling that with zero-party voice of customer (VoC) data from surveys and user-testing has helped them to make the exact updates to their digital products that their users were craving.

Digital Experience Optimization Across Platforms

A person uses a smartphone, computer, and tablet simultaneously; cross-platform experience

A true focus on digital experience optimization doesn’t start and stop with the website. If I had to make one recommendation to improve the focus of this executive order, it would be to include a push for optimization across all digital touchpoints with users across all products, not just the government websites.

The best DXO teams know that the website is only one part (and often the last part) of the user journey. Multiple digital touchpoints occur with your customers before they ever even land on your website that can have a huge impact on how they engage with and convert on your website.

Without end-to-end journey improvements, you’re leaving a lot to be desired. The earliest point in the user journey that you have control over should be where you start optimizing. Outside of your website, look at things like email campaigns, paid media, organic media, and search engine results, and look for ways to align those efforts with what your customers will find on your website for the best experience.

Don’t Forget To A/B Test

Two white arrows point in two different directions; don't forget to A-B test

The last point I’ll make here is that all this effort into improving the customer experience will be for nothing if the government doesn’t take that extra step to ensure the improvements are the best they could be.

Oftentimes, even with the best data and customer feedback, the exact solution isn’t crystal clear. There are nuances and uncertainties in what the best new design may look like or what the best wording may be to use in a product description.

The government has a great opportunity here to give the American people exactly what they want. And the best way to be 100% sure that they are doing that is to put their new experiences to the test.

Take the example of one of the government’s initiatives of creating a central platform for changing your address when you move. This is something that does not currently exist and will need to be created and designed from the ground up. Something like this is a perfect opportunity for A/B or multivariate testing because it’s a tool that users will have never used before.

There is no data on what interface will best meet the user’s needs, what copy will best communicate instructions or the purpose of a page, or even what content should be featured most prominently. And the only way to get that data is with testing.

When you’re faced with the task of improving customer experience with your digital products or creating brand new digital products at your organization, take the extra time to see the initiative all the way through to the finish line with A/B, multivariate, and/or live user testing.

A New DXO Mission Statement

A man smiles while using his laptop and phone at a desk; new dxo mission statement

All in all, with this executive order, the Government is making it clear that they care about their user’s feedback, have heard the complaints, are taking them seriously, and are going to start addressing them. Your organization can do this, too.

A snippet from the executive order reads:

By placing people at the center of everything we do, the Government will be able to deliver timely, modern, and secure services to you – the people.

So, imagine what this mission statement might look like applied to your organization. By placing your customers at the center of everything you do, your business will be able to deliver the best possible services/experiences to them- your customers.

Take the next step towards ‘placing your customers at the center’ with a renewed focus on digital experience optimization. BlastX can help you get there with deep analysis of your digital, voice of customer and user journey data as well as support you in building out testing and personalization campaigns to test and improve your user’s digital experience.