The U.S. Web Design Standards were created by the government, for the government. They’re currently implemented on hundreds of government sites, with an audience of more than 26 million monthly users. They’ve also been recommended by the Office of Management and Budget for all government agencies to ensure a consistent look and feel of their public-facing digital services. Over the coming months, the team will be doing a series of blog posts to share information about the how different agencies are using the Standards. We chatted with Brandon Ruffridge, Senior Software Developer at NASA’s Glenn Research Center, to talk about his team’s use of the U.S. Web Design Standards.
USWDS: What motivated you to use the U.S. Web Design Standards?
Brandon Ruffridge: We wanted to develop a set of standards so when people visit one of our sites, they immediately recognize they are on an official NASA website. We’re also in the early stages of updating our public web presence and were looking for a User Interface (UI) toolkit that would allow us to create a modern, responsive website. The U.S. Web Design Standards seemed like a good place to start, since they are built by government with government-specific needs in mind. Our team liked the fact that the Standards weren’t developed in a vacuum, but were refined through user research and testing, and have been used successfully by other government agencies.
USWDS: What were the benefits you gained by using the Standards?
Ruffridge: The Standards allowed us to create our own set of web standards specific to NASA with very little effort. They provided all the basic UI components that we needed, and it is all Section 508 compliant, which is the accessibility requirement all federal agencies must follow when building a website.
USWDS: What were the unintended consequences or surprises?
Ruffridge: It was fun! I even published a node package. I learned some new things like gulp, jekyll, node, and color contrast accessibility requirements.
USWDS: What advice would you have for other agencies?
Ruffridge: The Standards are a great place to start if your agency wants to provide a consistent, modern, and user-friendly website. If you don’t have much in-house UI/UX and front-end development expertise, or don’t want to spend time creating your own style standards and toolkit from scratch, they are a great resource built by many talented people from government and the open source community who are consistently working to improve them. It provides a look and feel that will become increasingly familiar to the public as they become used on more and more government websites. Slight tweaks to the color palette may be all you need to tailor them to your agency.
We’re looking to learn more from agencies that have used the Standards; if you’re interested in talking to us about your experience or have any feedback, feel free to send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also chat with the team in the new public Slack channel for the Standards!
Also, on January 25th, we hosted a webinar (available on youtube.com) to share more information about the features and future of the Standards, including the 1.0 release. Check it out to learn more or follow along at designsystem.digital.gov.