Human-Centered and User-Centered Design: Transforming DoD’s Military OneSource Digital Platform

Digital services touch almost every corner of daily life, creating both opportunities and challenges for the Federal Government to provide the modern user interface, instant engagement, and personalized feedback that citizens have come to expect from digital platforms. These efforts have culminated in the creation of dedicated groups to guide Digital Government, including the United States Digital Service (USDS) and 18F within the General Services Administration (GSA), and greater prioritization of digital strategy by Chief Information Officers (CIOs) across the Federal Government. As Digital Government evolves, it’s become clear that, however different each agency’s mission might be, any successful Government Digital Strategy must address a fundamental question: What are the needs of the people?

The pressure to modernize digitally is particularly acute at the Department of Defense (DoD), where over 85 percent of active duty military members are under the age of 35 (known as “militaryennials”). Having grown up with the Internet and the graphical user interface (GUI), militaryennials are particularly keen for superior user experience and self-service solutions. With the recent ubiquity of smartphones and tablets, these digital natives also demand mobility from digital services.

Recognizing this deep-seated generational shift within the military and across the nation, the Office of Military and Family Policy (MC&FP) selected Halfaker and Associates, LLC (Halfaker) to transform the Military OneSource website, DoD’s flagship digital service platform and central hub for providing information and services to military members and their families. As the focal point for individuals and families navigating the unique challenges of military life, MC&FP required a digital services partner not only to redesign the Military OneSource website, but also to create a digital strategy that fundamentally understands its audience and provides users exactly what they need.

To fully capture what’s important to the military community as a whole (including militaryennials), Halfaker combined Human-Centered Design (HCD) with Agile development to create a modern yet intuitive Military OneSource website that incorporates hands-on social and behavior research with emerging technologies. Halfaker uses HCD as their underlying design methodology for digital services because it ensures focus on what truly matters: the user. The Military OneSource website receives about 1.75 million unique visits annually. In carefully capturing the needs of each type of visitor (e.g., service member versus family member) within user stories informed by detailed case studies and face-to-face interviews with members of the military community, Halfaker built the human perspective into all aspects of the new Military OneSource website.

In addition to HCD, Halfaker’s digital services practice leverages techniques from 18F’s product guide and the USDS Playbook. Halfaker designed the new Military OneSource website (currently in beta) with open source and cross-platform solutions that enable widespread adoption and future adaptability. Halfaker’s commitment to “default to open” ensures lower cost of ownership for MC&FP while providing the military community with a secure and consistently leading-edge experience. Halfaker also implemented Responsive Web Design across the entire site architecture, which allows the new Military OneSource website to automatically conform to the user’s device, whether it’s a desktop, tablet, or smartphone.

“Halfaker combines Agile development’s focus on value-prioritized efficiency, HCD principles, and USDS and 18F proven practices to build solutions for the end-user,” says Mike King, Chief Technology Officer at Halfaker. “We put the end-user first and foremost because good technology is ultimately measured by how much people want to use it. We’re honored to support MC&FP’s mission and provide the military community with a modern and comprehensive digital experience that speaks directly to its needs.”

To view the live Military OneSource beta site and provide feedback, visit http://beta.militaryonesource.mil/.