Aren't we just a little important to democracy?

25 Jan 2009 - 8:06pm
5 years ago
27 replies
543 reads
Susan Stuart
2009

So I just went to write our new US administration my first e-mail from whitehouse.gov. Ready and eager for that much-touted new open line of communication into our government! I filled out all my info. on the contact form, wrote a title in the message box stating (pleading), "PLEASE MAKE WALL STREET ACCOUNTABLE!" then hit the paragraph return button.

It submitted my message (ahem.. title only) to the White House. Would have been nice to explain my point.

It's always boggled my mind why the gov't doesn't put UX advocates (including designers, researchers, coders, QA) front and center in the design of citizen-technology interfaces. Don't even get me started on voting.

Does anyone have any experience/ evidence... HOPE?? to the contrary?

Comments

26 Jan 2009 - 4:59am
Maria De Monte
2008

Hi S.,

I'm in Italy, and I hardly expect government to reply to any
question of mine with something real and concrete. However, I heard
about technical probs with the White House equipment and so on. It
seems strange to me that Obama's team is not interested in you
opinion, and in any case, I'd make another line pointing out what
you explained here.

Yes, we are important to democracy, but I'm afraid just up to the
point in which we cross a name on an electoral file, there we give up
our power to decide to the one man that will represent us. Hope this
is just an episode.

Cheers,

Maria

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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26 Jan 2009 - 7:49am
Todd Warfel
2003

When coded properly, a form is suppose to be submitted when you hit
the return key. Might have created an unexpected action on your end,
but it's technically correct. Just goes to show you that technically
correct isn't always predictable.

On Jan 25, 2009, at 8:06 PM, s wrote:

> then hit the paragraph return button.
>
> It submitted my message (ahem.. title only) to the White House.
> Would have been nice to explain my point.

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
President, Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
Twitter: zakiwarfel
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

26 Jan 2009 - 8:48am
Elizabeth Buie
2004

Todd writes:

>When coded properly, a form is suppose to be submitted when you hit
>the return key.

How else is someone supposed to get a line feed into a box, to format a message? Most people don't know about shift-return for new line. I'm not sure that works on all systems anyhow.

I think it's not as simple as what "a form" is supposed to do.

Elizabeth

--
Elizabeth Buie
Luminanze Consulting, LLC
tel +1.301.943.4168 (US)
tel +39.347.394.7022 (Italia)
fax +1.301.949.9694 (US only)
www.luminanze.com

26 Jan 2009 - 9:06am
Todd Warfel
2003

From an accessibility perspective, that's what it is suppose to do—
supports keyboard navigation and strokes.

On Jan 26, 2009, at 8:48 AM, Elizabeth Buie wrote:

> I think it's not as simple as what "a form" is supposed to do.
>
> Elizabeth

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
President, Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
Twitter: zakiwarfel
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

26 Jan 2009 - 9:09am
Todd Warfel
2003

BTW, coded properly, when you're inside a Text area, hitting the Enter
key won't submit the form. It's when the Enter key is selected from
either text input fields, or no fields selected. The function is
different for Text area, which allows for line returns.

The original message stated that she hit the return key on a text
input field, not a text area.

On Jan 26, 2009, at 8:48 AM, Elizabeth Buie wrote:

> How else is someone supposed to get a line feed into a box, to
> format a message? Most people don't know about shift-return for new
> line. I'm not sure that works on all systems anyhow.
>
> I think it's not as simple as what "a form" is supposed to do.

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
President, Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
Twitter: zakiwarfel
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

26 Jan 2009 - 9:23am
Elizabeth Buie
2004

Todd writes:

> BTW, coded properly, when you're inside a Text area, hitting the Enter key won't submit the form.

Exactly.

(That's where he was, unless I sorely misunderstood him.)

Elizabeth

--
Elizabeth Buie
Luminanze Consulting, LLC
tel +1.301.943.4168 (US)
tel +39.347.394.7022 (Italia)
fax +1.301.949.9694 (US only)
www.luminanze.com

26 Jan 2009 - 11:32am
Jared M. Spool
2003

On Jan 25, 2009, at 5:06 PM, s wrote:

> It's always boggled my mind why the gov't doesn't put UX advocates
> (including designers, researchers, coders, QA) front and center in
> the design of citizen-technology interfaces.

Actually, there are a lot of very talented designers and researchers
working in the US government, the Canadian government, and other
governments around the world.

But just because those people are there doesn't stop other people from
creating crappy interfaces. Government doesn't have a corner on crappy
interfaces. They are a world-wide phenomena, spanning all industries
and sectors.

> Don't even get me started on voting.

There are many people working really hard on this problem. It's a
really hard problem. If you want to help, I know a team that is
looking for volunteers.

> Does anyone have any experience/ evidence... HOPE?? to the contrary?

In the last 10 years, there's become a real awareness of the
importance of good design in government systems. I have a lot of hope
that we'll see real improvements, especially with the youthful
experience of the incoming US administration.

Jared

Jared M. Spool
User Interface Engineering
510 Turnpike St., Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
e: jspool at uie.com p: +1 978 327 5561
http://uie.com Blog: http://uie.com/brainsparks Twitter: jmspool
UIE Web App Summit, 4/19-4/22: http://webappsummit.com

26 Jan 2009 - 10:01am
Susan Stuart
2009

I was in a box where I type text because, of course, that is where you
want to do a paragraph return and not expect to submit the whole form.
Accessibility is a good point though... are you sure this is to W3C
guidelines, Todd? I would think there would be other ways to address
the keystroke issue without creating false user expectation and
preventing reversibility of such an action. (Glad there was nothing
profane in there, they have my address!)

Anyway, I did a search in this discussion list for "government" and
only found a couple of threads. I was hoping to stir up discussion
around what work has been done from practitioners in our field on
government because I'd be genuinely interested to know--especially
in the realm of voting.

Also, this is my first time posting to this list and I'm getting
personal replies--would appreciate discussing as a group. Thanks.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
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26 Jan 2009 - 2:04pm
Susan Stuart
2009

Hi, Jared - if there are people working on voting design issues, I'd
like to help. Let me know whom to contact.

My last post on this discussion didn't go through here.. is someone
moderating this list (hence the delay?).

Thanks,
Susan

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
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26 Jan 2009 - 4:27pm
Jennifer Vignone
2008

My overall general experience has been that the final result is frequently
what has been allowed to be implemented based on many factors, where
usability and good design aren't always at the top of the list. If you can
improve a handful of things in such an environment, it is a good thing.
The goal is to keep at it and trying to improve with each
step/implementation/phase, whatever it is called.

I agree that the new administration has already exhibited a use of the web
that wasn't seen or understood before. This will enable more opportunities
for improvement, but maybe not tremendous steps, but small steps would be
progress.

Like in the game of "Giant Step" as I date myself into antiquity...."May
I..."
Perhaps we may.

Jennifer
Jennifer Vignone
User Experience Design
CIO Technology
245 Park Avenue, 10th Floor
New York, NY 10167
212-648-0827
jennifer.r.vignone at jpmorgan.com

Jared Spool <jspool at uie.com>
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01/26/2009 11:32 AM

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Subject
Re: [IxDA Discuss] Aren't we just a little important to democracy?

On Jan 25, 2009, at 5:06 PM, s wrote:

> It's always boggled my mind why the gov't doesn't put UX advocates
> (including designers, researchers, coders, QA) front and center in
> the design of citizen-technology interfaces.

Actually, there are a lot of very talented designers and researchers
working in the US government, the Canadian government, and other
governments around the world.

But just because those people are there doesn't stop other people from
creating crappy interfaces. Government doesn't have a corner on crappy
interfaces. They are a world-wide phenomena, spanning all industries
and sectors.

> Don't even get me started on voting.

There are many people working really hard on this problem. It's a
really hard problem. If you want to help, I know a team that is
looking for volunteers.

> Does anyone have any experience/ evidence... HOPE?? to the contrary?

In the last 10 years, there's become a real awareness of the
importance of good design in government systems. I have a lot of hope
that we'll see real improvements, especially with the youthful
experience of the incoming US administration.

Jared

Jared M. Spool
User Interface Engineering
510 Turnpike St., Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
e: jspool at uie.com p: +1 978 327 5561
http://uie.com Blog: http://uie.com/brainsparks Twitter: jmspool
UIE Web App Summit, 4/19-4/22: http://webappsummit.com

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26 Jan 2009 - 5:09pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Jan 25, 2009, at 5:06 PM, s wrote:

> So I just went to write our new US administration my first e-mail
> from whitehouse.gov. Ready and eager for that much-touted new open
> line of communication into our government! I filled out all my info.
> on the contact form, wrote a title in the message box stating
> (pleading), "PLEASE MAKE WALL STREET ACCOUNTABLE!" then hit the
> paragraph return button.

1) Use of all caps for a message title is considered a bannable
offense on most community forums these days. Regardless of your
problems sending the message, I would consider it well within reason
for the recipients of your message to simply filter it to the junk
pile bin given that you basically yelled at them.

2) There is no such thing as the "paragraph return" button. There are
Return and Enter keys on the keyboard, which are general "enter"
functions that work based on context of whatever is in focus.

3) The behavior of the Return and Enter keys in modern web browsers is
to act as a Submit function when a submit button exists on a form and
when the cursor is not inside of a text area form field. As such, it
sounds like you hit the Return key with the focus still inside a
normal input field and therefore got the correct behavior. Had you
wanted to move to the next field instead of submitting the form, you
should have pressed the Tab key on your keyboard.

4) This set of behaviors have been like this since at least the early
1980s and the introduction of graphical user interfaces. Web browsers
finally caught up with standard conventions from the past which made
the web browser more accessible and keyboard driven to those that need
accessibility. Changing these behaviors would effectively change
convention already learned by an entire generation of computer users
while simultaneously breaking accessibility at this point in time.

5) Whitehouse.gov is extremely well designed, from a variety of
measures that include aesthetic, information, interaction and content.

> It's always boggled my mind why the gov't doesn't put UX advocates
> (including designers, researchers, coders, QA) front and center in
> the design of citizen-technology interfaces. Don't even get me
> started on voting.

I'll restate: Whitehouse.gov is very well designed.

To claim your experience is somehow indicative of some larger
perceived problem based on your opinion is imprecise, especially
considering your presentation of the issue is both misinformed and not
seemingly based on an understanding of basic interactions and
conventions that have a long, well documented past.

> Does anyone have any experience/ evidence... HOPE?? to the contrary?

I have plenty. I'm not sure why anyone would consider the new
whitehouse.gov design to be anything other than a massive step forward
for our government.

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

26 Jan 2009 - 1:20pm
Jim Harrison
2009

Did you send the Web master an email explaining the issue?

Jim

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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26 Jan 2009 - 6:48pm
Dana Chisnell
2008

On Jan 26, 2009, at 3:18 PM, Susan Stuart wrote:

>> Anyway, I did a search in this discussion list for "government" and
>> only found a couple of threads. I was hoping to stir up discussion
>> around what work has been done from practitioners in our field on
>> government because I'd be genuinely interested to know--especially
>> in the realm of voting.

Susan,

There's actually quite a lot going on in government by experience
design professionals. Many, many US federal agencies have been working
on their web sites and other communications for ages, from Health and
Human Services to the Veterans Administration. You might check out
usability.gov as a starting point. There are thousands of UX people in
the federal government. They often get continuing professional
development through Web Manager University (as well as other outlets),
which is offered by the General Services Administration: http://www.usa.gov/webcontent/resources/training/university.shtml

Designers and researchers have been working hard on voting since 2000.
AIGA and the Usability Professionals' Association have been working
together, along with the Brennan Center for Justice on several
projects related to ballot design and best practices for design of
election materials. We are very much front and center on the topics,
including contributing to federal commissions such as the Technical
Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC), which makes recommendations
to the federal government on standards and guidelines for voting
systems.

Check these out:

http://vote.nist.gov/docmap.htm
Lists several reports from research done over the last few years
related to usability and accessibility of voting systems, election
materials, and ballots.

http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/design-for-democracy
Showcases work that AIGA has been doing on election topics, including
best practices for ballot and polling place designs, which are the
result of two years of research funded by the US Election Assistance
Commission.

http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/better_ballots/
With help from several designers, social scientists, and user
researchers, the Brennan Center for Justice at NY reports on 13 major
cases of lost votes in elections and looks at what the design problems
were that caused them.

http://www.usabilityprofessionals.org/civiclife/voting/index.html
UPA has an ongoing project to work with local jurisdictions to
improve the usability and accessibility of voting in its Voting and
Usability Project. Several UPA members worked with the Brennan Center
to conduct usability testing of ballots in six counties and conduct
training in more places in time to make changes for the November 2008
election. One important development of this UPA Project was the LEO
Usability Testing Kit -- a simplified package for local elections
officials (LEOs) to follow to conduct usability testing of their
ballots with voters.

http://ballotusability.blogspot.com/
A blog that posts news about developments in ballot usability and
accessibility, as well as design and testing pointers.

Things move slowly, though, for many reasons. As I've worked on voting
topics over the last 5 years, I have learned heaps about the many
constraints that local elections officials have when it comes to
design, and the (lack of) willingness of voting system manufacturers
to improve user interfaces of their systems.

Dana
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::
Dana Chisnell
desk: 415.392.0776
mobile: 415.519.1148

dana AT usabilityworks DOT net

www.usabilityworks.net
http://usabilitytestinghowto.blogspot.com/

26 Jan 2009 - 9:53pm
Susan Stuart
2009

Whoa, Andrei... hard to know where to start with a response. I really
wasn't trying to flame anyone, including the designers... while
it's true I do get frustrated with lack of usability in products
meant for democracy, especially in the voting system. (Part of my
larger frustration w/ the gov't.) I do think in a democracy I'm
entitled to my opinion EVEN IN CAPS. I disagree with many of your
points and wonder if you've used the form yourself.

In any case, it was just an error in their form, and I perhaps
generalized it, but it is something that interests me--helping as a
designer in this way, and feeling empowered--so thanks to all the
constructive responses (especially yours, Dana). I remember hearing
about the plain language movement from my grad program at CMU, so I
knew there had to be other efforts going on in interaction design,
just didn't know where.

Thanks again - PEACE
Susan

--
Sr. UX designer
www.light-motif.com

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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26 Jan 2009 - 10:24pm
Dana Chisnell
2008

I have heard from my UX friends in government that it can be difficult
to connect to others to either share information or to learn from what
they've done. A wiki with a champion (some sponsoring ministry or
department) could work -- the trick is getting the word out.

Dana

:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::
Dana Chisnell
desk: 415.392.0776
mobile: 415.519.1148

dana AT usabilityworks DOT net

www.usabilityworks.net
http://usabilitytestinghowto.blogspot.com/

On Jan 26, 2009, at 6:54 PM, Andrew Boyd wrote:

> Hi Dana,
>
> Thanks for the links. I know a lot of people here in Australia that
> are in the government UX space (like me) who feel isolated sometimes
> by a lack of apparent resources - do you think that a government UX
> wiki would be a useful way to aggregate/share information?
>
> PS: Sorry to top-post, the iPhone makes it harder to be polite :)
>
> Cheers, Andrew
>
> Andrew Boyd facibus at gmail.com
> http://uxbookclub.org -- co

26 Jan 2009 - 8:18pm
Mary Constance Parks
2009

I too had trouble with the text box at whitehouse.gov. It's the
first time I encountered one at a government website that wouldn't
let me create a new paragraph. I also found I couldn't scroll with
the left or right arrow keys.

--Mary

Sr. Voice User Interface Designer
Nuance Communications

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
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27 Jan 2009 - 9:18am
Susan Stuart
2009

Had a thought... this actually circles back to my original intended
subject line to the White House.

And was inspired by hearing thoughts from a fellow voter after this
election. She asked, "Why is it we can use ATMs to easily and
reliably manage our finances, yet there's nothing easier they can
provide to submit a vote, and to know it's been counted?"

Great question. Jared, you said making voting more error-free for
citizens is a difficult problem, can you expand upon why? Could it be
the cost of providing ATM-like touchscreen equipment?

So here's a thought. Now that we, the citizens of the US, are the
primary shareholders in many major banks... why can't we get them to
swap out their firmware/ software on election day, install a voting
program, staff the ATMs with volunteers... etc! Think about it, the
security cameras are already set up, they are already designed to be
accessible, they would just need a couple of curtains... wouldn't it
be great to insert your "authenticatable" voting card into the slot,
complete your voting transaction, insert a deposit envelope to write
in a candidate if you like :) , get your receipt and be on your merry
way?

Seriously...?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
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27 Jan 2009 - 10:55am
Damon Dimmick
2008

I worked in politics for a while, and I can tell you the basic problem
is mostly logistical and trust related.

Let's take your example, which would be a much improved user experience
by the way, and look at the trust/logistical breakpoints. Now wait, not
doing this to beat down your idea. I think it's a GREAT idea, but here's
all the nightmare detail that would be required before we could get it
going.

Let's assume people can use ATMs to vote, and that they can enter a
candidate's name via an on screen touch type interface if they want to
do a write in:

1. Who certifies the security of the ATMs? Currently this is done by
hundreds of independent little firms. That wouldn't fly for elections,
so we'd need a special new group to do it.
2. Which ATMs qualify? There are hundreds of thousands of little
free-standing ATMS that are easily exploitable by anyone who has some
knowledge of mag-readers and basic electronic engineering. Surely those
would be out. So does that mean only ATMs at brick/mortar institutions?
3. Are the technicians that service the ATMS (again, some by banks, some
by independent companies) trustworthy? How do we know they won't cause
mischief.
4. Like in some states, pure electronic voting would probably not be
enough, so you'd also have to count a generated paper-ballot, which in
your example could be a receipt from the ATM. You'd need 2, one receipt
to leave there as a paper-copy in case a hand-tally was needed, one for
you to keep as your official receipt. Logistical problem: how do you
collect those paper copies? Do you have a desk set up next to the ATMs
with another machine that takes those receipts? Or a person? Is the
person trustworthy? Do they meet election commission requirements? How
does the paper get to an official polling place?
5. How do you coordinate people with multiple accounts in different
banks? You'd need a new electronic / software infrastructure that makes
sure they can only vote in one place, once.
6. What happens if I actually want to withdraw money that day? Do I have
to wait in line for all the people using the ATMs to vote?

Gads, there are tons more.

BUT, to assume "magical thinking" (which is to say, if we imagine how it
-should- be) the model would actually be pretty simple:

1. Create a central data repository of voter IDs (either by SSN or some
voter ID number).
2. Create a special PIN that is sent out to voters prior to the
election, each fairly unique, matched to their voter ID, and has a
use-once attribute.
3. Let people use -any- networked interface (why stop at ATMs, how about
just my computer?) by entering their address, and their PIN, and perhaps
one additional ID (like credit card info, serving as a third party check
on identity).
4. Register that the vote -occurred- against the voter ID database (not
the nature of the vote, just that it happened) and the location of the
vote (or IP address).
5. Generate an electronic receipt for local store or printing and/or ask
if the voter would like a paper copy sent to them.

Done.

It wouldn't be that hard, but it requires a reworking of the system, and
there are a lot of precursor steps that aren't listed here.

That's really the problem. There's a huge amount of bureaucratic
infrastructure built into the current system (along with parties
interested in maintaining their plum jobs) which would have to be
changed or gotten rid of in order to implement a new one. That's really
the trip up point.

Consider for example the IRS, which has virtually -no- duty that could
not simply be automated with a very simple set of scripts (except for
the actual job of harassing people and/or investigating problems). The
problem really isn't lack of vision or will, it's having the required
endurance and political ware-withal to change the system and alienate
the people invested in the current model. Plus, you still need congress
(with all of its individual constituency concerns) to approve a plan,
and boy o boy, won't there be a lot of riders and add-on amendments to
any bill that fundamentally changes the nature of voting (the lifeblood
of the very people who would have to agree-to and implement the change).

Hey, I guess it -is- like redesigning the UI for a major entrenched
application. =)

-Damon

Susan wrote:
> Had a thought... this actually circles back to my original intended
> subject line to the White House.
>
> And was inspired by hearing thoughts from a fellow voter after this
> election. She asked, "Why is it we can use ATMs to easily and
> reliably manage our finances, yet there's nothing easier they can
> provide to submit a vote, and to know it's been counted?"
>
> Great question. Jared, you said making voting more error-free for
> citizens is a difficult problem, can you expand upon why? Could it be
> the cost of providing ATM-like touchscreen equipment?
>
> So here's a thought. Now that we, the citizens of the US, are the
> primary shareholders in many major banks... why can't we get them to
> swap out their firmware/ software on election day, install a voting
> program, staff the ATMs with volunteers... etc! Think about it, the
> security cameras are already set up, they are already designed to be
> accessible, they would just need a couple of curtains... wouldn't it
> be great to insert your "authenticatable" voting card into the slot,
> complete your voting transaction, insert a deposit envelope to write
> in a candidate if you like :) , get your receipt and be on your merry
> way?
>
> Seriously...?
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=37630
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
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27 Jan 2009 - 11:34am
Susan Stuart
2009

Great points, Damon... yes, transparency is a huge issue with this or
any idea. Perhaps putting our electoral system in the machines of
Wall Street is a recipe for disaster! But, enjoying my fantasy for a
moment, there would obviously have to be major gov't/volunteer
oversight... couldn't the same group (with additional technically
trained folks as necessary) who certifies the security of voting
machinery currently do the same in this kind of scenario?

- replacement software/firmware provided and monitored by the gov't
- only the larger banks that we, the people, are shareholders of
would convert certain of their ATMs (brick and mortar, easily
secured, geographically convenient to the populace)
- print an instant paper ballot (receipt) as a backup that we as
voters get a carbon copy of
- desks/volunteer set up next to ATMs, like polling places
- you'd have to go to the bank counter or another ATM on election
day to get your cash--a minor inconvenience really

Anyway...

I'm sure you're right re: the bureaucratic trip-ups that prevent
innovation... would be great if this administration did bring some
change to that.

~Susan
--
Sr. UX Designer
www.light-motif.com

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=37630

27 Jan 2009 - 12:12pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

Damon's message was about as good an example as you can get on why
"user centered" design is only at best, if ever, one third of what's
required when working on professional software or digital product
design.

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

27 Jan 2009 - 1:42pm
jaketrimble
2008

The whitehouse.gov/contact page is completely coded wrong...period. I
ran multiple tests on it such as going to the text area first and
hitting enter/return and the navigating to a text field and hitting
enter/return, the form then submitted without any validation of form
elements. But when I went to a text field first and hit enter/return
it gave me the validation errors. It is a simple coding error
(asp.net form control) that can have huge negative impacts.

I have been working on government websites both internal and external
for almost 8 years and while there is a huge push towards UX
implementation into these applications, the transition is slow.

One word, "bureaucracy". Whether it's government employees tired
of seeing their positions lost to contractors or contractors trying
to keep their contracts, tall, thick walls have been erected and the
result of which is filtered collaboration. Meaning that if I give you
"AB" for example, you may only push through "A" and part of "B",
while completing "B" on your own terms thus giving you worth as the
process moves forward. It is my opinion that this will never change.

The good news is that there are LOTS of people/companies working on
the implementation of UX and other such methods into the government,
but the "slow factor" is here to stay.

-2centsfromJake

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=37630

27 Jan 2009 - 3:02pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Jan 27, 2009, at 10:42 AM, Jake Trimble wrote:

> The whitehouse.gov/contact page is completely coded wrong...period. I
> ran multiple tests on it such as going to the text area first and
> hitting enter/return and the navigating to a text field and hitting
> enter/return, the form then submitted without any validation of form
> elements. But when I went to a text field first and hit enter/return
> it gave me the validation errors. It is a simple coding error
> (asp.net form control) that can have huge negative impacts.

Upon looking at this specific form closer, it seems this was done
purposefully. Given the message "Please limit your entry to 500
characters" directly below the only text area field in the form, one
can assume whomever put the form together is probably attempting to
discourage people from sending essays via the form, which would mean
their looking to save bandwidth and not encourage long messages with
multiple paragraphs.

Are they doing it properly? That can be debated and I'm not sure
personally which way you'd solve the problem simply without a lot of
messy coding. But as a design decision to force a limitation, I can
understand it, even if I or others may not agree with it.

> I have been working on government websites both internal and external
> for almost 8 years and while there is a huge push towards UX
> implementation into these applications, the transition is slow.

The team that worked on this site is probably the same team that
created the Obama campaign site. Given the nature of the overall
design approach, aesthetic and coding, this would seem to be so. That
team is extremely competent and very much up to date with how all of
this stuff works.

> One word, "bureaucracy". Whether it's government employees tired
> of seeing their positions lost to contractors or contractors trying
> to keep their contracts, tall, thick walls have been erected and the
> result of which is filtered collaboration. Meaning that if I give you
> "AB" for example, you may only push through "A" and part of "B",
> while completing "B" on your own terms thus giving you worth as the
> process moves forward. It is my opinion that this will never change.

While this may or may not be true, I'm not sure it's applicable to
this particular team or example.

> The good news is that there are LOTS of people/companies working on
> the implementation of UX and other such methods into the government,
> but the "slow factor" is here to stay.

Given how FAST the whitehouse.gov site was turned around from the
moment Obaba was elected and flipped to on the day Obama started
(approx 2 months), I think its safe to say the team responsible for
whitehouse.gov is not part of the problem.

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

27 Jan 2009 - 4:34pm
Jared M. Spool
2003

On Jan 27, 2009, at 6:18 AM, Susan wrote:

> Great question. Jared, you said making voting more error-free for
> citizens is a difficult problem, can you expand upon why? Could it be
> the cost of providing ATM-like touchscreen equipment?

Cost is a small piece of it.

By constitutional law, voting has to be handled by local election
officials. There are 5,000 such officials across the US, each with
different problems to solve. Many are appointed, though some are
elected, but few are trained in the design skills necessary to make
voting easy.

They do not have the skills, time, or resources to make voting a
simple process. Compound this with constantly changing legislative
requirements, equipment manufacturers who aren't cooperative (because
it's not really a profitable business), and very short time schedules
(because ballots are often finalized within a few days of printing and
publishing).

What you end up with is a very complicated landscape with a lot of
factors that go beyond making an "ATM-like" voting machine that anyone
can use.

In my experience, if something is complicated, there's probably good
reasons for it. Complexity is often the path of least resistance,
simplicity takes serious investment.

Jared

Jared M. Spool
User Interface Engineering
510 Turnpike St., Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
e: jspool at uie.com p: +1 978 327 5561
http://uie.com Blog: http://uie.com/brainsparks Twitter: jmspool
UIE Web App Summit, 4/19-4/22: http://webappsummit.com

27 Jan 2009 - 3:12pm
Hal Gill
2007

Appreciate Jared's post. I've been working in the US Government arena for
some time and there is indeed a great deal of interest in making the
government more transparent through the work of many talented individuals.
The work going on now within OMB under Kshmendra Paul's leadership as Chief
Enterprise Architect has recently led to VUE-IT, for example, which allows
insight and drill down through the Federal Enterprise Architecture to
specific IT investments. It's not ideal yet, but it goes a long way to
making the complex simple.

Best regards,
Hal Gill, CEA
USAF SAF/XCTX
Strategic Planning, CIO and Warfighting Integration
www.fgm.com

On Mon, Jan 26, 2009 at 11:32 AM, Jared Spool <jspool at uie.com> wrote:

>
> On Jan 25, 2009, at 5:06 PM, s wrote:
>
> It's always boggled my mind why the gov't doesn't put UX advocates
>> (including designers, researchers, coders, QA) front and center in the
>> design of citizen-technology interfaces.
>>
>
> Actually, there are a lot of very talented designers and researchers
> working in the US government, the Canadian government, and other governments
> around the world.
>
> But just because those people are there doesn't stop other people from
> creating crappy interfaces. Government doesn't have a corner on crappy
> interfaces. They are a world-wide phenomena, spanning all industries and
> sectors.
>
> Don't even get me started on voting.
>>
>
> There are many people working really hard on this problem. It's a really
> hard problem. If you want to help, I know a team that is looking for
> volunteers.
>
> Does anyone have any experience/ evidence... HOPE?? to the contrary?
>>
>
> In the last 10 years, there's become a real awareness of the importance of
> good design in government systems. I have a lot of hope that we'll see real
> improvements, especially with the youthful experience of the incoming US
> administration.
>
> Jared
>
> Jared M. Spool
> User Interface Engineering
> 510 Turnpike St., Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
> e: jspool at uie.com p: +1 978 327 5561
> http://uie.com Blog: http://uie.com/brainsparks Twitter: jmspool
> UIE Web App Summit, 4/19-4/22: http://webappsummit.com
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

28 Jan 2009 - 5:45pm
Josie Scott
2009

I can add another few thoughts to this discussion. After working for nearly 15 years as a voting official, I became a UX professional. Somehow, I couldn't leave this voting thing alone, though, and I've worked with Dana, UPA, Design for Democracy and Brennan on projects. In addition to all of the excellent reasons already given by Jared and Dana, here are a few more thoughts:

-- Even though you entrust your money to the ATM machine, you know that you can audit the veracity of your transaction at any time from multiple locations (bank, phone, Web to name a few). A voting system cannot allow you the same opportunity.

-- Voting systems have an even higher mandate with regard to reading and understanding. (In other words, the best system can be voted with confidence by the nearly illiterate.)

-- It is easy to underestimate the most important satisfaction metric of all: that a vote has been voted properly (as intended), recorded and stored safely, and that each vote was counted as the voter intended.

The part about being counted as intended gives us apparently conflicting requirements:

-- My vote must be flawlessly secret
-- Vote counting must be flawlessly transparent

Now, let's add that literacy challenge...and the multiple language challenge (ok, ATMs do this piece well, I think) and the access challenge. Yep, this system has to be accessible by nearly every standard you can imagine: vision, hearing, mobility...even cognition.

So, how do you design this system? Most of the heated discussion about voting surrounds the design problem posed by these considerations.

I think it is easy to make an ATM style voting system, but not one that meets all of these needs. What makes voting a greater design problem is the other little item: every citizen in a democracy must know that their vote was secret and that counting is transparent. I have to know with reasonable assurance that my vote was counted properly, and I have the right to vote without influence.

No easy task. Next time you vote, hug your clerk. She's doing great work.

Josie Scott

9 Feb 2009 - 1:23pm
jaketrimble
2008

To Andrei Herasimchuk,
Your rhetoric is infuriating. What was the point of trying to tear
apart my response? Because you thought I was republican? Well I'm
not and I have to say your post was absolutely useless, meaning that
it contributed nothing. Not to mention every point that you were
trying to make against mine was an assumption.

This is a discussion board not a bashing board.

Oh and...

"Given how FAST the whitehouse.gov site was turned around from the
moment Obaba was elected and flipped to on the day Obama started
(approx 2 months), I think its safe to say the team responsible for
whitehouse.gov is not part of the problem."

Please, that site was redesigned and tested well over 2 months ago.

and...

"Upon looking at this specific form closer, it seems this was done
purposefully."

You're telling me they purposefully created a problem for the user
when submitting their form? Come on.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=37630

22 Jun 2009 - 7:13am
John Chin
2008

The NY Times opinion page reflect a similar opinion as Josie on the topic of
voting machines.
See:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/22/opinion/22mon2.html

On Wed, Jan 28, 2009 at 6:45 PM, Scott, Josephine <j.scott at techsmith.com>wrote:

> I can add another few thoughts to this discussion. After working for
> nearly 15 years as a voting official, I became a UX professional. Somehow,
> I couldn't leave this voting thing alone, though, and I've worked with Dana,
> UPA, Design for Democracy and Brennan on projects. In addition to all of
> the excellent reasons already given by Jared and Dana, here are a few more
> thoughts:
>
> -- Even though you entrust your money to the ATM machine, you know that you
> can audit the veracity of your transaction at any time from multiple
> locations (bank, phone, Web to name a few). A voting system cannot allow
> you the same opportunity.
>
> -- Voting systems have an even higher mandate with regard to reading and
> understanding. (In other words, the best system can be voted with confidence
> by the nearly illiterate.)
>
> -- It is easy to underestimate the most important satisfaction metric of
> all: that a vote has been voted properly (as intended), recorded and stored
> safely, and that each vote was counted as the voter intended.
>
> The part about being counted as intended gives us apparently conflicting
> requirements:
>
> -- My vote must be flawlessly secret
> -- Vote counting must be flawlessly transparent
>
> Now, let's add that literacy challenge...and the multiple language
> challenge (ok, ATMs do this piece well, I think) and the access challenge.
> Yep, this system has to be accessible by nearly every standard you can
> imagine: vision, hearing, mobility...even cognition.
>
> So, how do you design this system? Most of the heated discussion about
> voting surrounds the design problem posed by these considerations.
>
> I think it is easy to make an ATM style voting system, but not one that
> meets all of these needs. What makes voting a greater design problem is the
> other little item: every citizen in a democracy must know that their vote
> was secret and that counting is transparent. I have to know with reasonable
> assurance that my vote was counted properly, and I have the right to vote
> without influence.
>
> No easy task. Next time you vote, hug your clerk. She's doing great work.
>
> Josie Scott
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

--
John Chin
User Experience Professional
jchin at acm.org
http://www.johnpchin.com

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