The 21st Century IDEA Act Playbook Part 4: Prioritize modernization with user research

The 21st Century IDEA Act mandates that every agency with a website or digital service review those services, assess which are “most viewed or utilized by the public or are otherwise important for public engagement,” and prioritize those that need modernization. The best way for agencies to prioritize their services is to thoroughly research how users interact with those services.

Qualitative and quantitative research

The members of our Ad Hoc research team come from a variety of backgrounds–we are a diverse group of social scientists, designers, and information scientists. In addition to caring deeply about the people who will be using the digital tools our teams build, we are all data mavens, and focus on ensuring our research can be turned into action by ensuring key decisions are based in data. Most of our work is focused on qualitative studies, and we find that there is often a lack of clarity among our stakeholders on the benefits of qualitative versus quantitative data, what methods are appropriate for what kinds of questions, and how different types of data sets can work together to inform design, development, and product roadmaps.

A case for incremental change and accessibility

When we think about computer accessibility, we often focus on compliance with Section 508, the law mandating that websites, IT resources, and electronic documents procured and maintained by federal agencies are accessible to people with disabilities. Current best practices in the broader UX world also look to ensure minimal accessibility standards. At Ad Hoc, our work must meet these standards, but we strive to go beyond them.

How to avoid inflexible design

How to avoid inflexible design

A couple of months ago I heard a podcast on the how to make change with the fewest number of coins. I learned that in the UK, self service checkout machines are generally not very efficient about the process. While the mathematical challenge intrigued me, it is the design problem that has stuck with me, because it highlights the challenges we face we don’t consider that the tools we build may need to adapt to broader contexts of use.



Aesop for analysts: why storytelling matters in business

Aesop for analysts: why storytelling matters in business

Storytelling is an important skill for anyone who works with data and turning insights into action. A story is more than an account of incidents or events.  It is a path to understanding, and serves a purpose greater than simply relaying information, because good narrative can enable decision makers to both see the import of the data, and see the path to action.

A quick guide to not driving to Canada

A quick guide to not driving to Canada

Tell me if you’ve heard this before — a Lyft driver with a programmed GPS (almost) ends up in the wrong country. No, not the one where the Uber driver got stuck on stairs, or for that matter any of myriad examplesof people blindly following a magical machine voice, with morals about the dehumanization power of machines. My story is about how machines, or perhaps, more appropriately, the algorithms that run them, need to be considered as active agents in social interactions, albeit ones that do not behave in the same way as human actors.

Seven things startups (and everybody) should know before talking to customers

Seven things startups (and everybody) should know before talking to customers

One of my many activities I enjoy is mentoring entrepreneurs and startups. A key part of the startup playbook is talking to customers. On the philosophy that everyone could (and should) be talking to other people, that means there are a lot of these conversations happening. Here are 7 key things to keep in mind, before, during, and after customer interactions.

Does magic have a role in design and innovation?

Does magic have a role in design and innovation?

As an anthropologist, I am familiar with the interplay between magic and science and the seemingly divergent realms of rational scientific process and causality through magical association. Often the lines between them are not so distinct as we might like to believe that they are. The same holds true In business, where the belief that following certain (rational) processes, steps or frameworks will, by (magical) association, lead to desired results.