conference table stren with notes, post-its, pens

Exploring a New Playbook

On Wednesday, there was buzz about both how quickly the administration turned on new websites and the accessible features found on them. Today I want to look into one resource that likely helped guide this process from the USDS, the Digital Services Playbook. This guide builds on best practices from both government and private business. It was released as part of a commitment to deliver more effective and open services.

While it is geared toward large government departments and agencies, this playbook can help a private solo business too. It includes thirteen plays that cover building a digital service and maintaining it. Each section first explains its goals, then offers a concise checklist and guided questions to help accomplish them.

The First Two Plays: Understand the User & Start to Finish

In this post, I’ll explore the first two topics. I’m not sure if in the coming weeks I’ll go through all the plays, however I urge you to do so!

The first play, understand what people need, asks the question: What problem are we trying to solve? Why would someone use this digital service? How might we go about testing it? The second, address the whole experience, from start to finish, reminds us that while first impressions are important, there needs to be a clear and consistent path throughout all interactions a site visitor will make.


These are areas I work on with my clients as we review and revise their website. Often a client will approach me wanting to change their front page because they aren’t selling as much as they want. When I ask the purpose of their website, I’m told what feels to be a non sequitur — “grow my newsletter subscription count”. I’ve yet to fully understand how that relates either to a new site design or directly to improved sales.

As I guide them through understanding who their website and product is for, the problem I’m asked to fix often changes. I’ve found that there are some who have never tried to buy a product on their site themselves. These clients relied on the developer who set it up to tell them it worked. It did, however often a few small changes to the process improve sales more than a large subscription list or a fancy front page.

I recommend reviewing the entire Digital Services Playbook. What plays can you apply to improve your website and services? If you are looking for additional background on accessible and effective websites, last year I reviewed three approachable books. If you’re looking for help to make these changes to your website, please contact me.