Here's your chance to make DC government forms less confusing - Technical.ly DC

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Jul. 19, 2017 4:02 pm

Here’s your chance to make DC government forms less confusing

On July 22, The Lab @ DC hosts Form-a-palooza. Design something worth filling out.
Make this more approachable.

Make this more approachable.

(Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Loty, used under Creative Commons license)

The Lab @ DC and American University’s School of Public Affairs are hosting Form-a-palooza this weekend. D.C. residents are invited to provide input about and recommend changes to problematic government forms.

David Yokum, director of The Lab @ DC, tells Technical.ly that Form-a-palooza is part of the Mayor Muriel Bowser’s push to improve the way government serves citizens.

“The core idea is to think about forms as one of the preliminary touchpoints people have with government,” Yokum said. “Forms aren’t the most glamorous thing, but when you step back and look at all the example forms, people really interact with government in all kinds of different ways.”

The event will be like a hackathon, bringing together experts, agencies and D.C. residents to discuss behavioral and user design, as well as redesigning forms.

“In the same way an iPhone is intuitive to use right out of the box, we envision forms that are intuitive to use at a first glance,” said Yokum in a follow-up email. The Lab selected five government forms for the event:

  • The D.C. driver’s license and identification card application
  • The Basic Business License EZ form
  • The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Job Search Logs
  • The Disability Services Intake Application
  • The lead disclosure form for landlords.

Karissa Minnich, an operations analyst at The Lab, said they tried to select forms that were widely used and useful to agencies. She described two steps.

“The first was to ask agencies to nominate forms they dealt with on a regular basis, ones with rates of high user error or one that generated lots of questions,” Minnich said over the phone. “The second was to reach out to the Office of the Chief Technology Officer and pull data from dc.gov about which forms were being accessed by the public regularly.”

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To their knowledge, nothing like Form-a-palooza, an intersection of government agencies, community members and data, has been done before.

“We’re sort of envisioning this public event at this table with a particular form, with not just behavior and user design experts or the people at the agencies who process the forms, but also the people who are using the forms,” Yokum said. “This mix of individuals can discuss what’s working and what’s not working, what aspects can or cannot be changed due to bureaucratic or legal reasons. Overall, we hope the improvements will be enriched.”

Yokum hopes that there will be more Form-a-paloozas in the future.

“Let’s spark a movement to revamp all our forms,” he said.

The event will be held on July 22 at American University, and also features a talk by legal scholar Cass Sunstein.

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