Research articles

Announcing the Platform Smells Playbook: Diagnose and fix common problems with your technology platform

June 13, 2023

At Ad Hoc, we believe that shared technology platforms are often a critical part of government digital modernization efforts.

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Introducing the Research Thinking Field Guide

May 08, 2023

Fundamentally, research is about helping people make better decisions, and it should be an integral part of how any team develops products and services.

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Running usability sessions with assistive technology users: a guide for beginners

November 02, 2022

Even with accessibility specialists at our side, there are additional ways accessibility newcomers can and should prepare to run research with assistive technology users.

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Building a trauma-informed research practice

September 06, 2022

Through our trauma-informed research practice, we’re working to help agencies better understand trauma. From there, we can help them improve how they meet individuals’ needs by offering assistance without triggering existing wounds or creating new ones.

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Developers are humans too: Why API documentation needs HCD

August 02, 2022

Human-centered design can be hugely beneficial to API documentation and the developers who reference it. Here are some ways to ensure the technical content is clear and concise.

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Bringing service design to the VA digital services platform

March 16, 2022

To meet the needs of internal customers, Ad Hoc’s platform service design team takes a service design approach to continuously gather feedback and use that information to improve user interactions and experiences with the VSP program.

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Research as Diplomacy: The marriage of research and product

November 10, 2021

Reframing the research step and using it to bring stakeholders’ concerns to the forefront instead of pushing past them can turn research skeptics into research advocates. We call this approach Research as Diplomacy.

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What research can do: A maturity model for government agencies

March 10, 2021

Maturing a process is not easy, even if there is interest. It’s incumbent on human-centered design practitioners to recognize where an agency is with their practice, so they can identify how to help them grow.

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Lorem nope-sum: The benefits of using realistic content in UX research

February 23, 2021

Placeholder content can trip up users and give you poorer results. When testing new designs with users, realistic content is key to convey the purpose and use of your designs

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Finding your place on Ad Hoc’s research team

September 23, 2020

Ad Hoc researchers come from a wide variety of backgrounds from archaeology to anthropology to museums to education. The team is proudly a place where we accept and encourage the diversity of people and their experiences.

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The new Ad Hoc Government Digital Services Playbook

August 18, 2020

The 2020 version is now a standalone playbook that any federal agency can use to replace enterprise software with proven techniques from the world of commercial software.

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How to create an inclusive user research environment

June 18, 2020

As researchers, we’re on the front lines of understanding the people who use our services, and that means we need to be inclusive in how we conduct our research.

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How to keep your research practice going in a remote world

May 12, 2020

Instead of hitting pause on user research plans, now is the time to understand the benefits of remote research.

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Accessibility Camp 2020

April 20, 2020

This January, 33 Ad Hoc team members came together in sunny Orlando, Florida for the first Ad Hoc Accessibility Camp, a three-day gathering to learn and practice making our services more accessible.

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Four myths about applying human-centered design to government digital services

February 20, 2020

While human-centered design (HCD) is gaining traction, its underlying concepts are sometimes misunderstood. This can mislead teams into thinking they’re working in a human-centered way when in fact, their work is largely driven by requirements.

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Why design skills are a power-up for researchers

January 23, 2020

Figuring out your research questions, finding participants, and doing the research are only part of the challenge. Perhaps the most significant work comes when you need to tell the story of your research.

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Anthropology techniques in human-centered design: The deep hang

November 22, 2019

Anthropologist Clifford Geertz has a great story about a wink. If you’re in a crowded room and you happen to see someone twitch their eye, what do you think: That they just shared an intimate joke with someone? That they have a nervous tic? That an eyelash is stuck in…

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The case for listening to enterprise users

November 12, 2019

For companies that rely on consumer sales, there’s a clear business case for creating intuitive, pleasurable user experiences. But what about situations where the consumer or end user is not the customer? Where the organization is the customer, there may seem to be less incentive to design around the needs…

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Navigating government barriers to human-centered design

October 22, 2019

Human-centered design practitioners in government face an entirely different world of constraints and incentives than their industry peers. For human-centered design folks entering government work, these constraints can feel like a barrier to designing better services.

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Human-centered design helps government make better decisions

October 16, 2019

Why is human-centered design different? Why should you pay attention to this term, and how can it add value and meaning to government work?

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

September 04, 2019

The 21st Century IDEA Act mandates that every agency prioritize public services that need modernization. The best way for agencies to prioritize their services is to thoroughly research how users interact with those services.

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Creating a human centered information architecture on VA's developer portal

April 17, 2019

VA's Developer Portal is the front door access to VA's high-quality APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) which developers can use to learn about and access services using VA data.

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Qualitative and quantitative research

March 14, 2019

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.

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Decommissioning Cohorts

February 13, 2019

Cohorts is Ad Hoc’s custom-built user research participant management application. Cohorts has been used at some point by nearly every research team at Ad Hoc, however, we’ve run up against Cohorts’ limits.

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Ad Hoc’s UX Principles

January 17, 2019

Over the course of 2018, the UX team at Ad Hoc refined our principles. Because a new year is always a great time to reflect on what’s important, we’re sharing our principles here.

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Our four day discovery sprint with San Jose

October 25, 2018

The focus of our sprint was MySanJose, a mobile app that residents use to make service requests of five services, such as reporting abandoned vehicles, or graffiti.

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Moving into UX

March 01, 2018

I have an anthropology degree, and I believe that working in User Experience (UX) research is one of the most meaningful applications of that training.

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What Jurassic Park can tell us about human resilience and human-centered design

December 21, 2017

The ways we engage with government websites and services reveals the resilience of people. We work to adapt to processes and make the technology work for our purposes even when they aren’t suited to us.

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Faith in the foundations: Lessons from DC history for compassionate design

December 15, 2017

In our work designing, building, and maintaining websites, we could take a lesson from the 19th Street Baptist Church, and the many other religious buildings throughout DC that have served as homes for multiple faiths over time.

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UX Offsite 2017 in Portland, Oregon

July 28, 2017

Our growing UX team got together in real life in beautiful Portland, Oregon last week to talk, work, drink lots of coffee and tea, eat, and generally, spend some quality time together.

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Laura Ellena’s #remotelife at Ad Hoc

April 20, 2017

As research manager, my days have a lot of variety. I frequently use our co-working space near the White House to plan projects, facilitate remote feedback sessions, and sync with teammates.

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Ad Hoc begins user experience research work on Hospital Quality Reporting Project

April 10, 2017

Ad Hoc is providing the User Experience Research team, four professionals responsible for conducting all research.

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Introducing Cohorts

March 13, 2017

Today marks the launch of Cohorts, a service of Ad Hoc that allows us to conduct incisive research with groups of relevant people to make government digital services work better for all.

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Presentation at Web Content Mavens Meetup on content-driven user experiences

September 22, 2016

Tonight, Ad Hoc User Experience Research Manager Laura Ellena gave a presentation at the Web Content Mavens meetup in Washington, D.C. called MavenMini - Content-Driven User Experiences.

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