Friday, September 27, 2013

Making Mobile Gov: User Experience Recommendations

By: Jacob Parcell, Manager, Mobile Programs, GSA Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies - Sept 27, 2013

You only have a few minutes—sometimes seconds—to impress the anytime, anywhere user with your mobile app, website, or text message. If you don't impress them, they will turn to other sources for your information. Members of the Mobile Gov Community of Practice took this to heart when they developed 42 guidelines and recommendations for mobile communication. Review them yourself, share them (and the toolkit) with your staff and tell us what you think. Thanks! --Jacob

Making Gov Mobile: User Experience Recommendations

Mobile Gov User Experience Guidelines and Recommendations are here!

How We Did It

Official Army iPhone app
Photo courtesy of Flickr user The U.S. Army, CC BY 2.0
Last November, as part of revisiting the state of Mobile Gov, government mobile innovators identified a need for guidelines to help create amazing and engaging mobile user experiences. We convened a group to workshop around elements of mobile user experience with the goal to develop user experience practices for government.

We then asked you to set priorities and help hone a set of useful, actionable user experience guidelines and recommendations that agencies could adopt. More than 100 people from 35 federal agencies, states, the private sector and academia helped rank these practices in our crowdsourcing effort.

We took the feedback, did some analysis and posted these guidelines and recommendations developed by Mobile Gov practitioners on the Mobile Gov Wiki.

What We Found

We ended up with a foundation of 42 recommendations for agencies.

Information architecture (IA) practices–that is the logical structures that help people find information and complete tasks–were identified as the most critical recommendation. Bottom line, with less real estate on mobile screens, Mobile Gov developers need to focus on making the information and/or task easier to find.

See the Mobile User Experience Toolkit for help you can use to create good mobile IA.

The conversation on mobile user experience is not finished with just IA. It’s just heating up. As you can see, mobilegov innovators also recommended practices in functionality, content, trustworthiness and design.

What’s Next

First, take a look at the recommendations. They are meant to evolve as this fast moving technology evolves. Let us know what’s missing. Tell us how we can be clearer. Share your UX tips.

Next, you can learn more about the recommendations, how to implement them and get your questions answered at our webinar panel on September 25th with the folks from NIH, Department of Labor and the State Department who led this effort. Check out the archive here.

Last, stay tuned to the Mobile Gov blog, because over the next two weeks we’ll be featuring more recommendations.

So, watch the archived webinar and tell us your thoughts on these practices in the discussion area we’ve set up or in the comments below.

This post was originally published on the Mobile Gov blog from the Mobile Gov Community of Practice—thanks for letting us republish, guys! This discussion is brought to you by the Federal Communicators Network. FCN members are government employees managing U.S. government communications. We've published lots more on this topic. Check out Free Trainings and Events for Gov Communicators.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Burnout? Think Temporary Job

By: Marci Hilt, former Federal Communicators Network leader,
retired in 2010 with 43 years federal service
Photo of the author, Marci Hilt

Do you feel like you could do your job blindfolded and with your hands tied behind your back?

Do you dread coming to work every day? Are you losing respect for your agency, the government, and your profession? Are you tired of your job, even though it was exciting and challenging a few short years ago?

You, my friend, are suffering from burnout. It’s time for you to find a new job. But, in today’s job climate, that may be easier said than done.

Over the years, I saw a lot of people who had obviously burned out. Unfortunately, they didn’t do anything about it; they became the complainers, those folks who never did much of anything. Not only did they complain, many times, they actually went out of their way to keep others from doing their jobs.

When I faced burnout, I tried looking for a new job. I didn’t have any luck applying at different agencies. Then, I stopped looking for a new job in the standard way and started looking for temporary jobs where I could be detailed to another agency. That’s when I discovered a bonanza.

Feel You Could Do Your Job Blindfolded?
Photo of an office worker, a woman weating a red sweater, looking bored and tired
Photo courtesy Flickr user Jenica26, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
There are a lot of temporary jobs available, you just have to keep your eyes open. I started looking for cross-disciplinary or interdepartmental team jobs that needed my skills. My first temporary assignment fell into my lap. At first I thought I was being punished. It was challenging and a little scary. But, it was a new interdepartmental job and my new boss wanted my ideas. I found I liked special assignments – particularly where no one had done the job before. That way, I could define the job the way I wanted to do it.

Don’t worry if the job is only for a few months. Most of the assignments I got were temporary, but they presented me with new challenges and demands that recharged and re-energized me. One of my temporary jobs was for six months, but I ended up working there for more than three years because they liked what I was doing and kept extending the assignment.

Dread Coming To Work Every Day?
Photo courtesy Flickr user danoxster CC BY-SA 2.0
Be creative when you’re looking. Work your contacts to see who knows of any temporary jobs that might be right for you. If you see a possible spot, talk to the person in charge and convince them they need to ask your boss to borrow you to do the job. I did that more than once and one time, my new boss was willing to swap one of her employees with my boss so I could work for her.

Each temporary job you get gives you more job skills to add to your resume, which makes you more valuable to future employers. It also shows your ability to land on your feet in new situations.

We all need a sense of purpose when we work. We need to feel that what we’re doing is important and that what we’re doing makes a difference.

So, if you see a temporary job advertized, be sure to apply. Even if you don’t get that job, you’ll be ready for the next one. Don’t give up: one of those job leads will eventually pan out.

If other employees tease you about your details, remember they’re just jealous because you’re having all the fun.

This discussion is brought to you by the Federal Communicators Network. FCN members are government employees managing U.S. government communications. We've published lots more on this topic. Check out Training Government Communicators - How Do You Grow A Professional Workforce? and Study: Feds Overwhelmingly Want To Innovate, But Agencies Send Mixed Signals.

Monday, September 9, 2013

How You Can Use Google Plus To Boost Your Message: 10 Tips You Can Put To Use Now

Posted by: Sara Crocoll, Presidential Management Fellow on Sept 9, 2013
Photo of the author, Sara Crocoll
In today’s budget climate in the government, we need solutions to our problems that are quick and inexpensive. We need to be able to maximize our efforts to provide original, quality content while simultaneously amplifying our messages to reach audiences where they are online. These two needs are frequently at odds. With Google+, you can fulfill both of these needs.

Developing and laying the proper groundwork for a Google+ page for your agency can deliver significant benefits via search engine optimization.
Google+ logo

What is Search Engine Optimization?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website in a search engine. When you use a Google+ page, Google can pull from that page to feed into their search engine results page. If you maximize your usage of your Google+ page, you have the potential to boost the rank of your websites and make them show up higher when people search for related content. This is important because most people click on the first item, or the first few items, on the results page.

How can I do this? 10 Tips!

    Example of the Google plus one button
  1. +1: Add the ability to Google +1 to your agency’s websites, by adding a button. This is probably one of the most effective ways to improve your rankings, because it allows users who interact with your website to give direct feedback to Google that your page is credible and useful. (Send your developers here.)
  2. 508 Compliance and Visibility: Go to and check the following tabs:
    • Accessibility: Change the presentation of some pages to work better with screen readers and other assistive tools.
    • Profile: Help others discover my profile in search results.
    By checking these two options, you are allowing your Google+ page to be more accessible. Get familiar with the Google Settings page; it allows for more control over your page.
  3. Links: Include all your main web and social media sites in the links section of your Google+ profile. You’ll also want to include these on your YouTube profile, as YouTube is owned by Google. Don’t forget to add your Google+ website to your YouTube profile!
  4. Query Terms: Ensure your preferred query terms related to your organization are included in your Google+ (and YouTube!) Introductions. However your audience is searching for your content, you’ll want to include those terms.
  5. Photos & Video: Add appropriate existing content to Google+ photos and videos. No reason to re-create it! In fact, U.S. government privacy rules say that Google+ shouldn’t be your only method of communication for a piece of information. Be sure that equivalent info is available on a government website somewhere.
  6. Circles: Add partners, related government agencies and relevant stakeholders to your circles.
  7. Communities: Join and engage in communities. Pick reputable, active communities relevant to your organization. Consider the amount of members and the quality of the discussions occurring in the community. Think about what your organization can really add to the discussion. Post regularly in these communities and engage in meaningful dialogue.
  8. Posts: Remember, posts are editable, in case you have updates or corrections or wish to attach media that you did not do previously. Ensure that you are embedding links into posts.
  9. Title Tag: When creating a post, the first sentence becomes part of what is called the title tag. The title tag is highly correlated with Google search rankings. Select your first sentence carefully, including your desired query terms, and remember that the title tag will be the first sentence most people see. Create a bold title for each post and Google will use that as the browser title in Search+. You can bold a title by doing *Word*and you can italicize by _Word_.
  10. Sharing Content: You’ll want to +1 mention others when sharing others’ content.

Google+ Strategy for Maximizing SEO

Search engine optimization word cloud with magnifying class. The cloud includes the words "search," "engine," and "optimization," and the magnifying glass is over the acronym "SEO"
  • Invest in quality over quantity
  • Build G+ networks (via followers, circles, influencers, and communities)
  • Engage with active, relevant influencers and communities
  • Post original, shareable content that is likely to be linked to, re-shared, recommended, helps people and answers questions 

While you should carefully develop your Google+ strategy, hopefully these simple tips will help with maximizing your SEO while using your Google+ page. Many of these tips involve set up and minor maintenance. Consider using content you’ve already developed. You could be pleasantly surprised by the results!

This discussion is brought to you by the Federal Communicators Network. FCN members are government employees managing U.S. government communications. We've published lots more on this topic. Check out 5 Tips – How To Write For The Web and Measure Campaign Effectiveness with Link Shortening.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

How to Be a Fly on the Wall: The Dos and Don'ts of Sharing Executive Discussions

Posted by: Dave Hebert, FCN 2013 Co-Chair
Photo of the author, Dave Hebert.

A sure way to drive employees crazy is to never share what executives discuss or decide until a new mandate lands on the organization’s collective head. While senior leaders should expect some privacy in decision-making and debate, they should also expect to openly hold themselves accountable and to make sure their employees know where the organization is headed.

One way to offer that clear accountability and communication is by keeping people apprised of what happens in important executive meetings, even as those meetings are happening. Here are a few things you should and should not do when you open the doors, so to speak, on high-level meetings.

Live Blogging at Woolfcamp
Photo courtesy Flickr user suerichards, CC BY-ND 2.0

Which Meetings Should Be Live Blogged or Otherwise Covered for an Internal Audience?

Do plan to cover meetings in which topics important to many, if not all, employees will be discussed and related decisions will be made. Don’t cover a meeting simply because executives will be there — they have to attend a lot of meetings, and many don’t interest them, much less everyone else.

Setting Expections about Coverage.

Do all you can to ensure that everyone, including the executives themselves, is aware that the discussion will be documented for employees. Don’t assume that one memo or a mention at the weekly senior staff meeting will make its way through the agency.

Do set explicit expectations about what and how will be covered in the meeting, including the sort of information that will be shared and the media used to share it. Execs need to trust you, and employees will define trust of execs through your coverage. Don’t make employees think they are going to get sensitive info before it’s ready to be shared, and don’t surprise your leaders with a video camera when they think you’re keeping written comments.

Analytics: Measure Your Live-Blogging (or Other Coverage) for Internal Communications.

Do find a way to measure participation, whether through web metrics software looking at your executive blog, email delivery services, or the other analysis tools. You can also poll employees about whether they followed the coverage and why. Don’t assume that everyone will stay glued to your coverage all day (remember, they’re at work) or that attention is the same as assent.

Make It Live for Better Internal Communication.

Do strongly advocate for live or near-live coverage to ensure that the discussion is captured and the word is out. Don’t agree to a process through which meeting notes are approved and scrubbed clean by every cook in the executive kitchen — if this happens, you might as well not cover the meeting.

The Writing: Good Material, Clear Messages.

Do keep the voice and tense of the coverage clear and consistent, and time/date stamp your posts. Don’t make employees have to think about who’s writing the updates or when they were supposed to be written.

Do pay close attention to what’s being discussed so you can pull out the best material to share. Don’t check your email, write that proposal you’ve been meaning to get to, or browse for jobs while you’re supposed to be covering the event.

Do make quotes, paraphrases, and attributions crystal clear. Don’t leave out important contextual information that leaves employees wondering what on Earth these overpaid clowns are thinking.

White Board Sheet Guy
Photo courtesy of Flickr user dannyman, CC BY-ND 2.0

Managing Comments and Participation While Live-Blogging for Internal Communications.

Do come up with one or two good questions to ask individual leaders during breaks or at the end of the event. Don’t ask them a question that would put them in an awkward position with their colleagues (“So, why do you think Brenda’s programs keep getting cut?”).
Do gather and consider how to handle incoming employee comments during the event, whether through email, blog comment section, or otherwise, and bring up good ones during breaks or when asked. Don’t raise your hand to read out feedback every time it comes in during the meeting.

This discussion is brought to you by the Federal Communicators Network. FCN members are government employees managing U.S. government communications. We've published lots more on this topic. Check out Internal Communications To Improve Employee Relations and Your Employee Survey Data Should Drive Internal Communication Strategy... But Be Careful.