Genevieve Gaudet & Chisun Rees
New York City Mayor's Office of
Innovation and Design
New York, NY (2016)
How can design help make governments and their services more accessible?
ACCESS NYC is an online tool that helps New Yorkers identify public programs or benefits they may be eligible for and also connects them to the right resources.
Built with extensive user research and a mobile-first approach, the redesign of ACCESS NYC is a model for how governments can create more relevant and clear digital experiences and services.
Governments act as service providers, resource engines, and information hubs, among other roles. While public infrastructures can be pretty complex, public services and interactions should be clear and simple.
As communication channels evolve, governments have a responsibility to respond to the changing needs of residents and an opportunity to improve their public services. For the public, their experience often begins with digital touchpoints and interfaces.
Unfortunately, most governmental websites and apps aren’t known for being user-friendly or approachable. By changing the approach to be centered on civic needs and contexts, however, the experience or service can dramatically shift to be more positive and helpful.
ACCESS NYC launched in 2012 as a portal to connect New Yorkers with over 30 local, state and federal benefit programs such as Medicaid, food assistance (SNAP), pre-k school options, affordable housing, veteran benefits, and other important services. While the original ACCESS NYC was an incredible first step towards connecting the public with valuable resources, the initial design was complicated, dense, and disconnected from user needs.
The redesign of the platform was an opportunity to reconsider new standards for digital public service interfaces through a civic-centered design approach.
Widening ACCESS NYC’s impact required a collaborative process with extensive user-research, prototyping, and feedback loops in order to create a more holistic and useful application. By learning more about end-users, the strategy evolved to prioritize mobile devices and making the content’s reading level more accessible by reading level and languages.
The final result was a simplified and brighter interface with a personable tone and a simplified user experience. Design-led research and insights also inspired additional features such as an eligibility screener, customized lists of required documents for applications, and more support for benefit application preparation.
ACCESS NYC relaunched in the fall of 2016 with positive reception and continues to be a model for digital government experiences.