Department of Veterans Affairs
VA digital products were historically built with the bureaucratic system as the primary user. This resulted in huge application backlogs, high call center volumes, and high levels of frustration for both Veterans and the employees trying to serve them.
Together with VA and our prime contractor Ad Hoc, our challenge was to provide a simple, user-centered digital portal for Veterans and their family members to learn about, apply for, track, and manage their benefits.
We worked with the Veterans Experience Office and U.S. Digital Service at VA to conduct pioneering human-centered design research. Backed by that research, we then led the content and supported the design and development of this plain language, mobile-first digital portal, built with Veterans for Veterans at every step.
What we did
Our content team:
Wrote and edited all plain language informational content for the site
Provided plain language UX writing for 12 online tools and services
Created a robust content style guide, which became the basis for the VA.gov style guide
Developed an error message style guide that helped representatives better assist site users
Managed subject matter expert reviews and content approvals
Informational content pages published
Online tools and services for Veterans
Plain language word definitions created for style guide
Vets.gov began making a meaningful difference in the lives of Veterans—and VA employees—almost immediately. For example, when the site added a secure, plain language, online health care application in June 2016, the number of Veterans applying for health care online increased from 62 per day to over 500 per day within the first 60 days. VA's former chief information officer hailed Vets.gov as "the gold standard for how citizens interact with government agencies." The site proved so successful that it became the model for VA.gov modernization.
Veterans had applied for health care and education benefits on Vets.gov by the end
Veterans had updated their contact information on Vets.gov within the first 3 months of implementing personalization features—reducing call center volume for the second-most called about issue