VETS.GOV

Department of Veterans Affairs

Challenge

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.

Role

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

150+

12

200+

Informational content pages published

Online tools and services for Veterans

Plain language word definitions created for style guide

Impact

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.

~600,000

Veterans had applied for health care and education benefits on Vets.gov by the end
of 2017

~60,000

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