Ag reports agency delves into user experience


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The agency that puts out hundreds of annual crop reports wants to make it easier for people to get to them.

The Agriculture Department’s National Agricultural Statistics Service has been working on improving its digital user experience, and officials said the agency is starting to look at making changes to how it handles its data, content and websites.

“We have a multipronged approach to make life easier for everybody — easier for us, the employees, and the public,” the agency’s Chief Technology Officer Michael Valivullah told FedScoop last week. His agency produces national agriculture reports that cover everything from orange yields to the national inventory of pigs — and that were featured in the popular ‘80s Eddie Murphy movie Trading Places.

For one, the service is slowly revamping its existing website to make it more user friendly. Valivullah ultimately wants to cut down the number of clicks it takes website visitors to get to the content they want. Users could start seeing small changes before the end of the year. The service is also evaluating ways to make its content more Section 508-compliant, so that users with disabilities have an simpler time getting what they need from the website.

But most of the changes will happen internally. They’re working a new Web content management system that would help maintain the public-facing website and make processes more efficient internally. Also, officials are working to make it easier for the service’s data collectors to access the systems they need in the field from their devices.

“If you look at the commercial world, user experience can make or break a company,” Valivullah said. “So [with] better user experience, we’re going to have more customers and more use.”

But officials caution that the role out of these plans will be incremental, and the agency is in the process of developing future requests for proposals for this project.

“It’s going to be a while,” Sue King, director of the agency’s public affairs office, said. “We haven’t put out the bid yet.”

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Department of Agriculture (USDA), Departments, Government IT News, mobile and wireless, mobility, Tech