Why Identity is the I in… Human-centered design

If you work for or support a government agency, you’re well aware: there’s a new legislative push towards better digital experiences for constituents. From executive orders, memos to bipartisan senate bills, we’re excited about this new focus on customer access and experience in government. 

But this transition won’t be easy. That’s why we’re launching a new series detailing how focusing on Identity can cover all the bases of improving government services. Starting today, look out for posts to help you ideate, test, and deliver better digital government services to the public. Read on for today’s offering!

Discreetly tucked in the Executive Order (EO) on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government is the term human-centered design (HCD). While it sounds like a specialized term reserved for a select few, it’s used in many sectors and programs. It can be applied by non-design roles like product managers, privacy and security specialists (just ask NIST), and front-end developers. And it’s the best opportunity to bring in customer voices early, putting people at the center of any process to foster usability and access. Identity is central to this humanistic approach.

Humanizing the public’s interaction with government

Did you know there are potentially six different government departments or agencies you might interact with when facing a financial shock? The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides food-purchasing assistance for low- and no-income people, the Department of Health and Human Services funds monthly cash assistance payments to low-income families with children, and the Department of Education can issue student loan deferments and forbearance during economic hardships. This fragmented, tangled experience results in numerous pain points, made worse without a single application for the enrollment of multiple benefits for families. 

To help streamline service delivery during these critical moments for the American people, the Administration launched the nine life experience projects, redesigning how the Federal Government delivers services from a human-centered perspective.

The simplicity of a single point of access is always an objective for Okta. And that’s the experience members of the public should have when sharing their personal information across various agency benefits and services. But we also recognize that, when it comes to their Identity modernization efforts, each department or agency is at a different maturity level. A consolidated user profile can centrally manage the policy and risk level differences that exist between agency applications. 

Identity from a customer perspective

Articulating the customer experience, or journey mapping, is a key deliverable during HCD research. It's a shift in thinking where an agency can appropriately measure their performance from the perspective of the customer and not the agency.

Okta HCD challenge cards

At Okta, we’re uniquely positioned to consider all the moments throughout a user transaction. The places where Identity plays a part in simple, secure, accessible, and equitable access for people. We’ve qualified these moments through a series of problem-solving questions that serve to frame user needs. This is where a statement like “How might we…” comes into play. We’ve encouraged our government customers to ask questions such as: 

  • How might we remove manual processes for ______ when verifying a _____?
  • How might we help ______ navigate online transactions without workarounds?
  • How might we help _____ protect user accounts from hackers?


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Without these or similar questions and without a digital component to government services, many customers are left facing unnecessary burdens or going entirely without access to the services they rely on. We believe secure and seamless Identity should be the standard, regardless of agency. By turning Identity over to Okta, the government can focus on their core mission – designing and delivering services to Americans when it matters most.

Interested in offering your users the HCD approach? Learn how to implement HCD into your Identity framework by downloading Okta's HCD challenge cards today!