2016 Report to Congress

Supporting the Development of Federal Shared Services

Shared technology platforms and services have the potential to simplify government products, increase consistency, reduce development costs, and eliminate duplication. Security also benefits by focusing resources on a smaller number of key components.

USDS is uniquely positioned to support the development of these shared services, because it works across many agencies and has visibility into many of the government’s digital service development efforts. This insight enables USDS to invest in developing and promoting reusable platforms and services.

Project Impact Summary

  • USDS supports the development of shared technology platforms and services because they have the potential to simplify government products, increase consistency, and reduce development costs.
  • In May 2016, a USDS and 18F team began implementation work on Login.gov, a service that will provide a secure and user-friendly login process for multiple government digital services. Login.gov is currently being integrated with its first agency customer.
  • Many government digital services are siloed under unique brands and programs, leading agencies to spend time and money redesigning common digital components such as buttons, forms and search bars. In September 2015, USDS and 18F released the U.S. Web Design Standards, a set of components that agencies can adopt to provide their users a consistent, high quality online experience while reducing the chance of duplicative work. Moving forward, GSA will continue to develop the Standards. Since its release, the standards have been downloaded over 17,000 times.

Login.gov Consumer Identity Platform

Many consumer-facing government digital services require individuals to create user accounts in order to access the service. The USDS has helped several agencies implement such systems, including at USCIS, CMS, SBA and IRS. Many more agencies have already implemented their own solutions. Despite several earlier attempts to build a common identity management platform, no such platform has been widely adopted.

Providing a secure and user-friendly login process for the government’s digital services would improve the experience of interacting with government services, and help agencies implement digital services faster and more securely. To that end, the USDS and the General Service Administration’s 18F are working iteratively with a team of technologists from across the Federal Government to build a platform for users who need to log in to government services. The team is coordinating with the Federal Acquisition Service, the Office of Management and Budget, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology on the specifics of the platform.

To build the Login.gov platform, the team is using modern, user-friendly, strong authentication and effective identity proofing technology. The project builds off of the hard work that was already done to create and implement the Connect.gov pilot, an earlier project with similar goals. The team is also using lessons learned from our counterparts in the UK who built GOV.UK Verify. More specifically, the team will accomplish these goals by:

  • Creating a simple, elegant way for the public to verify their identity, log in to federal government websites, and, if necessary, recover their account
  • Building experiences, processes, and infrastructure that will use the latest available technology to safeguard all user data
  • Delivering software that will allow government developers to integrate it within hours, not weeks
  • Iteratively improving the system throughout its lifetime
  • Preserving privacy including mitigating risks and adhering to federal privacy guidelines
  • Following security best practices including implementing easy-to-use multi-factor authentication

The team has identified the first agency to adopt this shared platform, and is in talks with several additional agency customers to be the second adopter early in 2017. Based on the success of the first two initial adopters, the team will scale out the adoption in 2017.

U.S. Web Design Standards

When members of the public access government services online, they’re often met with confusing navigation systems, conflicting visual brands, and inconsistent interaction patterns — all factors that can erode trust in our government’s services.

Buttons across federal websites

A snapshot of buttons across government websites

Recognizing the necessity of consistent, easy-to-use design, many agencies have started creating their own design patterns and user interface (UI) toolkits, but their efforts are often duplicative. Because many digital services are siloed under unique brands and programs, the Federal Government runs the risk of spending time and money reinventing the wheel — that is, recreating common patterns such as buttons, forms, and search bars that already exist. What’s more, creating pattern libraries and toolkits is a time- and labor-intensive process, and one not all agencies have the resources to support.

Designers and developers at USDS and 18F teamed up to address the need for consistent, accessible design components. Together, they created the Draft U.S. Web Design Standards (the “Standards”), a set of open source UI components and a visual style guide that agencies can use to create consistent online experiences. The Standards, which launched in September 2015, follow industry-standard accessibility guidelines and draw on the best practices of existing style libraries and modern web design. To offer the highest-quality product, the Standards team makes frequent updates to introduce new features, fix bugs, provide clearer documentation, and more.

Agencies using the Standards enjoy several distinct benefits. Not only are they providing an enjoyable, consistent user experience, but they’re also saving design and development time that can be dedicated to other projects. Using the Standards, a team can build a site quickly and with minimal effort, allowing their agency to communicate its message more effectively.

Moving forward, GSA’s 18F team will continue to develop the Standards.

Success Criteria Status
Overall Goal: Begin implementation of at least one outstanding common platform by end of 2016. Complete. Implementation of shared login platform began in May 2016. Draft U.S. Web Design Standards released September 2015.
Sub-Goal: Draft U.S. Web Design Standards available for agency use. Complete. Initially released in September 2015, they include an online style guide and downloadable software package. The standards have been downloaded more than 17,000 times. As of September 2016, more than 78 people have contributed to the Standards’ code base, and more than 200 people have participated in conversations on the Standards’ GitHub repository. The Standards team welcomes outside recommendations and contributions, which help drive the project’s process forward.
Sub-Goal: At least three agencies have adopted a shared login service. Incomplete. Development of an interagency login system is in progress, but it is not in use yet. Initial agency customer identified.

Milestones

Web Design Standards

  • September 2015: Draft U.S. Web Design Standards released

Consumer Identity Platform

  • December 2015: Identity sprint completed
  • January 2016: Research starts
  • May 2016: Implementation begins
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