Design articles

Prioritizing Louisiana users to create a better agriculture and forestry website

November 29, 2023

Your website may be the first interaction your customers have with your organization, so it’s critical that you build it around their needs. In this blog post, we explore how the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry focused on key elements to improve the experience for their users.

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Become an accessibility champion by using simple mockup annotations

June 28, 2023

Designers can live in the visual world of user interface (UI) design without often considering what’s under the hood

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Using human-centered design to improve customer experience: an AFCEA discussion

March 01, 2023

On January 18, 2023, leaders and executives within the public healthcare ecosystem convened at the annual AFCEA Bethesda Health IT Summit.

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The importance of adding accessibility design reviews to the design process

February 22, 2023

To create accessible and inclusive experiences, you need to pay attention to accessibility throughout your design process, not just at the end.

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Giving data a soul: Using human-centered design to create powerful data visualizations

February 15, 2023

Data visualizations are a crucial tool to help us make sense of the massive amounts of data out there, but how many times have you seen a data visualization that you couldn’t understand?

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Conversation design: A tool for inclusivity

January 19, 2023

It may seem obvious, but often forms feel more like interrogations than conversations. State your name. Next. Phone number. Next. They can lack any sense of dialogue, but also feel downright rude.

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Developers are humans too: Why API documentation needs HCD

August 02, 2022

Human-centered design can be hugely beneficial to API documentation and the developers who reference it. Here are some ways to ensure the technical content is clear and concise.

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A quick study in the benefits of a cohesive cross-functional team

July 26, 2022

The benefits of working on a cross-functional team are many, and the experience is impactful for both the team and the customer. Let’s look at an example at how the flexibility of this kind of teaming helped us successfully produce under both time constraints and changing needs.

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Using design systems for digital success within the federal space

July 18, 2022

Design systems can be an important tool for agencies looking to scale their digital transformation and improve services to the public. Read more to learn what problems design systems can address and what lessons we’ve learned in developing them.

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The case for null in design systems

July 05, 2022

Sometimes an intentional absence of content is what’s needed in a design system. Here, we’ll explore why.

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Bringing service design to the VA digital services platform

March 16, 2022

To meet the needs of internal customers, Ad Hoc’s platform service design team takes a service design approach to continuously gather feedback and use that information to improve user interactions and experiences with the VSP program.

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Developing a focus style for a themable design system

February 08, 2022

On a recent project, we had a set of focus styles built into a design system that were inconsistent and ineffective, leading to a not-so-great end user experience.

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The right benchmarks

November 30, 2021

While government websites don’t need to match or outpace commercial websites on design novelty or retention metrics, they should aim to outperform on ensuring users accomplish their goals easily and efficiently.

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Improving government services, by design

October 13, 2021

We know that in order to build effective software, we need to understand the service’s current process. That’s where we turn to service design tools and methodologies.

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Imagining an app to simplify student loan forgiveness

December 18, 2020

What’s needed is a simple, purpose-built website to help borrowers apply for loan forgiveness, and help them stay enrolled in payment programs.

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Grow your design career at Ad Hoc

September 17, 2020

We recently launched a new career ladder for the design practice. Each step has clearly-defined competencies and responsibilities that help staff chart a path for how to grow at Ad Hoc.

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The new Ad Hoc Government Digital Services Playbook

August 18, 2020

The 2020 version is now a standalone playbook that any federal agency can use to replace enterprise software with proven techniques from the world of commercial software.

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Accessible design for cognitive considerations

May 27, 2020

It’s important for designers and developers to consider the more nuanced difficulties that “thinking” disabilities and impairments can cause for users.

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Accessibility Camp 2020

April 20, 2020

This January, 33 Ad Hoc team members came together in sunny Orlando, Florida for the first Ad Hoc Accessibility Camp, a three-day gathering to learn and practice making our services more accessible.

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Four myths about applying human-centered design to government digital services

February 20, 2020

While human-centered design (HCD) is gaining traction, its underlying concepts are sometimes misunderstood. This can mislead teams into thinking they’re working in a human-centered way when in fact, their work is largely driven by requirements.

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Accessibility without fear and beyond compliance

February 07, 2020

Accessibility isn’t just about checking a box. It’s about an equitable, inclusive future for all.

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Why design skills are a power-up for researchers

January 23, 2020

Figuring out your research questions, finding participants, and doing the research are only part of the challenge. Perhaps the most significant work comes when you need to tell the story of your research.

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Navigating government barriers to human-centered design

October 22, 2019

Human-centered design practitioners in government face an entirely different world of constraints and incentives than their industry peers. For human-centered design folks entering government work, these constraints can feel like a barrier to designing better services.

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Human-centered design helps government make better decisions

October 16, 2019

Why is human-centered design different? Why should you pay attention to this term, and how can it add value and meaning to government work?

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Design systems in government: How to ease handoffs

October 11, 2019

The end of a contract and subsequent transition represents a risk: not only will the system potentially sit idle or be forgotten, but the culture change you’ve been trying to effect may stop as well.

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Design systems in government: When to start

October 03, 2019

These two systems provide a helpful contrast for what it looks like when you begin a project with a design system and when you add it later. Let’s dig in.

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Design systems in government: Improving documentation for better collaboration

September 26, 2019

In this post, we’re going to provide some guidance on building or maintaining the documentation for design systems, but many of these concepts could easily apply to other types of projects.

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Design systems in government: Communication is critical

September 18, 2019

Design system communication is a two-way street. Establishing a strong communication strategy to get information from teams using the design system and provide the core team with information is critical for its success.

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Design systems in government: Less can be more

September 12, 2019

Let’s examine two directions you can take when creating a government design system: incorporate everything into the design system, or make the design system as small and flexible as possible.

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The 21st Century IDEA Act Playbook Part 5: Scaling design systems

September 10, 2019

The details of how the Office of Management and Budget will interpret this mandate into regulation are still to be determined, and it’s important that those regulations provide a smart, flexible way for agencies to adopt the USWDS.

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The 21st Century IDEA Act Playbook Part 1: Accessibility, appearance, and overlap

August 15, 2019

Reading the IDEA Act, I saw much of how Ad Hoc works with our customers on government digital services. I thought it would be helpful to share our experience in implementing these kinds of digital services.

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Expanding the possible with the Find Local Help tool

June 20, 2019

Find Local Help is a tool from that connects people to in-person, one-on-one help signing up for health insurance. In 2017, CMS contracted with Ad Hoc to improve the performance and user experience of the tool.

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A case for incremental change and accessibility

June 18, 2019

As we consider accessibility, we also need to keep in mind the impact of disruptions, particularly for audiences who rely on predictability and for whom recreating their accommodations can be a painful process.

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Prototyping the Ad Hoc Hotel & Casino

June 13, 2019

We used this scenario to introduce people to the human-centered, service-design-rooted processes we employ to understand a problem, learn quickly, and adjust.

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The power of being naive

April 23, 2019

Subject matter naiveté is our expertise. We’re hired to be experts in process, creation, and problem solving, and the primary tool we use to do this work is asking questions.

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Creating a human centered information architecture on VA's developer portal

April 17, 2019

VA's Developer Portal is the front door access to VA's high-quality APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) which developers can use to learn about and access services using VA data.

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Qualitative and quantitative research

March 14, 2019

Most of our work is focused on qualitative studies, and we find that there is often a lack of clarity among our stakeholders on the benefits of qualitative versus quantitative data.

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Ad Hoc’s UX Principles

January 17, 2019

Over the course of 2018, the UX team at Ad Hoc refined our principles. Because a new year is always a great time to reflect on what’s important, we’re sharing our principles here.

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Ad Hoc’s design team experiments with a book club

December 11, 2018

Four months ago, when so much felt uncertain and I was getting ready to begin my first day at Ad Hoc, passages from Bird by Bird are what made the excitement swallow the anxiety in my stomach.

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Our four day discovery sprint with San Jose

October 25, 2018

The focus of our sprint was MySanJose, a mobile app that residents use to make service requests of five services, such as reporting abandoned vehicles, or graffiti.

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Developer-driven focus management for single-page applications

February 20, 2018

This post will outline some best practices for focus management, and how it relates to accessibility.

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This is a test

January 18, 2018

Details have emerged as to just how bad the bad design was that led to the false ballistic missile alert in Hawaii last weekend.

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What Jurassic Park can tell us about human resilience and human-centered design

December 21, 2017

The ways we engage with government websites and services reveals the resilience of people. We work to adapt to processes and make the technology work for our purposes even when they aren’t suited to us.

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Guest lecture at the Rhode Island School of Design

October 06, 2017

Ad Hoc Creative Director Danny Chapman recently guest lectured at a Civic Design class at the Rhode Island School of Design.

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Accessibility: Start with the right tools

September 14, 2017

When people ask what I do for a living, I reply “Web accessibility designer.” I’m proud of that fact; I get the chance to make the web better every working day.

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UX Offsite 2017 in Portland, Oregon

July 28, 2017

Our growing UX team got together in real life in beautiful Portland, Oregon last week to talk, work, drink lots of coffee and tea, eat, and generally, spend some quality time together.

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Ad Hoc and the State of California

June 19, 2017

Ad Hoc is actively seeking partners and team members in California, especially in the capital, Sacramento. We’re looking to hiring software engineers, designers, and product management professionals for all sorts of positions.

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Podcast on responsive design at

February 08, 2016

Today, Ad Hoc Creative Director Danny Chapman joined USDS Design Lead Emily Wright-Moore in a podcast about the project on Responsive Web Design.

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