The 18F Methods are a collection of tools that describe how our teams put human-centered design into practice. We’ve gathered them here and created simplified instructions to help other organizations and federal offices adopt human-centered design into their own projects. These cards are focused on design in the context of digital services, but can be adapted to non-technical design projects as well.
The basics of human-centered design
Human-centered design, also referred to as “user-centered design,” is a methodology that incorporates feedback from the people for whom you are designing throughout the design process. The goal of human-centered design is to end up with a solution that is tailored to meet people’s needs, with little wasted effort and reduced risk. To achieve this goal, design teams at 18F talk with and observe real users to understand their needs, context, and challenges, come up with design concepts that might address these challenges, and then test them with real users. Find more resources on human-centered design in government in 18F’s User Experience Design Guide or at digital.gov, including this overview of the basics of human-centered design in government from the Lab@OPM.
Using the 18F Methods
The 18F Methods are broken up into the four broad design phases your team is likely to go through during a project. The four phases are Discover, Decide, Make, Validate. We provide cards that walk you through the steps of each phase and cards that deal with the fundamentals. While some cards refer to other methods, you may use them independently. You do not need to use all the cards in a section or complete certain tasks before moving on to others. Take whatever cards are most useful to your team and incorporate more tools as you’re ready.
We’ve included additional guidance for using these methods in government research, specifically around the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA). We’re only able to include brief guidance on the PRA, and federal workers should check with their agency counsel for additional guidance. You should also read the cards in the fundamentals section for more background on conducting design research as a government employee.
Go behind the scenes
As with all of 18F’s products, the 18F Methods are completely open source. You are free to copy, share, or reuse them as you wish. We also welcome input from the public or our government colleagues, whether it’s correcting a typo or suggesting a new method to include. You can see our guidelines for contributing on GitHub. To share your feedback about the Methods site, click the Provide feedback button that you can find at the bottom of each page or open an issue or pull request in our GitHub repository.
March 07, 2023
- Added a new method card: Stakeholder Influence Mapping
- Updated our content vision
- Refined the call-to-action on our intercept feedback form to make it more clear that it’s for sharing feedback about the 18F Methods site
- Archived out-of-date and redundant resources and templates, and updated links to point to the where the canonical resources and templates live in the 18F UX Guide resources library
January 30, 2023
- Heading links
- External link icons in accordance with USWDS
- Link testing, label syncing, and automatic “new” issue labeling
- Migrated the Method Cards site from Federalist to cloud.gov pages
- Removed and/or updated old reference links
- Archived and updated wiki content to reflect current working practices
Full Changelog: https://github.com/18F/methods/compare/v2.8.0…2.9.0
January 09, 2023
- a participant agreement template for studies in which participants will be compensated
- Containerized the local build by adding a Dockerfile and some basic Docker configs
- Renamed “incentives” card to “compensation” and brought content up-to-date with latest OGC guidance
- Cards to include guidance on how to learn about and avoid possible hazards and harms when using the following methods:
- Fixed some broken links
- Fixed up a bug with the mobile button overlay that was keeping the menu from expanding at ~928 pixels by making desktop breakpoints consistent
Full Changelog: https://github.com/18F/methods/compare/v2.7.0…v2.8.0
January 09, 2023
- Add new method: Lean coffee by @juliaklindpaintner in https://github.com/18F/methods/pull/440
- Affinity mapping by @juliaklindpaintner in https://github.com/18F/methods/pull/442
Full Changelog: https://github.com/18F/methods/compare/v2.6.0…v2.7.0
March 10, 2020
- Added new methods:
- Added Methods Team email address to the footer and About page — please feel free to contact the team with questions, comments, or suggestions!
- Fixed broken link on Content Audit method and added it to the homepage.
- Distributed a survey to federal government employees for feedback on the 18F Methods with 96 responses as of 3/10/2020. Still accepting survey responses until 3/27/2020 EOB.
December 23, 2019
Since our last release, the 18F Methods team has formalized internal processes, established a new team of contributors, refined and added content, and begun an initiative to connect with users across government agencies.
- Added new method: Hopes & Fears
- Added criteria for new methods suggestions to our Github Wiki
- Added guidance for Methods Team on how to submit, edit, and refine new and existing methods to our Github Wiki
- Changed the “Applied in government research” language to “Considerations for use in government” across all cards
- Refined method: User Scenarios language has been updated based on feedback from the TTS Diversity & Accessibility Guilds
- Refined method: Design Hypothesis now includes a “harm prompt” to help teams consider unintended consequences of their design work
- Archived Bodystorming method based on internal survey results suggesting that it is not a commonly used method
- The project contributors past and present have been updated in our README
- Added links to several missing methods to homepage summaries
Thanks to all those who have contributed to these updates and to the 18F Methods over the course of 2019: Tiffany Andrews, Amirah Aziz, Christine Bath, Peter Burkholder, Elisa Chen, Matt Dobson, Leah Gitter, Nikki Lee, Julia Lindpaintner, Andrew Maier, Eric Richards, Alicia Rouault, Peter Rowland, Nikki Zeichner, and members of the TTS Diversity and Accessibility Guilds
January 24, 2019
- Spanish version of the Example Design Research Participant Agreement
- Added a new entry to our Wiki on the 18F Methods team’s 2019 goals
- Print styles for the new homepage and additional resources.
October 25, 2018
- Clear overview of categories on homepage: The homepage has been updated to display brief summaries of method categories and links to the individual cards, replacing the long scroll of all cards. This is intended to give users a quick overview of the purpose and use cases for each category.
- Changed “Method Cards” to simply “Methods”: Recognizing this as more of a digital tool, we removed the print-centric “card” reference.
Print the methods: In cleaning up the homepage we’ve created a
- Interview checklist resource to the ‘Stakeholder and user interviews’ method card: This printable interview checklist outlines and provides suggestions for key moments in the interview process, including introductions, warm-up questions, topic-specific questions, activities, wrap-up, and post-interview debrief. Sample prompts and links to additional resources are provided within.
- Resources for Usability Testing: Example usability testing script for easy reuse, an example interview debrief worksheet to facilitate post-interview conversation, and an example rolling issues log to help capture results from a usability test
- Redirects from
/category/methodso user can reference a method directly
- Instructions on Usability Testing card with five simple steps
- README for GitHub repository
- Styles associated with category summary pages, mobile display, and additional resources
- Permalinks to category summary pages
- The Open Graph and Twitter share image URLs
- Task analysis hotfix
- Mobile padding and print button display
- Protected against security vulnerabilities by updating required gems to most recent versions
- Typos across several cards
February 02, 2018
- Meta info for social sharing
- Jekyll smartify filter
- Redirect for heuristic evaluation
- Underline to method titles
- Missing “How to” heading to Cognitive Walkthrough method Fixed
- Naming of method Heuristic Analysis to Heuristic Evaluation (thanks @headquarters!)
- Our README, CONTRIBUTING, ISSUE and PULL REQUEST templates
- Method pages to use more markdown
- Secondary page button colors to white
- Header navigation to individual method pages
- H1 to be H2 within each method
- Content on Content Audit method as non-printable (so it fits in the printable area)
- A few permalinks
- Top navigation flashing bug (thanks @headquarters!)
- Print layout for individual methods
- Minor styling inconsistencies
- Rounded corner rendering
September 18, 2017
- Removed Metrics definition card and added Design hypothesis card. We learned that the Metrics definition card was hard for people to understand how to apply. We started making revisions and they became so significant that the title Metrics definition no longer fit. So we made a new card, Design hypothesis.
- Updated the
ConsentForm.docxfile based on conversations with GSA’s Office of General Counsel (our lawyers). The form is now titled “Design Research Participant Agreement” (The filename hasn’t changed due to older links). The form now includes language to address the Anti deficiency Act, and provides links to our Privacy Act Notice and Privacy Impact Assessment for Design Research.
- Added Google Tag Manger to gain a deeper understanding of how folks are using the method cards.
- Updated styles to make margins consistent. Sections no longer force new pages when printing from the home page.
- Updated to the latest US Web Design Standards v1.3.1.
June 12, 2017
We redesigned the entire Methods Cards site to bring its visual styling and interaction patterns into alignment with 18F’s website, which follows the US Web Design Standards.
We transitioned the Methods Cards site into Federalist, making the site easier to host and to maintain. As a part of this process, we reconfigured the site backend to simplify its structure and to remove unnecessary files.
We updated the Methods Cards source files to use Markdown, so that the individual cards can be more easily updated, and so that our documentation is consistent with other guides produced by 18F.
We added CSS print styles and new print buttons, in order to make it easier for users to print the entire set of cards, or a single card of their choice, or all the cards of a specific type (such as the full set of “Validate” cards).
We completed a thorough content audit of the website to identify places where the text included too much jargon from the design and tech industries. We then updated the cards to use more plain language, so that they will be easier for a wider variety of users to understand.
We started adding links to examples that demonstrate how 18F has used specific methods in our own work. We will continue adding these examples as they become available.
Special thanks to @jenniferthibault, @line47, @andrewmaier, @colinpmacarthur, @MelissaBraxton, and @awfrancisco for their contributions to this release.