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Supporting American Small Businesses

We transformed SBA.gov into a user-centric, accessible platform, increasing engagement by 801% in 2020 through extensive user research and human-centered design, better supporting entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Company/Client
Roles
Activities
  • Experience Design
  • Market Research
  • Content Strategy
  • Knowledge Management
  • Bilingual Content Strategy
  • Accessibility Standards & Best Practices
  • Information Architecture
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Originally, SBA.gov served as a vast repository of information and links, which many users found confusing and difficult to navigate. The site also did not comply with federal accessibility guidelines, making it inaccessible for a significant portion of potential users. This led to a high bounce rate, with 52% of visitors leaving the site from the landing page without further engagement. Our task was to understand our audience better and tailor the site to meet their specific needs, creating a more user-centric online environment.
We initiated our redesign process by conducting extensive customer research, gathering valuable data, and building detailed personas and user stories that reflected the real needs of actual users. This research informed our content strategy and helped us refine the SBA’s brand positioning and integrate a strategic social media plan.
The outcome was a user-friendly, accessible website with clear, plain language and a Spanish-language version, all designed with direct input from our target users. This new site effectively supports hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs and small business owners monthly, providing them with essential tools to start, grow, and sustain their businesses.
Our design strategy was intensely human-centered. We engaged in thorough discovery sessions with the SBA team and conducted diverse forms of user research. This comprehensive approach helped us develop accurate customer personas and journey maps, which guided our adjustments to the site’s content to better meet user needs.

Analytical Approach to User Research

Through customer interviews and live feedback, we gained insights into what users found lacking in the original site. We also performed content audits and competitive analyses to streamline and optimize the content and functionality of the site.

Addressing Unexpected Challenges

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we swiftly adapted our strategy to meet the surge in demand for information on emergency loans and debt relief, enhancing the site’s ability to serve as a crucial resource during unprecedented times.

Clearing Out Design Debt

Our redesign efforts led to the creation of a more intuitive information architecture and a streamlined navigation system. We reduced the volume of content in critical sections like the SBA’s Business Guide from over 300 pages to just 30, significantly enhancing the user experience by reducing the number of clicks needed to find information.

Continuous Improvement and Support

Using Agile methodologies, we continually refined the website, adapting quickly to user feedback and changing needs. Our team also managed the SBA’s help desk and customer support services, ensuring high-quality interactions that reinforced the SBA brand.

Quantifiable Design Decisions

Our findings revealed significant barriers users faced due to non-compliance with accessibility standards and content that did not adapt well to mobile devices, used by 31% of visitors. Our design strategy, therefore, prioritized accessibility and responsive design to accommodate various devices.

Multiple Languages

In addition to support for eighteen different languages, the SBA.gov content strategy included content tailored to Spanish-speaking audiences.

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