CX Exchange 2023: GSA’s Leilani Martínez on opening fresh ‘digital front door’ to federal services

With the unveiling of a retooled and USAGov en Español, GSA offers new online tools to access federal resources more quickly. We talk with the agency...

The General Services Administration views giving the public digital access to federal resources quickly as one of its driving missions.

In mid-April, GSA unveiled the latest evolution of the government’s digital front door, The site, which aggregates information from across government, has new features meant to help users more easily obtain government services and information, said Leilani Martínez, acting director for the Public Experience Portfolio within GSA’s Technology Transformation Services (TTS).

TTS knows that the site often serves as a first stop for people who need assistance from the federal government, and it’s why Martínez’s team wants to make its customer experience exceptional, she said during the Federal News Network 2023 CX Exchange.

“You really do not need to know how the government is organized or which agency is responsible for which program. You come to us, you look at the list of topics that we have on our site, and you navigate and get to those answers,” Martínez said.

She shared details about the new updated site and about how GSA intends to keep evolving the government’s

Leaning into data to make ‘better version’ of

GSA updated in both English and Spanish. It funded the modernization effort in part through American Rescue Plan funds.

In fiscal 2022, GSA counted more than 105 million visits from users seeking information through and USAGov en Español, as well as other channels, including social media, email and phone calls to the USAGov Contact Center.

The Biden administration, in a December 2021 executive order, directed GSA to make a “digital front door” for individuals seeking federal services.

In terms of success metrics, GSA is looking at how long users spend on the site to get their questions answered. Martínez said that on average users are able to get their questions 5 minutes faster on the updated version of compared to the older version.

“We don’t want people to just navigate and spend so much time on We want to direct them quicker and faster to where they need to be,” Martínez said.

The update has been in the works for over a year, and GSA made a beta version of the updated site available to the public to test in both English and Spanish over a six-month period.

“The idea behind that effort was to really improve the experience for the public,” she said. “We’ve been really spending lot of time looking at our data — quantitative and qualitative data — learning more about our users, understanding their pain points. We worked to really take all those learnings and implement a better version of our sites.”

Streamlining the navigation and the experience

Martínez said the latest version of addresses user feedback that there was “information overload” on the older versions of the webpages.

“Data really showed us that when people were coming to our sites, they were getting a little lost,” Martínez said.

The newest version of simplifies things by putting only one so-called user need per page and reduces the number of links on any given page, she said.

Plus, the updated version of the site reduces the average word count on each page by 65% and decreases the number of links by 79%, Martínez added.

“Some of the pages only have one call to action or a very small number of supporting links that will direct the public to the right answers,” she said. “The idea is really to streamline and simplify the experience so people can get the information faster. We are ensuring that they’re getting to the right information and to the right agency that’s going to help them with their need.”

Creating better CX for GSA employees too

Feedback from GSA employees is also reshaping how the agency approaches customer experience. During beta testing, GSA contact center agents also went through usability testing.

“We wanted to make sure that whatever we were developing was good for them as well because they are actually the frontline people talking to the public at any given time, and they need the answer right there,” Martínez said. “It was not only that we improved the experience for the public, we actually improved the experience with the agents.” is also going through some improvements on the back end of the site and is incorporating U.S. Web Design System principles to improve the experience for content strategists as well as public-facing users.

“We wanted to create consistency across the site and across the federal government. Between that and creating a leaner platform that’s had less customization — so it was easier for employees to interact with — we’ve actually been able to expedite how much work and how many updates we can do,” Martínez said.

During the six-month beta testing period, GSA went through comparative usability testing with both site and the newer beta site.

“We were able to seize that opportunity to really test with the public similar content on both the beta side and on the regular site. We were seeing where people were struggling but also how we were improving the experience by the way we were presenting or structuring content on the new site,” Martínez said.

Implementing interactive help tools to improve response

The updated includes interactive tools that ask users two or three questions about the information they’re looking for. “That allows us to filter out the resources that are not applicable to them and then present them the things that will actually help them,” she said.

The latest website version includes interactive tools to help users looking for information about scams and fraud activities, as well as those looking to contact their elected officials.

GSA relies on human-centered design principles to ensure users can easily find information on the site’s most popular resources. The agency also tailors the website to best serve the needs of both English and Spanish-speaking users.

“Understanding user needs was really a way for us to validate many things that we’ve known over the years but also to understand: What else are we missing here?” Martínez said.

Certain topics, including passports, government benefits and scams, have always been popular on the site.

But USAGov en Español is more than a translation of the English Martínez said the site prioritizes the needs of Spanish-speaking users. For example, USAGov en Español includes in-depth resources on immigration services.

“We look at the data that we have collected over time that really shows what are the needs for Spanish speakers. Some are similar to English speakers, some are not,” she said.

Offering more than language translation

To better understand the needs of all users, GSA works with an interagency Multilingual Community of Practice, which specializes in making sure government-provided digital communications are easily accessible for communities with limited English proficiency.

Martínez said GSA is also looking to serve as a model for the rest of government about how to use data to improve access for underserved communities.

“We’ve been really intentional about making sure we are recruiting a diverse population that can really help us define better the needs for the Spanish language site,” she said. “Many times, these are populations that historically haven’t had access to critical government information — that there’s mistrust. They do not understand how systems work here, so we need to provide more context to the information that we provide.”

GSA is also collaborating with other agencies to help the public more easily connect with the government about benefits and services.

Martínez said GSA is collaborating with other agencies to help them amplify their messaging through social media and other channels.

“What we see many times is that not only are people overwhelmed by the way government is organized and how to navigate it, many times they do not know that certain resources exist and that they’re eligible to apply to a benefit program,” she said.

On the horizon for

A long-term goal is to build up to the point where people can complete transactions with agencies on the site rather than being redirected to another federal website.

“We want them to get to the right source of information, but sometimes we kind of lose track. Do they end up in the right place? Could we be there, along the way, to help them finish that transaction?” she said. “One of our goals is to be able to partner with an agency, where we can streamline those processes on the back end, so that we can actually be able to offer that whole service on”

GSA is also taking steps to make sure the public is able to seek help or government services if they feel more comfortable getting this information over the phone.

Feedback from GSA contact center employees answering phone calls also informs how the agency updates information on the website and vice versa.

“We made the decision many years ago to not have two different databases. There’s one knowledgebase for the contact center agents and the website because we want to be consistent in the information that we provide,” she said. “We’re constantly ensuring that whatever we’re developing and producing is serving all audiences.”

The team behind continues to provide updates to the site. Among them, the site at this point isn’t using chatbots to assist users.

“We used to, and we still want to explore that more. There were some challenges that we were facing with that, mostly in terms of resources. How do we maintain that over time? Definitely, it’s something that we want to explore,” Martínez said.

“There are some things that we know we want to improve on and work on in terms of making sure that those bots continue to be updated, that we always have accurate information that we’re providing to people.”

The team is also looking to make smaller, iterative updates to the site that are less time intensive.

With large updates, “it was taking us a while to be able to process all that data and then act upon it,” Martínez said. “Now, we’re actually doing smaller tests, so that our employees are able to analyze that data and implement recommendations faster.”

To read or watch other sessions on demand, go to our 2023 CX Exchange event page.

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