We’re looking for an experienced manager to lead our UX team
“When I first applied for the loan modification, I wasn’t behind, so they told me that my chances of getting a loan modification weren’t good, that they needed to see me having some difficulty, maybe being behind a few months, showing that I was having difficulty maintaining my mortgage. Well I did that, ended up getting three months behind and that’s when the notice of foreclosure letters started to come. I just became very disappointed in the whole process… I wish there was more information about how it works.”
We heard this during a usability test in Memphis, Tennessee, last December. I work as a User Experience (UX) Designer for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and part of our mandate as a federal agency is to accept complaints and other feedback from the public about financial products and services. My team was in Memphis testing a new prototype for our online consumer complaint form. While we received positive feedback on our design work, our participants’ ongoing struggles made it incredibly clear that we had a lot more work to do.
About our team
The mission of the CFPB is to help make consumer finance markets work for Americans by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. From the Bureau’s founding in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, it has always been clear that we need to leverage design and technology in order to achieve these goals.
I joined the Bureau in 2013 as part of our first class of Technology and Innovation Fellows, which is a program that our early technology team designed in order to take advantage of design and technology talent outside of Washington, D.C. Fellows serve two-year terms from anywhere in the country with occasional travel to our headquarters in D.C. Our first class of 30 designers and developers quadrupled the size of the existing Design & Development Team and radically changed our ability to serve the Bureau. We continued to grow throughout 2013 and 2014, including the hiring of our 2015 class of fellows, who started in January.
The role of UX specialists in a government agency
As the larger design and development group has grown, our group of UX designers has been working on the best ways to integrate user research, content strategy, and user-centered design into the Bureau’s initiatives for rulemaking, supervision, enforcement, and consumer engagement.
When I arrived two and a half years ago, employees across the organization already had a basic understanding of and appreciation for user-centered design, prototyping, and usability testing, so stakeholders and subject matter experts were already interested in participating in the design process. We didn’t need to “sell” the concept of user-centered design; our role has been to take it to the next level.
Leisa Reichelt, Director of User Research for the UK’s Government Digital Service, wrote about the importance of this shared ownership of user experience in her article “There is no UX, there is only UX”:
It is really important that no one in the team can point to someone over in the corner and put all the burden of user experience on that guy. No one person, no small group of people can be made responsible for the user experience of a service. It is down to the entire team to achieve this, and we need to drag people into the team who make decisions way before we get on the scene.
Our UX designers, researchers, and content strategists add to this base understanding of UX through many means. We facilitate working sessions, wireframe designs, diagram complex systems, communicate functional specifications, plan user research, and work to maintain consistency across our products, platforms, and breakpoints. Jared Spool, founder of UIE, recently wrote about this balance in “Hiring UX experts versus giving your team their own UX skills”:
UX is a complex field because there are lots of complexities: accessibility, mobile design, working in government agencies, working in an agile development process, and dealing with cross-cultural needs, to name a few. Yet, these are edge cases. 80% of UX work is quite routine and when learned by everyone on the team, creates consistently good designs.
What this means for our UX designers:
- We get to work alongside economists, attorneys, data analysts, and other experts in their fields to create tools, services, and regulations to help American consumers; and
- We’re more able to focus on the complexity of designing for the entire American public in a marketplace known for fine print, confusing terms, and deceptive marketing.
What we’re doing
In four years, the CFPB has proposed new rules for mortgage servicing, prepaid cards, payday loans, money transfers, and debt collection. We’ve established partnerships with schools, libraries, and financial counselors to help educate and empower consumers. We’ve helped return over $10 billion to the American public as a result of our enforcement actions. As our team of designers and developers has grown, we’ve also launched several products and services to help advance the mission of the Bureau:
- We’ve created print and online resources to help consumers understand the home-buying process, shop for a mortgage, and understand the terms before they sign.
- We’ve launched tools to help students compare college costs and determine their repayment options.
- We’ve designed proposed standardized disclosures for prepaid cards to help consumers understand differences in costs and fees.
- We’ve designed and developed a web-based mapping tool to help our examiners identify redlining and other discriminatory lending practices.
- We’ve launched eRegulations, a web-based tool that makes regulations easy to find, read and understand.
For the remainder of 2015, we’re focusing on several initiatives:
- We’re improving our overall web presence at consumerfinance.gov as a platform for future guides, tools, and services.
- We’re consolidating our consumer complaint forms into a unified experience with support for complex complaints that involve multiple companies.
- We’re developing applications to search and analyze data from consumer complaints, comments, and inquiries.
- We’re creating new types of interactive disclosures to help ensure that consumers know all the facts when they’re making financial decisions.
How we work and what we’re looking for
Our Design & Development Team manages this work by empowering small, cross-disciplinary teams to collaborate remotely and get things done. Our UX designers work alongside graphic designers, front- and back-end developers, data specialists, and subject matter experts every day, with some of them serving as the scrum master or product owner for their project team. We meet as cross-project “feedback houses” to help spread information among designers, each project team presents their recent work on Friday afternoons, and we use our publicly-available Design Manual to maintain design and brand patterns across projects.
The next phase in our growth is hiring an experienced manager to lead our disciplines of interaction design, user research, and content strategy as a mentor, supervisor, technical expert, and visionary advocate for user-centered design. The UX Lead position will have an option for working remotely outside of Washington, D.C., though it will require a significant amount of travel to our headquarters as well as other locations where we conduct user research. We want to find the best possible candidate to help our team grow, so we’re conducting a national search.
We hear from hundreds of American consumers every day who believe that we may be able to help them find a solution to problems that are crippling their day-to-day lives. Designers are a part of the solution here. Please join us.
To learn more about the CFPB’s UX Lead position, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.