The U.S. Healthcare.gov, the site that delivers former U.S. President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare plan for veterans crashed catastrophically when it launched in 2013. To fix the site a team of developers and designers, largely picked from Silicon Valley, arrived at Washington DC. Their rescue efforts gave inflation to a team of techies who later created the core of the United States Digital Service (USDS), a startup under the White House committed to redesigning better government technology.
Last week, that legacy portal led to the launch of a new website for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Instead of crashing, VA.gov seemed to be delivering on its commitment. This is the first major public redesign of a US government website that remits public services since healthcare.gov and it’s a preview of things to come. For the first time, veterans can now change their contact information in one place, rather than update multiple profiles across the department, and design a personalized dashboard to view the status of their services and claims.
The early Veteran Affairs’ website was a maze of legalese spread across hundreds of pages. For instance, users applying for healthcare could only perform, if they had precisely the right versions of Adobe Acrobat and Internet Explorer, even 70 percent of visitors got an error message. The USDS started creating VA.gov in 2014 as an alternative to delivering housing, health, and administrative services in a single, simplified site where 2 million people have already used it, and healthcare applications online soared from 8 percent to 50 percent by 2017.