SAM.gov Test Results
One of the most vital parts of any website is its starting point. When a visitor arrives on the main page of your site, they should be able to quickly tell what the main tasks are and how to perform them. Visual cues and plain language are the best ways to accomplish this.
The SAM.gov site was created to consolidate several acquisition and bidding systems in one central location. Individuals and entities can register here to do business with the federal government, and government entities can use the system to check the status of bidding entities. Researchers can also use the site to obtain data on companies who have been excluded from bidding on government contracts.
With all these tasks available, it’s important that visitors are able to quickly figure out where they need to go. The First Fridays Usability Testing Program team worked with SAM.gov to find ways to make their site more usable for their multiple audiences. After watching several testers use the site, problems were identified and solutions suggested. Several of the problems dealt specifically with the homepage and its various starting points.
Problem 1: Main Navigation Links Too Vague
The navigation on the homepage provided very little information.
Solution 1: Add Descriptive Text to Navigation Links
The buttons on the navigation bar were clarified.
Problem 2: Account Creation and Registration Confusing
Visitors were confused as to whether creating an account was the same as registering their entity.
Solution 2: Simplify Text with Plain Language
The “What is SAM” text was moved out of the blue boxes and replaced with plain language text that explained how to create an account as well as how to register an entity, along with clear buttons to identify the way forward.
Problem 3: Search Box Confusing
The purpose and scope of the search box wasn’t clear to visitors.
Solution 3: Define Searchable Content
What was searchable on the site was clarified.
In just a few short weeks, the SAM.gov Web team was able to make a few seemingly small changes that made a huge impact on the usability of the homepage.
None of these changes are dramatic, but it took an outside perspective to see that they were needed. By taking a day to observe how real visitors encounter their site, the SAM.gov team was able to identify changes both simple and complex that needed to be made. And by taking on the simple changes quickly, they were able to make a drastic difference in the usability of their site.