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Methods and best practices for getting to know your customers

Customers use many different channels to reach USDA information and services. As USDA employees, we must understand our customers: What they need, how they use these channels, and how we should talk to them. By doing user research, we can uncover our customers’ pain points, goals, and behaviors. Using this knowledge, we can create better experiences for them.

  • Gain qualitative insights on your customers so you have a broad and deep understanding of what they’re trying to do on your website
  • Sync your website’s information architecture—how your content is organized for use—to match your customers’ needs and behaviors
  • Understand how to evaluate your content and perform a content audit
  • The 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA) lists requirements (including some outlined here separately) that new and redesigned websites must: 

    Sec. 3(a)

    1. Comply with Section 508 accessibility requirements

    2. Have consistent appearance

    3. Not overlap with or duplicate legacy websites

    4. Have a site search feature

    5. Use industry-standard secure connection (https)

    6. Be designed around user needs based on qualitative and quantitative data 

    7. Have an option for a more customized digital experience

    8. Be fully functional on common mobile devices

    Section 3(b)(2)(A) 

    • Report to Congress their agency’s most-viewed or most-utilized websites and services


    Sec. 3(e)

    • Comply with U.S. Website Standards (the U.S. Web Design System)

  • The Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) of 1995 requires that agencies obtain OMB approval before requesting most types of information from the public. “Information collections” include forms, interviews, and record keeping. The PRA says you must get OMB approval before you ask standardized questions to 10 or more respondents (within a 12-month period).

  • Circular A-11 guidance (PDF, 129 KB) requires agencies to measure customer experience (CX) in seven domains: customer satisfaction, confidence/trust, service quality, ease, efficiency, equity of process and employee helpfulness. In particular, A-11 says that agencies that are High-Impact Service Providers (HISPs)—including USDA—must take additional steps for CX assessment and reporting.

  • The Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. § 552a (PDF, 188 KB) establishes a code of practices that governs the collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of information about individuals that is maintained in systems of records by federal agencies. A system of records is a group of records under the control of an agency from which information is retrieved by the name of the individual or by some identifier assigned to the individual.

  • OMB Memorandum M-07-1616 (PDF, 227 KB) requires agencies to develop and implement a breach notification policy. Notably, the privacy and security requirements addressed in this Memorandum apply to all Federal information and information systems. Breaches subject to notification requirements include both electronic systems as well as paper documents. In short, agencies are required to report on the security of information systems in any format (e.g., paper, electronic, etc.).

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This page was last updated July 31, 2019.

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The USDA Digital Strategy is being produced iteratively and relies on feedback from you to tell us what content you need to see, as well as what is and isn’t working. To send feedback, email us at