Using HCD to

Redesign a Federal Grant Review System


The application review system for a grants management division of a federal agency was so cumbersome that reviewers and staff had trouble evaluating and tracking applications.

We used Human-Centered Design (HCD) methods including ethnographic interviewing, personas, and journey maps to make the system easier for reviewers and staff to use.

The new system streamlines the review process and makes it easy for reviewers to evaluate, track, and score grant applications objectively.

The problem

The agency provides millions of dollars through grants to fund projects that promote the conservation and enjoyment of historical landmarks. However, the process for applying for and reviewing these grants is another story. The system was cumbersome, time-consuming, and frustrating for both applicants and reviewers. The grants management division decided to redesign their review system using a human-centered design (HCD) approach—putting the applicants and reviewers in the driver’s seat.

The goal was to create a user-friendly and efficient process that would improve satisfaction among applicants and reviewers while also ensuring that grant funds were allocated objectively.

CX in Action

The agency created a cross-functional team, including agency employees and CX/HCD experts from NuAxis. The team used a human-centered methodology to guide the process, starting with research into the needs and pain points of both applicants and reviewers. They also conducted interviews with past grant applicants, reviewers, and agency leadership to gather insights into their experiences using the system.

The team used this research to develop personas and user journeys that represented the typical experience for both applicants and reviewers. These personas and journeys were used as a guide throughout the design process to keep end-users at the forefront of decision-making.

Next, the team identified several areas for improvement, including the application process, review process, and communication. The new system design focused on a transparent review process and improved communication through regular updates for application reviewers and management.

Once the new design was functional, the team conducted user testing with both applicants and reviewers to ensure that the new system was effective and user-friendly. The feedback from these tests was used to refine the design and make further improvements.

The Solution

The new grant review system was presented in early 2022 to overwhelmingly positive feedback! The grants management division has reported that the new process is much easier to navigate, resulting in fewer drop-offs and a higher completion rate. Reviewers have praised the new system for its transparency and ease of use, and the improved communication has led to fewer inquiries and complaints.

Customer Impact

HCD for the win! By focusing on the needs of users and incorporating their feedback throughout the design process, the grants management division was able to create a system that not only meets its goals but also improves the overall experience for everyone involved.

Watch our CX Experts discuss how we used HCD to streamline the grants process.

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