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Design principles design principles are fundamental pieces of guidance that help designers make their applications consistent with the Office of the Chief Technology Officer's (OCTO) standards of quality in the user experience. Designers should apply them when they conceive, design, critique, iterate upon, and launch the user interface and user flow of applications on

Usable by everyone

Accessibility is core to all design decisions. People with disabilities do not have less needs than anyone else. Everyone should be able to use any tool or application regardless of features or complexity.

Design mobile first because it surfaces the most important tasks and information in the most constrained context. By considering a smaller form factor before a larger one, it helps you prioritize the information and choices most critical to the user.

Don’t give Veterans options that aren’t actionable. Avoid dead ends by providing relevant next steps a Veteran can take by leveraging user data and available services.


Focus users on the primary task, free of distractions. Break complex tasks into small logically ordered steps. Provide context, explain impacts, and use VA sources to reduce data entry where possible.

Solve for clarity and consistency first, solve for polish second. Understand the user problem with user flows, sketches, and wireframes before developing high fidelity solutions. Share that work for critique and improvements by looking across the larger ecosystem of before getting to the details.

Veteran first

Design with Veterans, not for Veterans. Testing all digital tools and applications with Veterans reduces the risk of personal bias or assumptions resulting in a bad experience.

Respect Veterans’ time by using research to validate your best conceptual approach. Rather than having Veterans spend time helping you resolve granular design decisions, focus your research on the primary user problem or need.

Base your design decisions on whether the Veteran or caregiver can complete a task over what might “look right.” Everything we design should ultimately make tasks easier for our Veterans. Don’t spend time finessing how something looks if it’s working for the Veteran.

A Veterans’ journey is fundamentally unique, and not limited to The digital experience is a part of a larger, end-to-end government service experience that should connect a Veteran to all the people, places, and services that helps them access benefits. Because of this unique nature, what works in other industries may not always apply.


The customer experience should be consistent across tools, applications, and devices. A Veteran should be able to access the same content and user experience regardless of how they engage with their data.

Use existing collaboration processes and channels to see your work in a larger context. Some of what you’re designing may have been designed before, while some of what you are designing might be entirely new and necessary. Collaborate with the OCTO and Platform team to ensure that you have visibility to spend your best effort on the things that needs the most.

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Last updated: Jun 27, 2022