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A Congress.gov Interview with Stephen Schneider, User Experience Team Lead

Today’s interview is with Stephen Schneider, user experience team lead within the Office of Strategic Initiatives (OSI) Web Services of the Library of Congress. It continues our series of Congress.gov interviews designed to highlight the people who have contributed to the new system (including MegRich, BarryRohit, Andy, and Val). 

Describe your background.stephen-schneider-interview-photo

My background is a mash up of various creative roles. Starting with a BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) from VCU in advertising/art direction in the early 90s, which led me to ad agencies in Richmond, DC & NYC.

Eventually, I left advertising for a degree in Human-Centered Design from Bauhaus legacy graduate school, IIT Institute of Design, in Chicago, where we approached solving business problems with design by mapping solutions to user needs. It was then I began my career in user experience, designing software and web design for a consulting firm, incorporating user research, information architecture, visual design and strategy.

How would you describe your job to other people?

Well, my vision is the same for every project: to provide users with elegant, seamless experiences and universal access to the content they desire. As a designer, I help provide logical paths for users to accomplish tasks, to meet their expectations before they click. So many things in our world are “broken experiences,” but don’t have to be, and I like to think I put users before makers.

What is your role in the development of Congress.gov?

I am team lead of the UX (user experience) group in Web Services, and on Congress.gov, as well as LOC.gov, my job is to oversee the design, usability and accessibility of the user interface.

What is your favorite feature of Congress.gov?

Probably the fact that anyone in the world, any age or background can use the “simple search” paradigm to winnow down results to find exactly what they are looking for. But, moreover, there is a powerful advanced version for the most sophisticated users (in the world!) as well. That and the fact that it is built with responsive design, meaning the screen elements respond to whatever size your browser or mobile device demands.

I also love the fact that I can keep an eye on legislation sponsored or cosponsored by my representative, Chris Van Hollen.

What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the legislative process while working on Congress.gov?

Every bill that has not become law “dies” at the end of the Congress (two year period) in which it was introduced. For a bill to have a chance at becoming law, it must be introduced in the next Congress, when it is given a new number and (possibly) a new title. The bill’s contents might also be different.

What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?

I have been told that an ancestor of my mother’s, in Philadelphia, (probably Jacob Graff) rented the room to Jefferson where he drafted the Declaration of Independence. I have also been told there is a “Thomas Jefferson chair” still in the family.

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