Acting as the main starting point to public assistance in the state of Michigan, form DHS-1171 is the mandatory first step for the more than 2 million residents who receive state aid. The application was nearly 40 pages long, contained over 1,000 questions, and was the longest form of its kind in the country. The length and breadth was a hurdle for residents and a burden for state administrators to process. There had to be a better way to capture the information the state and Federal government needed and make the already stressful process of applying for assistance easier for residents to comprehend.
Tandem engaged with the project to help identify ways to reduce the complexity of the form as well as improve the overall experience of caseworkers and applicants. We performed extensive field research including several visits to various HHS offices to understand how the form is used, the policies around it, and where the pain points were for people.
Using the findings, our design team used color and typography to create a more empathetic and less time-consuming experience for applicants while still meeting the requirements for processing. Tandem redesigned the overall experience of completing the form, making it less intimidating and much less lengthy.
The total overhaul of form DHS-1171 allowed us to shorten it by 80%. After a pilot program in 2017, the form was rolled out statewide in January 2018. The form is truly the first of its kind, with a focus on human-centered design to meet the needs of both applicants and caseworkers.