Agile Development of Labor Statistics Widget


EconSys assisted the Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labor (DOL) in developing new technology to more
efficiently create, update, and share key monthly data updates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This
technology replaces manual charts that we created individually each month and were unable to update as new data was received each month. The prior process proved to be an ineffective way to visualize and share labor statistics.

The Women’s Bureau requested a proposal for the development of a widget that could be embedded on the
department’s website. This widget would automatically update every month as the BLS report was released and
can be shared on social media platforms easily by users. The widget could also be embedded on other websites that
needed to share or discuss the data as it was released each month.

The Challenge

The widget was intended to be hosted on the Women’s Bureau website, and as such, it needed to be Section 508
compliant and also meet the hosting requirements specified by the Department of Labor (DOL). This required
partnering with a developer with a comprehensive understanding of these requirements and a history of being flexible in adjusting project requirements to meet them.

The Women’s Bureau selected EconSys to build out their application for a variety of reasons that included a
reasonable cost, driven by our small, highly-proficient agile development team and our experience in developing
and designing innovative technology solutions on a tight deadline.

The Solution

Econsys developed a widget that displayed the desired key metrics as well as spark lines (small graphical lines that
indicate data trends in tables) in a Section 508 compliant and mobile-responsive design. The final designs and layout were the results of several weeks of iterative hands-on feedback sessions internally and with our clients at Women’s Bureau.

Further, the Women’s Bureau required the finished product be hosted on the client’s servers. While EconSys
usually hosts applications to avoid additional steps in coordinating with agency IT departments and to aid in future improvements and development, our team is prepared to take the additional steps to transfer the final deliverable to the client. Additional communication was required between the EconSys development team and the DOL IT department in achieving this requirement. EconSys worked carefully with IT stakeholders to determine what was needed by DOL to understand, host, and maintain the resulting product.

To aid in ongoing maintenance and continued improvement, the development team frequently refactored the code base, an agile development technique, to help ensure the code was easily understood, readable, and maintainable by future developers of the widget.

  • Adjusting Code Packages for Section 508 Compliance – The use of automated accessibility testers helped our developers find issues as the application was developed. Some original packages of code did not include the needed Section 508 compliant coding. Since EconSys implements agile development, the team was able to quickly refactor the code to use a different set of packages that were compliant. Towards the end of the contract, a final round of accessibility checking was completed by an accessibility expert inside DOL to ensure full compliance.
  • Compatibility and Compliance Issues Resolved During the Project – The web widget needed to be fully supported by all modern browsers, so the EconSys team repeatedly tested the widget in various browsers and devices. In doing so, the EconSys team was able to quickly identify issues unique to specific browsers, such as font family support issues and undesirable style differences. Internet Explorer 11 is one browser that often comes with complications for JavaScript applications, needing additional settings and coding inside the app to accommodate for quirks when using Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) and asynchronous Promise requests.
  • Streamlined Communication Processes to Ensure Rapid Feedback – When working in an agile development environment, it is crucial to be able to quickly and easily get feedback from the client on changes to the product as it is being developed. EconSys makes use of a Research and Development server hosted in a cloud solution provider to demonstrate the product as it is developed. Because of this, the client can check on the status of their product and provide feedback at their convenience. This frees up both the contractor’s and client’s time as meetings are no longer needed in order to get critical feedback. Additionally, the client has more control and direct input during the development process, resulting in higher satisfaction with the result.
This was one of the best teams I have ever worked with. Thanks for creating such a beautiful and functional widget for us.

Christin Landivar

Women’s Bureau

The Results

Towards the end of the contract, the EconSys development team worked closely with DOL IT to ensure an accurate understanding of the systems that would be hosting the final product. With this understanding, a customized script was created to be able to do the automated update of the data the widget runs on to include the latest statistics from BLS.

In addition, the EconSys team worked ahead of schedule to attempt to install a draft version of the widget on to the DOL servers to help flush out any remaining issues that might arise upon the final installation. In the final deliverables for the contract, EconSys included extensive documentation of the customized script along with the setup and settings needed to install, run, and host the widget on DOL servers.

EconSys was able to meet agency requirements within the six-month timeframe provided while going beyond the original scope to ensure it indeed met the agency’s goals of being sharable and highly visible while adhering to compliance requirements. The client was thrilled with the final result and is excited for the full implementation of the widget.

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