Too much of the information on federal websites is poorly written and is too complex, especially for the web. Content managers need to pay more attention to the clarity of information. Most federal web content is covered by the Plain Writing Act of 2010, but transforming federal material into plain language will be a major challenge, especially since the underlying paper-based information is poorly written.
Customers don't know - and don't care to know - how government is organized. So why make them go from agency (website) to agency (website) to get the full picture of what govt has to offer them on any subject? Why make them go through a long list of links on USA.gov? Why not get agencies together around content topics or customer groups(owning a home, sending kids to college, services for seniors, contractors) and ...more »
Launching sites without usability testing and 508 testing is a waste of time and money - it's always more expensive to fix these issues when left to the last minute. Rather, institutionalizing user testing (like GSA's First Fridays, for example) as well as 508 testing into the development cycle of government websites will result in better, more efficient and cheaper products .
Every government webiste should be able to be accessed via a mobile devices whether by citizens or government employees.
When it comes to content, the easiest thing for us to do as Federal agencies is publish a PDF. Some of the most informative documents on agency web sites are things like their strategic plans, their reports to Congress, their budget justifications, etc. Too often, in the interest of speed of publication, the pages with this type of information become document farms for 100+ page PDFs. These are information-rich documents ...more »
The main issue with government sites is that many of them are being run by people whose idea of the Web stopped growing around 2002. There are Web basics--testing with real users, formative user research, and advanced metrics and analytics programs--that everyone in the commercial sector is doing. The government needs to get with the program or risk total irrelevance. Another hint: ease off on Twitter and Facebook. You ...more »
Help citizens quickly perform transactions & use online services via simple, secure web forms that walk citizens through each step of the process. Some considerations are: - Identify the steps involved for front end users in completing online transactions - Optimize each step of the workflow (user creates an account, validates account, fills out form, submits form). Where to put instructions? How many fields are optimal? ...more »
The problem of not knowing who is in charge of a website should not exist. Every site should have a web manager who has ultimate control over the content of that site, and who people should contact in terms of needing posts, edits, etc. It shouldn't be a mystery. While we're at it, it might not hurt to have content leads listed at the bottom of each page as well, as well as the date last updated.
Before re-designing an existing site or beginning the design or development of a new site, determine who is going to be using the site and what they will be trying to do there. Optimize the site organization and user flows for easy and frustration-free accomplishment of their primary tasks/goals in using the site.
IE6 is extremely buggy and outdated. It is increasingly more and more difficult to design websites with IE6 in mind. There is no good reason why one should be using IE6 15 years after it was created.
Create a central resource for all agency web teams to communicate, share code, establish conventions, and learn from one another. Then put a premium on making agency systems interoperable (probably through APIs because unification on a single platform is a pipe-dream). With agencies working together to establish conventions, the building and maintenance of federal websites would be far more efficient, enabling a reduction ...more »
I'm reading a lot of terrific ideas here, but they are all proposed TACTICS. Without a unifying content strategy, these tactics will inevitably be taken on as one-off efforts, which result in the same inconsistencies and redundancies that exist today. Over the years, we have all attempted to “fix” our content with visual rebrands, website redesigns, new CMS technology, rewrites, and other tactical approaches. None of ...more »
Some content remains valid for a long time, and serves as an ongoing resource. Other content primarily serves the purpose of providing an update, but becomes dated and inaccurate quickly. Consciously consider the differences and act accordingly. I've seen it happen time and again where really solid content that has been carefully crafted for a long life gets drowned out by press-releasy stuff because they are in the ...more »
Do not waste money trying to cfreate immitations of social media, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, or others. Instead, use closed groups using existing social networks. Government should focus on developing government-specific systems.
Some of the most important accessibility best practices are not required by Section 508. Logically ordered heading tags for example, or links with clear purpose (instead of "click here", "Read our August 2011 Newsletter"). It seems everyone simply adds ALT attributes to images and calls it a day. We need to train web developers and designers in more than basic Section 508 and ensure they understand accessibility beyond ...more »
Give the users the ability to flag a page for a broken link, missing content, outdated or incorrect content. This would actually help government keep their web pages updated instead of relying on link-checkers. These flags for outdated or incorrect content could be a metric that agencies use to measure quality. Additionally it could help agencies implement this Executive Order--Streamlining Service Delivery and Improving ...more »
It's very, very difficult for programs to use Social Media to communicate with or even learn about the communities they serve when the sites themselves are very often blocked.
Sorry to bring this up, but I think it's an elephant in the room when you talk about social media.
Use semantic content and markup so that relevant content is easily found through search engines. Allow content managers to easily tag content for SEO, so that people can find the relevant information that are looking for.
Harness HTML5 in forms and use micro-formats when applicable. This would greatly improve the the experience for the growing amount of users on mobile devices.
Ensure that every new site follows the basic principals of optimizing its content for search engine ranking. Too many sites don't even contain the keywords commonly used by most people to describe the primary subject area of the site.
Maybe not an official ban, but there really needs to be an effort to avoid at all costs (or at least first mention) the use of acronyms. If you'd have to explain the acronym to your dad, then you shouldn't use it. We should think of them as swear words. If everyone had to pay a quarter each time they dropped an acronym, we could fill the deficit. :)
(I was tempted to categorize this as "Content in other languages.)
In the spirit of a common experience, create and implement a standard error page for every federal .gov website that is decommissioned, archived, or otherwise removed from public access. Offer a friendly, plain-language explanation, the ability to search all .gov websites, and perhaps a link to USA.gov and / or a centralized .gov archive. This will prevent ISPs from serving ads when a user goes to a .gov website that ...more »
Make data about web stats for all .gov public. Figure out single data format and setup continuos release of this data to public with uniform UI (e.g. something like Google Analytics will be perfect)
Many websites do not contain an easily seen contact person. All websites should have a contact person (phone number/email address) for each substantive page.
If websites have organizational charts, name and phone
number and email address for each position should be part of the website
Federal communications to the citizen should not be biased with political motives or agendas. While this is a near impossible endeavor, it is probably the single most valuable one to take on. (IMHO) Citizens should be able to TRUST the government agencies and what they have to say. Right now, the political appointees govern too much of what IS actually said, for political gain. We have all seen it (if you have worked ...more »
One thing I hate to see is agencies where the people managing the web don't have adequate teams and support, and may need training themselves but are spread so thin that they are forced to be generalists instead of specialists. The web should be staffed adequately, and employ modern technology (content management systems, anyone?), not be an afterthought in communication, PR and/or IT staffing needs. Sure, we need ...more »