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 »
Usability and Design
What can we do to improve the usability, navigation, and design of federal websites?
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.
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 »
Many federal websites that I work on could be further improved if we were able to survey / talk to / usability test with actual users. There are too many rules in place that prohibit us from reaching out to the people who the site is actually designed for.
If usability is not in the request for proposals, it can be difficult to add it after contract award, and bidders are unlikely to propose it for fear of adding cost and not being selected. RFPs should require not only that the end product be usable and that usability be tested before launch, but that the project follow a user-centered design process throughout the lifecycle. For information on the human-centered design... more »
Some federal websites have been designed to work with specific browsers. Websites should be viewable and usable with any browser on any operating system. For example, one DOT website is only usable with Internet Explorer. Individuals who typically use Firefox or Chrome or any other browser are forced to download and use IE. Mac users are out of luck.
While I think creativity is important and should be preserved, there really should be more standardization and consistency for web design when sites are related or linked to each other. Likewise, Content Management Systems (which generally effect overall design) can improve consistency from a functional standpoint. Ideally, all government sites could have at least some common design element to establish identity -... more »
It seems to me too much emphasis is being placed on looking pretty without actually offering an easy way to navigate to important pages or relevant content. Although a site doesn't want to look too dated can we go back to providing stuff people are looking for rather than huge, pretty graphics please?
Graphic designers should work closely with accessibility /508 experts before implementing a design into a website. Some accessibility issues can be avoided or/and fixed early during the visual design phase. For example, some of the principals that should be considered to make a design accessible are: Color contrast, use of CAPS, font size, heading structure, reading order, form controls. A great related resource: http://webaim.org/resources/designers/#infographic... more »
I recommend a robust discovery and design process that emphasizes user-centered interaction design best practices.
Research-informed user-tested high-fidelity wireframe prototypes - that's the point in development to identify usability issues and adjust. Fail on paper, as it were, not post-launch!
'Getting it right' before engineering may require a greater time investment up-front, but it pays off.
Timing is everything. Doing user research (usability testing) after the redesign is too late in the process. Find what your target audience needs by conducting user interviews early in the project. Avoid learning what you have done wrong by the time is too late to fix it.
There is a process by which web-sites and on-line transactions are made efficient, effective, and satisfying to the user. It's called user-centered design and is successfully executed by qualified user-experience professionals.
Ensure that all Federal agencies are equipped with the resources and processes to implement user-centered design into their software development life-cycle.
Can we say that in 2011-2012 the average user can tell the difference between website A and website B and get rid of the intersticials and disclaimers?
They serve no legal purpose and they junk up the user experience.
SSA password reset, if you forgot your password, requires that a new temporary password be mailed to you which could take 15 days. This is ridiculous and wasteful. It defeats the purpose of the web site which is instant access, adds a paper process and mailing and is not particularly secure. Password resets on commercial sites including banks involve a valid e-mail address and sometimes identifying questions.
The average citizen may not know the department or the process name or the bulletin number that applies to them. Do a full mental model process to understand user tasks and goals and organize government sites according to these goals and tasks. use the nuances learned of citizen attitudes and concerns to guide the feel and messaging for the site.