Services and Transactions

Create content around topics/customers - not agencies

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 »

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Content and Readability

Differentiate between ephemeral and evergreen content

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 »

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Usability and Design

User-Centered Design

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.

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Usability and Design

Build a mental model to organize by task, not by govt viewpoint

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.

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Policies and Principles

Make every website usable by "Average Joe Americans"

Many of the publically available websites are designed for "insider wonks" not for "Average Joe Americans" -- example being the query sites to access government documents where you need a PhD and read a 1000 page "how to" document before you can figure out how to query for what you need. Another example being trying to figure out how to download historical weather data from NOAA -- which appears to be set up to meet ...more »

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Usability and Design

Do not strand the user

Every time an action can be taken, provide the link next to the information, not somewhere else on the page. If there is software required, provide the link to download the software. For instance I am on the patent office site and there is a missing plug-in. It shows the logo of the missing plug-in but not the name of the product or a link to get to it. Without even having the name I can't search for the plug-in. This ...more »

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Usability and Design

Government websites are the same as mainstream websites (almost)

Regarding usability, government websites are mostly the same as mainstream websites, and there is no need to reinvent the wheel. 3 reasons: a) Jakob's Law of the Internet User Experience states that "users spend most of their time on *other* sites than your site" and form their expectations for your site based on their cumulative experience on those many other sites. b) Most Web design guidelines are the same across ...more »

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Usability and Design

Group like content, improve readability, scanability

Government websites are very outdated, and even the ones that have had redesigns recently still feel very clunky. Contrast is good, agreeing with Section 508. Most, if not all of the sites boast solid darks on lights which aid in readability, however, leading (space between lines of text) is very tight in many cases. Paragraph spacing should be consistent. Headings should be consistent. Links should be clear, and also ...more »

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Accessibility

Universal Design for Learning

The principles and guidlelines of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) should be applied to Federal website design. UDL will ensure that the broadest range of uses will be able to access and gain knowledge from Federal websites. Universal Design for Learning takes the concept of Universal Design one step further. In addition to focusing on physical accessibility (e.g. text to speech, accessible word or pdf documents) it ...more »

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Content and Readability

Easy to make repairs

In studying the usability of websites by under-educated individuals we have found that the site has to make it easy for a user to make repairs - correct themselves when they wind up somewhere they didn't want to be.

Repair skills of a user have to be matched with linguistic tools, visual and navigation aids that help in this process.

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Policies and Principles

Go big or go home!

Web managers may walk away from this discussion with the intention of applying one or two of these suggestions to an existing site design. Those web managers will just be wasting time. The way forward is an extensive review of your users needs and your agency's mission, and the primary way you organize the existing and future data and applications presented on your site. Anything less is just nibbling at the edges, ...more »

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