In an earlier post, I offered recommendations on centralizing U.S. Government Web operations, which seemed naive or misinformed to some.
Here’s what I recommended:
- Centralize all government Web operations under one agency
- Hire a Chief User Experience Officer
- Unify look/feel of all government/military Web sites
- Hire talented writers and editors to produce quality content
As I’ve added new GovFresh feeds for various departments, agencies, military branches, and more, I’ve visited many of the government-operated sites over the past month.
Here’s what I’ve found:
- Lack of unified design
- Disjointed use of Web platforms
- Inconsistent editorial and content
- Outdated Web design practices
- Development redundancy
While all of the above don’t hold true for every site (there are several fantastic government sites), at least one of the above does.
Here’s why the U.S. Government must centralize its Web operations:
One open-source platform would allow for a more agile development process and more scalable, cross-site features to be built quickly. Code could be re-purposed, rather than re-created. Eventually, interactivity, preferences and personalized updates could easily be built, which would allow citizens to actively engage in the political process or manage their government services, 21st century style.
Centralized usability tests and site metrics reviews across a more unified design would allow managers to re-vamp the UI/UX accordingly. Best practices could be realized and executed immediately across all sites. This includes design and editorial. Actively soliciting user feedback and executing cross-sites would be invaluable to the user experience as a whole.
In the corporate sense, “U.S. Government” is a brand. When a user arrives on an official U.S. Government Web site, it should be apparent. The brand and aesthetic should convey “this is an official U.S. Government Web site.” Fonts, colors, consistent top-level navigation or a uniform toolbar could achieve this. You can still retain micro-brands within the major. Agencies wouldn’t dilute their individual branding. They would just be more aligned with the U.S. Government style guide.
A content management strategy, standardized writing style guide, solid editorial staffing and content managers that liaison with respective agencies would go a long way in presenting content in a more clear, concise, accessible format.
An open-source platform would allow for cheaper development costs. Not having to wait for budget allocation or go through the government contract proposal process for an entire Web project means more agencies will get a stronger Web presence. You could better staff and meet demands, especially with a strategy.
A strategic management team would see the entire U.S. Government Web operations from a high-level perspective and direct the user experience accordingly, free from silo operations. It would work with key contacts within various agencies to assess objective, mission and help focus and execute the appropriate Web strategy. This includes social media activity.
The more user-friendly the Web site, the easier it is to understand what’s happening throughout the public system. Agencies can receive feedback and interact with their core constituencies to know what services should be offered, and what shouldn’t. The side affect of a unified Web platform breeds transparency that allows us to hold the government accountable and more actively participate in the democratic process.
While I understand each agency may have a need for different tools or design, non-standard needs can be addressed and properly integrated. It doesn’t have to be cookie-cutter, just more unified, efficient and strategic. Actively collaborating with internal agency contacts allows them to focus on what they do best and leverage the expertise of a solid Web operations team.
America has the best and brightest Web minds in the world. There’s no reason why we can’t build a flexible but “united” U.S. Government Web platform that gives citizens a better customer experience than the 1.0 version we’re getting today.
Thoughts or solutions from others?