Re-thinking the whitehouse.gov homepage

Re-thinking whitehouse.gov.

Starting with its homepage, the White House is moving to a more mobile-friendly design and is asking for feedback, so last night I created a quick comp of elements I thought were appropriate for a White House homepage without making it contain too much information and compiled some thoughts (see below).

See my comp: govfresh.github.io/whitehouse

From a post this week announcing the update and what is the beginning of more to come:

Last night, we released the first-ever responsive White House homepage. Here’s what that means: The WhiteHouse.gov landing page now displays content in a consistent way, no matter which device you’re using — desktop, laptop, mobile phone, or tablet. This also means that we’re helping you find the most relevant content as quickly as possible.

This is a landmark change in a series of improvements to our online platforms to make them more accessible, user-friendly, and in line with modern best practices. And this is just the first phase in revamping the White House homepage. We will continue to iterate on the design and features, rolling out enhancements along the way.

In general, this in an excellent improvement. As we learned with the launch of the new analytics.usa.gov, the most-trafficked federal .gov websites aren’t mobile-friendly, so it’s great to see the White House beginning to take this more seriously.

Here are my thoughts and feedback:

Make it about the people. I chose the best photo I could find of people at the White House accentuating “The People’s House,” so that immediately it’s about “the people” and not just the president. I know most politicians (especially mayors) like to see their faces on their websites, but I imagine POTUS would be okay with this unconventional approach at this point in his career.

Watch. Video is powerful and the “West Wing Week” segments are accessible and do a great job of giving those who aren’t interested in the intricacies of policy or long speeches a glimpse into what’s happening at the White House.

Engage. This is an important element that should be given more real estate, as well as friendlier, inviting visual cues to submit or sign a petition. As I’ve mentioned before, I’d work on re-branding “We the People” to focus more on interacting with the executive branch and less on “petitioning” it.

Meet the team. Making it more about the team and less about the C-suite would start to move it away from a political feel and resonate more with those of us who work in teams or want to see Washington feel more like they are. I don’t have it here, but I’d add more of the faces behind the White House and rotate them so it’s not just management.

Connect. Providing subscribe and social elements as prominent features in a universal footer could drive higher engagement after the visit. I can’t imagine a lot of people visiting the site regularly, so making “Connect” prominent is a great way to meet citizens where they are on a daily basis.

Today at the White House. While I don’t have it in the comp, I’d include a section that highlights all of the ways citizens can engage with the White House, including the president’s and links to live video or Twitter chats with administration staff.

Call to action. There are other elements I’d include below the hero unit, such as a limited number of icons links to the most requested services (tours, contact, jobs, etc.).

General feedback. On the new whitehouse.gov, I’d remove the all-caps usage and re-think the navigation. While I don’t have anything on my comp, it should be much more simple that what’s provided here.

Footer. The current whitehouse.gov footer should be re-considered and simplified to focus more on what users want from the White House and less about appeasing every cabinet secretary or political operative. I don’t have it in my comp and haven’t given it much thought, but throwing all of those links into the footer like that makes it looks like an obligatory afterthought. Personally, I turn to the footer when I can’t find what I’m looking for.

Check out my comp at govfresh.github.io/whitehouse and let me know what you think.

About Luke Fretwell

Luke Fretwell is the founder of GovFresh. He is also co-founder and CEO of ProudCity. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn or email at luke@govfresh.com.

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