Thoughts on the new acquisition.gov

Source: acquisition.gov
Source: acquisition.gov

The General Services Administration announced a new re-design of acquisition.gov, the official website for the Federal Acquisition Regulations.

Here are my thoughts and observations:

Redirects don’t work. One of the first issues you typically address on a site redesign is the 301 redirect meaning that if a link name has changed, you redirect it to a corresponding new page. That way when someone searches or clicks on an old link, they are redirected to a new page.

As you can see, this is not the case for the old FAR URL, acquisition.gov/far:

Source: acquisition.gov
Source: acquisition.gov

It’s open source. Don’t quote me on this, but I believe the original was developed in Microsoft’s Active Server Pages. The new site is built on the open source content management system Drupal which, of course, is a positive direction towards federal government open source adoption.

Audience. There’s probably not much you can do to avoid the alphabet soup of federal government acronyms, but the site doesn’t make it helpful for those new to federal procurement. There are a few helpful videos, but it doesn’t do anything to make the FAR appear more accessible. It’s very link-heavy without access to entry-level information or smooth transition to extended resources.

Not mobile-friendly. I can’t tell if the code is buggy or if it’s just not responsive at all, but it doesn’t adapt at all on my phone or browser. There appears to be a horizontal scroll bug, so I assume that is the problem.

Search could be better. To me, this is the most important aspect of a FAR website, and this is where it falls short. While there is now a downloadable HTML version (which, in its current form, isn’t very useful), there still isn’t a seamless way to search and view text in the FAR. Even the font-resizing tool doesn’t resize the actual FAR text.

Frames. Perhaps the primary reason for the limited user-friendliness is that the FAR pages are simply a frame-based version of the old FAR website, which used to be at acquisition.gov/far. I’m frankly surprised that this was an acceptable solution to making acquisition.gov a better tool.

I wouldn’t call this a re-design of acquisitions.gov, but more of a new template and technology. The core mission of the site, making the actual FAR more accessible, still has a long way to go.

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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