How to develop the usability of the government website?

Speaking of the government website, most of the people might think of this

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The website of HongKong government

or this

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Personally, I rarely spend any time on the website of a government. There are three reasons for this. First of all, the poor design of the government web forces me to leave the home page within a few seconds. Secondly, there is too much information on the website which makes me feel so confused all the time. The last reason is that it’s hard to find the useful information on the website. I prefer to use Google straightforwardly.

Then, is there any positive example of the government website?

The answer is YES. Since 1997, the annual WebAward Competition of the Web Marketing Association (WMA) has been setting to enhance the development of the website. The experts of WebAward come from different countries, they review the entered websites and select the best one using the seven criteria which include Design, Ease of use, Copywriting, Interactivity, Use of Technology, Innovation, and Content. (WebAward 2016).

In 2016, the Best Government Website winner was ms.gov, the State of Mississippi.

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In 2015, the Best Government Website winner was Utah.gov, the State of Utah.

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Let’s use the criteria of theWebAward Competition to make a comparison between the Utah.gov and the VIC.gov, discussing the reason for Utah.gov’s success.

In the book Balanced Website Design: Optimising Aesthetics, Usability and Purpose, the author Lawrence and Tavakol (2007, p.8) both points out that ‘The design should aim at creating an appropriate visual layout and “mood” for the site (the aesthetics)’. The interface of the Utah.gov is simple and clear, there is a search function in the centre of the home page. At the top of the interface are the main categories of government services. The beautiful photograph shows the landscape of Utah. However, on the home page of the VIC.gov, people only see words, too many words. Even if these words are classified into several categories, but it still takes people some time to find what they want. Moreover, the search function is put on the top of the interface. People might ignore it.

In addition, the Utah.gov provides the contact function for people. There are a lot of methods such as facebook and Twitter that people can use to communicate with the government.

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But, on the page of the VIC.gov, the contact function is put on the bottom of the page, and when people click the contact button, they get a subpage like this:

Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 15.44.04

Then, people still don’t know how to contact with government.

Apart from the design, let’s talk about the content. As a government website, the most important function is that provides useful information. If people can’t find what they want, they will leave the page. Bevan (1999, section. 2) claims that ‘People rarely read web pages word by word — they scan pages to find the information they want’, which means the website must show the specific answer or solution to people. For example, if I want to find a job through the VIC.gov, after a few steps,  I get a page like this:

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But if I use the Utah.gov to find a job, I get a page like this:

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Obviously, with the Utah.gov, I only need to input one or two keywords to get what I want.  But with the VIC.gov, I have to click so many links and read a number of pages.

There is no doubt that the government website also can be built creatively, effectively and aesthetically. The Utah.gov plays a very positive role model. It proves that the convenient function, beautiful design and good content are the vital elements for developing the usability of the government website.

References list:

Bevan, N 1999, ‘Usability issues in website design’, ExperienceLab, November, viewed 17 April 2017, <http://experiencelab.typepad.com/files/usability-issues-in-website-design-1.pdf>.

Bergstrom, R.J & Strohl, J n.d, ‘Improving Government Websites and Surveys With Usability Testing and User Experience Research’, viewed 18 April 2017, <https://s3.amazonaws.com/sitesusa/wp-content/uploads/sites/242/2014/05/A3_RomanoBergstrom_2013FCSM.pdf>.

Lawrence, D & Tavakol, S, Balanced Website Design: Optimising Aesthetics, Usability and Purpose, Middlesex University, London, UK.

 

 

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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