Saturday, September 21, 2002

An audit of US government web sites by Darrell West (from Brown University) ranks the sites both at state and federal level and makes some fascinating recommendations. My comments follow the recommendations in >><<. **Employ consistent design and navigational principles so that users of e-government services may move among different agencies and offices without confronting radically different user interfaces, search techniques and other impediments. >>We embarked on this programme in the UK several months ago, developing a set of consistent standards that will gradually be applied to government web sites. The hard part is that many of the sites are 'static' today, i.e. don't use content management tools, making it very hard to apply changes across the whole site. So, coupled with the look and feel standards will be a single platform and toolset that will support the changes, for those departments that don't want to go through the pain themselves. - Integrate state agency websites into their state portal or gateway web site. This enables citizens to locate easily desired services by surfing either the portal page or the agency web site. >>Fewer web sites can only be a good thing. I've heard that there are 30,000 in the US government alone ... there are 1,800 in the UK (which is still about 1,700 too many)<< - Minimize use of areas that require premium fees. Placing additional charges on governmental services deters free and open access to electronic governance. >>I can't imagine any government web site that would charge for access - only for specific things (such as downloading documents that would normally be charged for)<< - Increase access to interactive technologies. The public sector has yet to implement successfully two-way communications devices, web site personalization, and credit card payments on the majority of their pages. >>Can't argue with this. It's a big step and must be coupled with the initial recommendation and an authentication gateway that provides a range of web services supporting such technologies - otherwise everyone goes out and builds the same thing over and over again.<< - Enable foreign language translation through translated pages or software translators. >>This needs to be done .. but it's a big job unless all the tools are in place and the staff are available to do it<< - Provide a clear and consistent privacy/security policy. The state of Connecticut, for example, has linked every agency in its borders to a common portal page outlining the state's policy in these areas.>>Yes<<

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