A couple of days ago I was pointed to a slideshare presentation that was done as a Webmanager University New Media Talk on user centered design. Yes, there is actually a University for the people who manage federal, state and local government websites. While making my way through the slides I discovered that the Government has two separate resources dedicated to how their employees should implement user centered websites; usability.gov and usa.gov/webcontent. These sites are filled with content written by knowledgeable phd’s, which is great, but when government websites seem to be falling further behind in web design and usability, it begs the question of why they’re creating their own resources and not just using the myriad ones that exist in the private sector.
Through our redesigning the government series there has been much discussion about why government websites aren’t quite up to par with private sites, and how they can overcome these barriers to make their sites more beneficial to the American public. Trying to separate themselves from the private sector by creating their own resources only exacerbates this problem, especially since these government resources don’t hold anything new or different from research that’s already out there. Taking away these government resources would hopefully only bring good things with it: government employees becoming a part of their community, meeting new people who might have or have had similar professional issues. Being able to interact with other people and to share ideas can only make work better, that is never a bad thing.
Thinking about this from a financial perspective doesn’t quite seem to add up either. The government is spending money recreating resources that already exist and then maintaining them. If the government feels they need to have a site that points their employees in the right direction, why not have a site that is simply a directory to the outside resources that are available, giving employees more up-to-date information and saving tax dollars in the process.
So my advice to the government is to look at what’s happening outside of itself, to not be afraid to look towards and learn from people, or websites, in the private sector.