Your government website probably shouldn’t look and function like a site from 20 years ago. Instead, it must be intuitively organized, with easily accessible resources and information. After all, if your website doesn’t even function correctly, how does that help folks trust your municipal or county government, your EDA, your Chamber of Commerce, your Tourism Board, or your Regional Planning and Development Council?
Follow these seven rules to ensure your government website remains relevant, attractive, and timeless.
1—Make Info Easy To Access
Transparency is essential! Even when you want to be transparent, if your site isn’t organized well, it can feel to users like information is buried or hidden. On the other hand, a well-organized site inspires confidence. Another thing this can help address is excessive phone calls. After all, if someone can find an answer quickly on the website, they won’t need to call in to ask. It’s unreasonable to expect citizens to spend 30 minutes digging through your site to locate a meeting or town charter.
Use tabs, subheads, and text hierarchy to organize information and display it correctly. If visitors repeatedly have trouble finding basic information on your site, it’s time to look at how you organize your data.
Make sure you provide a site that works for those with visual or hearing impairments. This is especially important for government sites, which should be usable by every visitor. Among other concerns, you’ll want to ensure text is high-contrast and readable and uses language that is approachable for all your users. Alongside the readability of your text, format your copy with a clear and orderly text hierarchy so that screen-readers know what text is the most important and how it all fits together. Another important help is to ensure that photos have appropriate alt-text and videos have captioning.
No resident should be without easy access to necessary public services from your website, so ensure it meets the needs of your whole community with accessible design.
3—Have Readily Available Services
A government website might be the place to make a payment on a public utility, rent a park shelter, or make a tax payment. Your goal should be to reduce the time visitors have to expend as they’re looking to access these online services.
Have any forms, tax information, and other essential resources available on your site and easy to find. No one should need special training to find online services. Neither should any pages be accessible only through one browser or device type. Research what features other similar government organizations include on their site and make sure to have them on yours.
4—Update Regularly & Keep it Relevant
There’s nothing like looking for 2022 local election results but only finding the 2014 results—or looking for the date for the next town council meeting and finding that the website hasn’t listed a meeting date since 1998.
These are extreme—but REAL—examples we’ve seen. You can do better, right?
It’s essential to add new information, retire old, irrelevant features, and make it easy for people to find what they’re looking for.
5—Be Mobility Friendly
You will want to ensure your website is responsive, meaning that it delivers a usable, readable site to all screen sizes, from mobile to desktop.
What might look fantastic on a desktop could be completely unusable on the phone. We’ve seen sites with text on top of text, buttons overlapping, words broken up in the middle, and more. So your government site must be versatile and adapt seamlessly to all screen sizes.
6—Be Cutting Edge
Think of ways to stand out from other similar government organizations. For example, when you first built your government site, you may have had the most cutting-edge features available, but after 20 or 30 years, those same features can feel clunky and lacking.
Always try to keep the functionality top-notch, cutting edge. Upgrade or implement new features. Make it more and more convenient for people who want to access online services.
For instance, you might want to add a way for people to register for a meeting and submit items for an agenda. Or, you might want to add a way for folks to pay parking tickets or property taxes online. You could have online vendor registration for your local fair or allow folks to buy swimming pool passes from home. You could start recording council meetings and sharing them on the site to increase transparency and keep the public in the loop. Heck, online meetings make it easier for media members to cover what your organization is doing, too.
The more convenience you add for users, the happier they’ll be. It can also streamline work at the office if done well.
7—Don’t Let Just Anybody Create Your Site
You’ve put out an RFP and received several bids for a new site or an upgrade. Now what?
Don’t base your agency choice on price alone. The lowest bidder may not have the capacity to provide the features you want. Alternatively, the highest bidder may take forever and leave you high and dry when it comes to support.
Instead, balance experience against cost. Talk to previous clients to get their impression of working with the agency. You want to hire a trusted design agency with a portfolio that includes creating well-organized, functional sites for other municipal or county governments (or EDAs, Chambers of Commerce, Tourism Boards, etc.).
They’ve got the goods you want! They’ll know precisely what features a site of your capacity will require. They can also create a more unified design than an amateur and leave you feeling proud of the improvements you made to serve your clientele or your citizens better—and that’s what matters.
Are you looking to create or upgrade your government site? Contact us, and we’ll help you make a gorgeous site with all the features you need for a functional government website.