1st edition — by Patrick McNeil — Jan. 22, 2008
The Site Type
This section on government sites is way long over due. Many people have requested it, and a few have sent in samples. The hold up, not surprisingly, has been the lack of decent samples with which to feature the site type. And yet, ever so slowly I accumulated the sites you see here. This is one of those sections that doesn't necessarily present earth shattering design samples, but one that should help to inspire and motivate a difficult part of the internet. I am certain the budgets for government sites are small, I am also certain that the tasks often fall onto the shoulders of those who aren't trained in such areas. I don't want to bash these people at all, I think it is a tough role to fill. Even if you were a brilliant web designer, it seems you would be fighting a bureaucracy the whole way. This brings back my days at a university where it seemed you had to convince people you were right, and eventually it just wears down your will.
If ever there was a site type that should follow the norms it would be the government site. Considering it must be able to reach every last citizen it only stands to reason that they should be stable, easy to use, and devoid of any gimmicks that inhibit easy usage. While I am still not interested in code here, the look and feel does play into usability. A prime example is the Mission Regional Chamber of Commerce. This sites nice clean layout presents plenty of useful, and up to date information ont he home page. Navigation is rather direct, and the imagery on the site helps set the mood. I tend not to give negative feedback, but in this case I can't help myself. It seems the light color text is a problem. I think that people with even minimal vision problems would have trouble reading it. Other then that, this is a very well organized and easy to use site.
Another example I am rather fond of is the City of Lynchburg Virginia site. This sites minimal home page is kind of nice. There is one column of new content, the primary navigation across the top, and best of all, the 4 key action items for the site in large buttons with icons. I love it when sites like this present a minimal front that enables you to quickly dive into the section you need. I am sure we are all familiar with the alternative, take a look at the city site for my home town St. Louis. It has so many links they stopped styling them as links! Everything is a link, loads and loads of them. This site makes my brain hurt every time I have to resort to using it. This site is so stinking confusing, how in the world does the side nav relate to the home page linkfest? Sure makes the Lynchburg city site look a bit more beautiful if you ask me.