Best and worst government websites that you’ve ever used?

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This topic contains 102 replies, has 28 voices, and was last updated by  Steve Ressler 7 years, 4 months ago.

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  • #163989

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    Call me vain, but whenever I visit a website its appearance will pretty much dictate whether or not I give it any credibility. A good website says a lot of the organization’s professionalism, attention to detail and understanding of their target audience. There are some terrible .gov sites out there. There are also some good ones. My personal favorite is the Federal IT Dashboard. Weather.gov ranks up there as the worst.

    What websites do you nominate as the best and worst?


    Perhaps it’s a blessing Obama is moving to eliminate 50% of .gov sites.

  • #164193

    Steve Ressler
    Keymaster

    usmint.gov is pretty bad

  • #164191

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    You’re not kidding.

  • #164189

    Elinor Keith
    Participant

    I do like weather.gov’s redesign though:

  • #164187

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    This redesign just come out recently? That looks pretty good, actually.

  • #164185

    Can anyone give us some examples of great websites? I’m responsible for maintaining our website and I’d love to see any good examples. Thank you.

  • #164183

    Funny this topic is posted today. A colleague and I needed to find information on GSA’s Public Building Service website today and it was incredibly difficult, not to say anything about appearance (which could probably also use some work). Although I did find what I was looking for, it took me about 25 minutes. Had I not needed the information, I would have given up long before then.

  • #164181

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    You’re not kidding — that’s tough one to navigate.

  • #164179

    David B. Grinberg
    Participant

    What are the integral criteria — other than appearance — that make for a “great” Government web site?

    DBG

  • #164177

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    Beyond appearance, I’d say general usability and organization. Although my question only stated appearance. Should have elaborated a bit perhaps.

  • #164175

    Sterling Whitehead
    Participant

    Hands down, the worst is Time.gov. I mean, it’s awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwful.

  • #164173

    Joshua Aaron DeLung
    Participant

    http://www.sba.gov/

    What do you all think of SBA’s website?

  • #164171

    Vanessa Vogel
    Participant

    WORST http://fedstats.gov/ This website is ugly and the layout is beyond basic. I wouldn’t trust any federal stats from this website.

  • #164169

    Vanessa Vogel
    Participant

    BEST http://utah.gov/index.html This website is my personal favorite. The website is well designed, clean, simple, easy to navigate, and organized. There’s a clear visibility on how to connect to the social media. The navigation bar at the top is visible and easy to find. What could seem like one more government site full of information that’s hard to read, utah.gov becomes a manageable, eye-appealing website that organizes all its information in a user-friendly way. This site gets an A in design for me!

  • #164167

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    Oh my gosh. You might be right.

  • #164165

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    The appearance is good, but I always find it hard to find the information that I’m seeking on SBA’s site.

  • #164163

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    Oh wow. 1997 called and wants its website back.

  • #164161

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    This is a great site!!!

  • #164159

    Corey McCarren
    Participant

    Very cool looking website. It looks more like the website of a tech startup than a state government.

    Edit: And that’s a compliment, of course!

  • #164157

    Janet Wilson
    Participant

    My state’s .gov website, Arkansas.gov, was named #1 state web portal in the nation by the Center for Digital Government in its 2011 Best of Web awards!

  • #164155

    Joshua Aaron DeLung
    Participant

    Funny you say that, Chris. Reorganization/streamlining of the architecture and additional plain language enhancements are under way!

  • #164153

    Joshua Aaron DeLung
    Participant

    Bing hasn’t sued them?

  • #164151

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    That’s true – it does look like Bing.

  • #164149

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    That’s a great site. State governments have the beat on federal!

  • #164147

    Janet Wilson
    Participant

    You also complimented Utah’s website. Vanessa can correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe Utah’s website won top honors in the Best of Web awards in 2010.

  • #164145

    Gayle Gjinaj
    Participant

    I feel the worst government site is in the AKO, which is the ALMS training. It is user unfriendly, it takes forever, it constantly crashes, it loses files and you have to retake course which already take forever to complete due to the slowest of the system. I dread whenever I have to take a class in there…

  • #164143

    Cliff Cook
    Participant

    You’ve got that backwards, I think. I believe Bing stole the concept from Utah.

  • #164141

    Treasa Perrier
    Participant

    I want to be able to go to a website find what I want and leave. I don’t want to be searching for forms or information. If it is something that the public uses regularly then have it as a link that goes directly to the form or information.

  • #164139

    Treasa Perrier
    Participant

    PA’s government portal is atrocious, but the PA State DOT (PennDot) is very user friendly.

  • #164137

    Steve Ressler
    Keymaster

    Awesome…

  • #164135

    Faye Newsham
    Participant

    I don’t hate USA.gov…I generally find what I need or get a good idea of where I need to go next using it. Look and feel is a bit dry but if functions well enough. http://www.usa.gov/

    I actually use HowTo.gov quite a bit for work information… it is a great resource.

  • #164133

    Vanessa Vogel
    Participant

    @Cliff cook you’re right. the utah.gov website was redesigned before Bing in 2011. Utah.gov won awards for being the best designed government website in 2011 and has continued to win design awards throughout the years. Here’s this for proof. http://www.utah.gov/awards.html

  • #164131

    Chris Stinson
    Participant

    I tend to like sites with very little on the homepage (I know why I am there, so please don’t give me your mission statement or the latest speech from a elected official). I also tend to run from sites that have the same featured items, month after month – year after year – give me what is new and current. If you are local government, tell me what’s happening in the local area, not whats happening in government.

    And keep the pictures & icons to a minumum. 1 big picture is nice, 15 pictuers and 30 little icons, may be more then I care to look at or will even try and figure out what they are about. (One of them might have been important, but if you have 30 plus items that you’ve deemed important items, they all become unimportant to me)

    A Couple of Inspirational Government Sites (to me)
    Places that don’t try to be everything to everybody on the homepage.

    http://www.calgary.ca/SitePages/cocis/default.aspx (alot like the Utah site, with search as the key)

    http://www.georgia.gov (kept it simple. not as pretty as utah or calgary, but still is search focused)

    http://www.weho.org/ (very colourful! great small site)

    I might be a little harsh, but I (and I believe most people, who’s job is not working with government) want to spend as little time as possible on a government website, that has nothing but government.

  • #164129

    Ron Jones
    Participant

    The redesign has been a work in progress for over a year. The new design (http://preview.weather.gov/) was posted for public comment (after several rounds of usability tests) in late Spring of this year. The site is scheduled to go live in early July. In association with the redesign of weather.gov, the mobile site has also undergone a major redesign (preview.weather.gov/mobile). It also is scheduled to go live in early July.

  • #164127

    Vanessa Vogel
    Participant

    The utah.gov website won awards in 2010 but also for their current website redesign in 2011. They won the 2011 Communicator Award of Distinction as the best government website, the 2011 Public Technology Institute Web 2.0 State and Local Government award winner, the 2011 Best of State Award as the Best Web-based Community Resource and other awards as well. @Janet wilson here’s a link of all their awards. http://www.utah.gov/awards.html

  • #164125

    Joe Flood
    Participant

    More money should be spent on the web site instead of Vegas partying!

  • #164123

    Joe Flood
    Participant

    Last updated in 2007? Yea, that should be taken down if it hasn’t been updated in five years.

  • #164121

    Henry Brown
    Participant

    Nice that it looks cool but… This is the site that suffered a major data Breach, Would offer that the Tech Director for the state of Utah would have rathered the site not look so cool

  • #164119

    Laura Hutchinson
    Participant

    Hello – this one is a Canadian government site (province of B.C. Student Financial Aid). It’s also responsive – try it out on your mobile device http://www.studentaidbc.ca

  • #164117

    Chris Stinson
    Participant

    I also like this one a lot. (might be a bit heavy on social icons as a focal point)

    http://www.buncombecounty.org/Default.aspx

  • #164115

    Janet Wilson
    Participant

    Wow! Nice. Too bad GovLoop doesn’t have a ‘Like’ button. I definitely would have clicked ‘Like’.

  • #164113

    Dave Uejio
    Participant

    Totally biased, but I love http://consumerfinance.gov

  • #164111

    For…?

  • #164109

    Gail Sumi
    Participant

    I complimented the Administrator of the Village of Bayside, Wisconsin the other day on their website and he said that he felt way behind the times. Maybe, but their website is well organized and user friendly. They even have a live chat option! http://www.bayside-wi.gov/

  • #164107

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    What don’t you like about it? Hard to find info?

  • #164105

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    I’m from Pennsylvania (originally)! I’m disheartened. It is pretty bad.

  • #164103

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    @Gayle: what’s the link to the site?

  • #164101

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    Never heard of HowTo.gov. It actually is pretty useful!

  • #164099

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    Great comments, Chris. I think your preferences are good usability guidelines in general.

  • #164097

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    The way the info is structured and the site flow is actually pretty good.

  • #164095

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    I like this site! Responsive, too, which is great.

  • #164093

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    I like this site. Thanks for sharing. I like the long page format.

  • #164091

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    @Chris: Yea, too much social icon spam.

  • #164089

    Dennis Stransky
    Participant

    What makes a good website is nothing more than what makes for a good speech, consider your audience and be brief. Work from the general to the specific. The biggest mistake web builders make is letting someone build it themselves. They may know everything about what they do but no one else in the world thinks like they do. It would be like designing and building your own house without an architect and contractor, a disaster.

    Assume your audience knows little to nothing about you or your business. Have a third party, not familiar with your business, beta test the site and give feed back. Lastly, looks are important but they are not everything. Sacrifice appearance for content or function every time.

  • #164087

    So, if I provided our link, would you be willing to give me some constructive feedback on our website? Thank you.

  • #164085

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    I think that’s great advice — assume your audience knows little about you. “Don’t make me think.”

  • #164083

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    Absolutely. Post the link and we’ll give some constructive feedback.

  • #164081

    Howto.gov looks terrific! I’ve already enrolled in a webinar for responsive website design. Thank you for sharing!

  • #164079
  • #164077

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    There’s a lot of good info on the site, but seems like it would be a bit challenging for someone new coming to the site to find what he/she is looking for.

  • #164075

    Marilyn Langfeld
    Participant

    DC.gov is in the midst of a very long redesign process… First stage was a move to Vignette/OpenText (home page). There were issues of scale, so now it’s being moved to Drupal.

    During this process, the appearance of distinct agency sites is therefore very inconsistent. http://mayor.dc.gov/ shows the new design.

    Re PDFs, I’ve come to appreciate their archival quality. I understand your concerns though.

  • #164073

    Vanessa Vogel
    Participant

    After looking at a lot of the well designed government websites, there’s a common thread and focus on the search engine. A lot of the government websites have lots of information so the search engine has been an important feature to help people find what they are looking for. If this is an important feature on your website, I would make that more obvious. Making the search engine bigger and clearing up all the other information that’s around it would make it more prominent and easier to navigate. All the information that’s on the home page can be filled elsewhere on other pages within the website.

  • #164071

    Steve Ressler
    Keymaster

    Very nice…

  • #164069

    Steve Ressler
    Keymaster

    My county just got a refresh this week – http://www.hillsboroughcounty.org/

  • #164067

    Love the feedback from both you and Chris. Thank you much for your time. I’m right on it! 🙂

  • #164065

    Vanessa Vogel
    Participant

    Good luck!

  • #164063

    Marie Koko
    Participant

    As a career counselor focused on helping recent grads secure federal jobs, I’m a big fan of Careers.state.gov If only all gov’t websites were as helpful and transparent. Almost anything a job seeker could ever want to know is there – from videos to chat message boards.

  • #164061

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    Not too bad, actually. I like it.

  • #164059

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    Marie, I like this site as well. Thanks for pointing it out.

  • #164057

    James Hammond
    Participant

    This is the best i have seen…

  • #164055

    James Hammond
    Participant

    This is a great post…IM in the process of redoing our site in the upcoming budget year….we need work. http://www.eastpointcity.org

  • #164053

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    James, I really like this site. Did you design it yourself? Maybe you could share a few design principles with us.

  • #164051

    Steve Ressler
    Keymaster

    Got this from another thread elsewhere but I agree –Austin, Texas has one of the best city websites I’ve ever seen. http://austintexas.gov/. Compare it to one of the worst, LA’s (http://www.lacity.org/)

  • #164049

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    Austin gets my vote!

  • #164047

    Laura Rawson
    Participant

    I love Utah’s website, http://utah.gov! 1) They have large, beautiful photos that make me actually want to visit Utah. 2) They have a huge search bar. We get so many complaints about our city website from people who can’f find what they’re looking for, even though we have built in search redundancies. 3) One of its features is it trends what others are searching for.

    We’re in the middle of starting the redesign discussion, so the timing of this couldn’t be more perfect!

  • #164045

    Steve Ressler
    Keymaster

    I was at City of Joplin for a hackathon and this was the chosen redesign for city website which I think is pretty good (built on top of CivicPlus framework – http://www.joplinmo.org/)

  • #164043

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    I’d be happy to provide feedback as you redesign. In fact, open it up for discussion to the entire GovLoop community. You’ll get great input.

  • #164041

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    Great post here on how the government should clean up the .gov mess:

    https://www.govloop.com/profiles/blogs/get-out-your-pitchforks-and-clean-up-that-content-1

  • #164039

    Henry Brown
    Participant

    Would offer that maybe the city of Austin Texas would maybe categorized as one of the best: http://www.austintexas.gov/

    IMO one of the more professionally done sites…

  • #164037

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    I agree, Henry. It’s fantastic. In my top 5.

  • #164035

    Steve Ressler
    Keymaster

    mn.gov relaunched today – thoughts?

  • #164033

    Steve Ressler
    Keymaster

    RI.gov looking good

  • #164031

    Ari Herzog
    Member

    After perusing the 8 pages of comments and replies, and focusing specifically on municipal websites, I took note of Calgary, West Hollywood, Hillsborough County, East Point, Austin, Joplin, and Bayside as the best of the best. I noticed many were created with the CivicPlus template.

    One of the sites included a footer note that it was designed and hosted by Vision Internet, a company I never heard of before, and their website pointed me to dozens of clients including Tempe, San Marcos, and Dunedin. I really like the *fun* aspect of Dunedin.

    This leads to two questions:

    First: Would you add any other cities or towns to the above list as standing out above others — especially if they are smaller communities with less dedicated resources and not much money to begin? Here in Newburyport, Massachusetts, where I am a city councilor, our website is ancient. It’s reminiscent of Los Angeles though not as bad. This is why I like Dunedin, West Hollywood, and Calgary for providing a glimpse into the community’s ambience without even visiting it in person.

    Second: How can a community with limited resources get this done? I believe the people want change. I believe city officials want change. But the city isn’t asking residents for advice. Frustrating the matter is we have a 1-person IT department who is overworked and not up to speed on egov practices. (He really likes Michigan‘s website, for instance, which I think is ugly and cluttered and not civic-friendly compared to Utah and Minnesota and Rhode Island. But I digress.)

    Thoughts?

  • #164029

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    On your second question, Steve Ressler may be able to help answer. he participated in a local city hack over a weekend that drew support from the community to crank out a website.

  • #164027

    Any hopes of a student intern coming in and redesigning your website? It’s a great bullet point for their resume!

  • #164025

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    That’s a great idea!

  • #164023

    Ari Herzog
    Member

    A college student majoring in web development?

  • #164021

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    It can be a college student majoring in history, quite frankly. You’d find a lot of college interns who can churn out great sites in just a few days.

  • #164019

    Ari Herzog
    Member

    Ahh, so you refer to someone creating something better than what is there now but not the final version of what it will eventually resemble? Surely you’re not putting down government web development agencies such as CivicPlus, Civica, and Vision Internet in favor of a history student instead? Or, are you?

  • #164017

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    Really depends on what your requirements are. Looks like those firms offer a total package in terms of hosting, design, development, maintenance, social media marketing, social media integration, copywriting, graphics. They are also prob very good at dealing with information architecture and navigation, which can sometimes be challenges for .gov sites. If a total package is what you need, then those firms look great. On the flip side, if you have a simple, static, information site that you need designed and implemented, interns are more than capable of leveraging platforms like WordPress to produce a great, maintainable site at a fraction of the price. If you have a site that is one main page and 20 subpages and a firm is quoting you $20k, then I’m can confidently say that there are cheaper alternatives — whether an intern, city hack or crowdsourcing via sites like 99designs — without sacrificing quality or speed.

  • #164015

    Steve Ressler
    Keymaster

    For second part of your question Ari, I know the companies you mentioned like CivicPlus and VisionInternet have sliding costs depending on your city/county costs – so that’s a good low cost option with high quality (I’d rather work with some company thats done thousands of local gov websites than a local developer)

  • #164013

    Steve Ressler
    Keymaster

    Agree on georgia.gov – here’s a pic

  • #164011

    Steve Ressler
    Keymaster

    Really digging aids.gov these days

  • #164009

    Steve Ressler
    Keymaster

    FYI – thought folks on this thread might be interested in the session “How to: Build a Great Government Website” – which is part of our Online Innovator’s Summit next week -free rsvp at https://event.on24.com/eventRegistration/EventLobbyServlet?target=registration.jsp&eventid=509866&sessionid=1&key=5BC77D3BBBC8CC450E90408725E8A98B&sourcepage=register

  • #164007

    Steve Ressler
    Keymaster

    Pittsburgh is pretty terrible

  • #164005

    Steve Ressler
    Keymaster

    Worst gov’t domain ever – COJ.net

    Any guess what city this is? One of top 25 most populated

    http://www.coj.net/

  • #164003

    Steve Ressler
    Keymaster

    I love you Memphis, TN but ouch on this site

  • #164001

    Steve Ressler
    Keymaster

    Tn.gov looking good

  • #163999

    OK…we’ve improved ours.How’s this: http://www.sacgreenteam.com

  • #163997

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    Great improvements! I really like. Very easy to navigate.

  • #163995

    Steve Ressler
    Keymaster

    Pretty awesome site from Machester, UK – manchester.gov.uk

  • #163993

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    That is a pretty awesome one. How did you come across this?

  • #163991

    Steve Ressler
    Keymaster

    I like gov.uk for its simplicity

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