Many dot-govs fail on content, not technology

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    Evan Weisel
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    From Today’s nexgov:

    http://www.nextgov.com/emerging-tech/emerging-tech-blog/2013/01/many-dot-govs-fail-content-not-technology/60424/?oref=nextgov_today_nl

    The folks over at GSA’s First Fridays Usability Testing Program have put together a list of the most common government website fails they encountered in 2012.

    Tellingly, the most common usability problems are less about technology and more about communication — jargony content, poor navigation labels and confusing contact information.

    First Fridays is a twice monthly General Services Administration initiative that tests how quickly novice recruits can perform tasks on government websites.

    Many of the websites that came in for voluntary testing in 2012 weren’t telling visitors the main purpose of their websites up front and were scattering the most commonly requested tasks throughout the homepage rather than organizing them at the top, the First Fridays team said.

    The team also posted a collection of before and after shots of improved government sites. IRS.gov, for example, reduced the number of acronyms on its homepage after testing and developed clearer paths for visitors seeking information about specific topics such as retirement planning or Hurricane Sandy relief.

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    • Hi Joseph, great article.
      We have seen many of the same content issues on gov web sites. Even if you do get to the right place, often the web copy/language is really dense and hard to digest.
      For example when we scanned an arbitrary 100 pages of http://www.dot.gov , we found 26.5% long sentences (over 20 words). Lots of passive voice. We found readability levels requiring a degree level education. (30 on the Flesch reading ease index). Certain pages in http://www.ssa.gov and sites catering to disadvantaged citizens had similar issues of poor readability. The result for government is increased cost and additional call center cost, since people cannot readily find answers on line.
      I wrote up some other specific example gobbldy-gook in this blog post a few weeks ago: http://bit.ly/Wrb2LH . Might be useful to your readers. It’s in everyones interest to clarify web copy. Not least because it will save gov dollars.
      Fergal McGovernwww.claritygrader.com

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