Lessons from Top 10 Government Websites
Garvin describes attending a World Usability Day panel in Washington organized by the Usability Professionals Association on the subject of "eGov Success Stories". Many of the panelists outlined efforts to improve the quality of U.S. federal government websites and address some of the many challenges they face, such as the need to use plain language, ensure accessibility for disabled people, and improve the readibility and usability of online forms.
Garvin writes that what many of the best sites have in common, such as FirstGov and the Treasury Department site, is that the organizations in charge employ usability specialists.
She concludes by writing: "I’ll close with one site that may restore your faith in government websites. Usability.gov from the Department of Health and Human Services is a 'resource for designing usable, useful, and accessible web sites and user interfaces.' The site began as a project of the National Cancer Institute to find evidence-based usability guidelines so that they could make cancer information easily available to the public. The product ... is available to the public as well as federal web developers. Several of the World Usability Day panelists remarked that a plus to working in government is that they can 'steal,' or adapt, the work of their federal colleagues for their own projects, and agencies actively share their solutions within the federal community. "
In the Canadian federal sector, we have the Treasury Board Secretariat "Government On-Line/Gouvernement en direct" initiative that incorporates various usability guidelines, best practices, methodologies, templates, handbooks, guides and standards. As well, when it comes to "stealing" ideas that have worked in other federal agencies or departments, there is the official Common Look and Feel policy - in fact, it is not stealing, you are supposed to implement the "CLF" standards.
The Supreme Court of Canada is in the process of redesigning the Court Intranet and CLF is the name of the game.