A review of the usability of some US eGovernment websites

A few days ago, I came across the website of  NIC Inc. They call themselves “the people behind eGovernment” and so I had a look at some of the websites in their portfolio. I actually only looked at those that NIC claim have won some awards. I assumed (rightly or wrongly) that the rest would not be as good.

Below, I am listing particular features which I liked in some of the sites and I am making some notes about why. I would love to hear your thoughts.

  • Common to all the ones I liked
    I like the fact that service clusters are listed at the top part of the screen, that they stay there all the time and that the layout changes little or not at all. I like the fact that as a basic accessibility feature they all have an option for font sizes. They also all have a prominent Search-box. Finally links to the social-media are always there and prominently displayed — Oklahoma went as far as producing widgets (see below).
  • Utah http://www.utah.gov/
    I particularly like the clean look, especially the stylish icons and how they spring up on-mouse-over (even if I am not sure about the scroll thing). Same applies to the effect that the top menu bar produces on-mouse-over, opening up myriad of links related to the particular option (e.g. business). I like the layout, the design and the way you get a complete look at all that Utah offers in the 2 min it takes you to scan the homepage. I also like the search box, and how in less than ten words under the control itself, it prompts the user about how to use search — making no assumptions about how versed with search s/he is. I don’t like the fact that they used graphics for the headings but I like the way the headings are well placed for catching attention during a quick scroll.
  • South Carolina http://www.sc.gov/
    I like the fact that the most important services are immediatley available. I like the fact that there is also a link called “All online services” which takes you to a long list.
  • Oklahoma http://www.ok.gov/
    I like the scrolling overview at the very top and the fact that the top part serves as both a one-word title for the “slide” as well as a clickable-menu. It could have been better aesthetically designed but the idea is very good for a quick tour and fills the space with more useful information than a plain photo of a smiling woman or the Statue of Liberty. I particularly like their widgets. Imagine if governments could make their data available in their open gov initiatives and, also give incentives to other (non-gov) data-owners to open up theirs. Then open APIs could be used to allow people to harness data, crunch it and splash it intelligently in a widget… look at the UK government’s Apps list.

I look forward to your comments!

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