Top tips for better Web design

Room to Improve: Information is good, but Web sites should also be easy to use, Godwin and Koyani say.

Federal Web sites do a great job of providing a wealth of government information and services, but there are some areas that still need improvement, says Bev Godwin, director of USA.gov. Godwin has three top recommendations for government Web managers:

  1. Focus on the main reasons people go to the Web site in the first place. 'They have something specific in mind, so focus on those top tasks.'

  2. Prune your site when needed. The strength of government Web sites is their wealth of information, but even this strength can be too much of a good thing. Web managers need to come up with strategies to prune their sites so visitors can find the most useful information. 'Less is more,' Godwin said.

  3. Use clear, descriptive keywords the average person uses to optimize your search engines. If you use plain language, 'more people will be able to find the right stuff when looking for passports, Social Security information' and the myriad government services people seek, Godwin said.

Ben Shneiderman, professor of computer science at the University of Maryland, is a fan of several federal Web sites, including the Library of Congress' (www.loc.gov), Census Bureau's (www.census.gov) and the National Library of Medicine's Medline Plus (medlineplus.gov). 'These are great Web sites because of the remarkable content and the convenient access provided for much of the information,' Shneiderman said.

Shneiderman also would offer three suggestions to federal Web managers to improve their agencies' sites:
  • Test your site with real users doing real tasks.
  • Build in a plan for regular feedback.
  • Assess usage continuously.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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