With the kind of funding that they get, you’d think that government offices would at least have half-decent websites to boast. However, that is not always the case. Many government websites are poorly-designed, contain outdated information, and are horrendously mismanaged. This fact is as frustrating just as it is concerning. While it may seem like a trivial matter, how can citizens, especially the elderly and those with disabilities, get what they need online? And how can people trust their governments when their own websites have sub-standard quality?
Many government offices have the same attitude with website optimization as they do with legacy system modernization projects. They stick to subpar websites just like they do with outdated systems, which opens up a myriad of other problems, including increased security risk and reduced cost-effectiveness.
To illustrate, here are some of the most common flaws that you can find on government websites, and why they are big problems as they are.
1. Outdated information
Temporary policies that are no longer in place. Contact information of employees that have long since left. Articles with severely outdated information. Outdated information seems to be a staple in many government websites and is one of the reasons why a lot of people don’t trust the information they see on them. Aside from providing no value to citizens, outdated information can cause unnecessary confusion, which defeats the purpose of having a website anyway.
An ideal government website ensures that all information is correct and up to date. Aside from increasing public trust, this reduces the need for government employees to answer questions that people could otherwise find online.
2. Broken links
These are the links that lead to nowhere. Links become ‘broken’ or ‘dead’ when the originally targeted file is moved somewhere else or has been made permanently unavailable. There is no place for broken links on government websites, especially for links that are supposed to lead to very important public information.
There is a lot of software that government websites can use to check for broken links. It’s a mystery why they don’t use them regularly, considering that most of this type of software is free.
3. Missing information
One of the main functions of a government website is to provide information to the public. So when information is incomplete or totally missing, citizens are bound to feel frustrated and distrustful of their government’s ability. But that’s not the only problem. When people can’t find what they’re looking for on government websites, they take the time of government employees who are forced to answer questions that could otherwise be answered by info on the website.
4. Measly meeting minutes
If a citizen wants to find out what happened during a legislative, commission, board, or task force meeting, they can simply go on the government website and look at the minutes. However, a lot of government websites don’t make this as easy as it should be. Oftentimes, the minutes are uploaded very late, sometimes even months after the meeting has occurred. Worse, some minutes contain not enough details about the meeting for citizens to actually get a good grasp of what’s happening in the government–which is obviously not a good way to stay transparent.
Transparency is crucial in the government, which is why uploading complete and detailed minutes promptly should be done by government websites with religious-like dedication. People shouldn’t be kept in the dark about what happens in government proceedings, and governments are responsible for providing this information on the most accessible platform: the Internet.
5. Reduced security
Government websites that collect sensitive citizen information must have a high-level of security to ensure that that information is kept safe. However, some government websites are not updated in the first place, and this makes them more susceptible to cybersecurity attacks, which, in turn, puts private citizen information at risk.
6. Incompatibility with mobile
Nowadays, more people use their mobile devices more than they use computers to browse the Internet. That said, departments must ensure that their websites are mobile-ready to make way for users who are on their smartphones, tablets, and other sorts of mobile devices.
But government websites don’t even update their design regularly. Hence, mobile-friendliness may be far from reality for some departments, especially those that update only once in a blue moon. This may mean we’ll be looking at wonky websites on mobile until they get the refresh that they need.
Government websites have a bad rap of being outdated and full of incorrect or missing information, on top of other problems. As you can see, these problems have direct effects on citizens, which makes it only right to bring them up and ask for solutions from the people in charge.