The Magazine of the Usability Professionals' Association
By Alice Preston
Two organizations, one in the U.S. and the other in the UK, have provided analyses of public and government service websites for the past few years. Brown University’s Taubman Center for Public Policy in the U.S. analyzes country websites as well as those of U.S. state and federal governments. The Society of Information Technology Management (SOCITM) Insight service in the UK provides website analysis and support for local council governments and a subscription-based service for other organizations.
The Taubman Center for Public Policy published its sixth annual analysis of 198 online government services in August, 2006. (http://www.brown.edu/Administration/News_Bureau/2006-07/06-007.html). The United States ranks fourth, behind South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore, in providing services and information to readers.
This year’s study reviewed 1,782 government websites during June and July 2006. A variety of sites were analyzed, including executive, legislative, and judicial offices as well as departments and ministries such as health, education, foreign affairs, interior, finance, natural resources, foreign investment, transportation, military, tourism, and telecommunications.
The Taubman Center researchers found that 94 percent of these websites have online publications and 72 percent have links to databases. However, only 26 percent (up from 18 percent in 2005) show privacy policies and 14 percent present security policies (up from 10 percent in 2005). Software provided by the company Watchfire Inc. assesses whether websites provide assistance for the vision- or hearing-impaired. According to this software, government websites are still lagging on disability access. Only 23 percent of sites provide disability access, although this is up from 19 percent in 2005.
The Better Connected 2006 report, available from the Society of Information Technology Management (SOCITM) Insight service (http://www.socitm.gov.uk/Public/insight/publications/Better+connected+2006.htm), ranks local authority websites on a four-level rating scale. “Transactional” sites are best, followed in descending order by “Content Plus” sites, “Content” sites, and “Promotional” sites. This year's Better Connected survey was carried out between 15 November and 23 December 2005 and involved a team of reviewers visiting all websites managed by 468 councils throughout the UK.
This year’s results suggest that websites are improving:
If sharing guidelines and publishing comparisons can spur this kind of improvement, we user advocates should hope this kind of service becomes even more widespread.
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User Experience Magazine is by and about usability professionals, featuring significant and unique articles dealing with the broad field of usability and the user experience.
This article was originally printed in User Experience Magazine, Volume 5, Issue 4, 2007.
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