Interactive Bureau, a web design agency, has published a survey of government websites. In 200 pages they’ve skimmed over about a 1000 sites and reviewed in detail 20 key ones. The first thing that struck me as strange is that they don’t seem to have commented that 1,000 sites is about 990 too many. How can the citizen find their way around that many sites without being totally confused? Apart from that, the conclusions raised seem appropriate – sites have information that is difficult to navigate, use complicated language (a whole new meaning of govtalk) and, (for me) most importantly, they note that design is inconsistent. There’s some talk about a task force to address the problem which is too small and being swamped – I’m not sure who they are, but it might be OeE I guess. The Register picked up on the story and re-iterated the point that the Number 10 website comes in for some of the worst criticism.
One story picking up on it came to the conclusion, somewhat oddly, that the entire e-government programme should be abandoned. Rescuing themselves a little later in the piece, they nearly correctly concluded: “It is clear that the Government’s current Guidelines, despite their eminently practical approach to Web site provision, are not being adhered to. Therefore, it may be that the only way to do this is to impose rigorous standards on Webmasters, and to monitor their implementation, based on a Government-wide high level strategy”. ‘Nearly’ because I think it will take a little more than imposing those standards.