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Challenges With Transparency, Usability and Government Websites

Think you know what websites have the best usability?

A survey by the UK-based research firm Webcredible found that the top performing industry sectors were news and media websites, followed by travel and utility websites. The sites voted most unfavorably belonged to local authority and government sector websites.

The study surveyed 1,000 users during the last quarter of 2009. The results indicate that some industries could improve from a renewed focus on their interfaces.

Promoting Transparency with Usability

While the survey may represent a small cross-section of actual web users, a recent study by ForeSee Results also supports the need for better usability among government websites.

ForeSee Results conducted its first ever E-Government Transparency Index and found that transparency has a direct impact on citizen satisfaction. Maybe not a big surprise for those of us immersed in usability design, but it’s a big kick in the pants for those at the federal level.

The ForeSee Results E-Government Transparency Index surveyed more than 36,000 U.S. citizens who visited federal websites in the fourth quarter of 2009 and assigned specific quantitative transparency scores in order to create a baseline from which agencies can benchmark progress.

Satisfied Users Make Engaged Citizens

When citizens find a website highly transparent (80 or higher on a 100-point index), they indicated that they were 85% more satisfied than citizens who rate a federal website’s transparency poorly (69 or lower). In fact, citizens who perceive a federal website to be highly transparent are also more likely to participate in communication with the agency, collaborate and use the agency's Web site.

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Such insight may help guide agencies to make user-centric decisions about how to disseminate information to users so that it can be perceived as being both transparent and informative. Ultimately, improving usability on a government website not only improves the user experience, it can lead to better citizen interaction. For democratic governments, the web can be one of the best tools to engage users and disseminate information in a manner that promotes transparency and citizen satisfaction.

 
 
 
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