Shouldn't there be a law against having politicians' pictures on websites, particularly on homepages? Taxpayer money pays for these websites. So what gives politicians the right to take taxpayer money and hijack government websites and turn them into campaign websites?If you look at the homepage of North Korean websites then you will inevitably see pictures of "great leaders." But if you look at the government websites of Irish, American, Canadian or European Union websites, you will also see pictures of "great leaders."
Recently, I came across a government website responsible for famine and relief aid. On the left was a picture of a starving child. On the right was a picture of a politician.
The Web is about the informed, skeptical, cynical, questioning, impatient society. Citizens feel empowered by the Web. The last thing a clever politician should do is use old, failed North Korean propaganda tricks.
Stop Government Vanity Publishing
If most government websites are to be believed then most government entities have massive insecurity complexes. Visiting many government websites it's like sitting beside a bore on a bar stool. The bore drones on endlessly about all that he has done for everybody.
The Department 'welcomes, launches, improves, exceeds, excels, is celebrating its anniversary, and on and on and on.' It's all about them. Giving control of a website to a government communicator is like giving a pub to an alcoholic.
Nobody cares about the vision and the mission statement. The Web is about putting a vision into action, not talking about it. Nobody cares about how much money is being invested in health care. They're at a health website to solve a health problem, not to eulogize the Department of Health.
I came across a government flood warning website recently. Here's the first piece of content that greets someone who's worried about whether their house is in danger of being flooded:
"Welcome to XYZ flooding information and advice website. In Vanityland XYZ is the flood warning authority and we work closely with other organisations to manage flood risk in Vanityland. (Click to see exactly who does what.)"
Develop a Government Archive
Governments urgently need to develop a national archive strategy. The vast majority of information that governments produce has minimal value. In fact, it gets in the way, acting as a weed and smothering the useful information.
In one city council website I dealt with recently, out of 22,000 pages on the site, 200 were getting 80 percent of the demand from citizens. This is quite common. It is probably safe to say that 1 percent of government information has the potential to deliver 80 percent of the value.
The other 99 percent delivers the remaining 20 percent of value. Thus, 80 percent of government effort should be spent managing the productive 1 percent, and 20 percent of effort should be spent creating a separate giant archive where the rest is stored.
Right now, we mix the 99 percent and 1 percent in the same website. There's an old saying: What do you get if you cross a fox with a chicken? A fox.
If we manage the 99 percent archive (fox) in the same environment as the 1 percent of high value information (chicken), we get the giant, sprawling out-of-control website that sucks resources and delivers a frustrating and unusable experience for everyone.
We can do much better. And it's still all to play for. [Editor’s Note: Readers can find part one of this series here and part two here.]
About the Author
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant
, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.