This time last year we ran a series of talks on How to Create Government Websites That Don’t Suck. We hit a nerve, and the slides have subsequently been viewed over 6,000 times.
This year we have decided to take a different angle. We want to talk about government websites that inspire and delight us, in other words, government websites that rock. The breakfast briefing is happening on the 23rd of June in Wellington, but in the meantime, I thought it would be fun to share a half-dozen of the websites that we’ve researched.
Pay Car Tax (online service, UK)
In the UK, it used to be that you would go down to the post office to pay your car tax, bringing with you a wad of papers, including your insurance certificate and road worthiness test results. This tedious task has been replaced by a simple online service that validates in real time whether the insurance is up-to-date and that there are no outstanding issues with the car.
This site doesn’t look pretty, isn’t new, and has nothing to do with social media. But it is a terrific example of how to make life easier, and users love it.
State of Utah (local government portal, US)
In complete contrast to the Pay Car Tax site, the state of Utah’s website is highly visual, integrates with Twitter and other social media, and has been described by Fast Company as “instantly user-friendly”. In 2009 it won a Digital Government Achievement Award and it goes to show that government websites can be functional and look great.
GovHK (central government portal, Hong Kong)
Most governments around the world have some kind of portal that brings together public sector services into one place. It’s far from perfect, but Hong Kong’s recently re-launched GovHK has a very citizen-focussed feel, probably because of the way the site has been structured to support the users’ goals. From the site people can find information on everything from booking a tennis court to filing their taxes.
The Norwegian government portal deserves a mention too – their home page is similarly goal-focussed and their government departments are hardly mentioned.
Data.gov (open data, US)
I have to include at least one example of the democratization of data, a growing trend across the world. While the Data.gov site is not particularly useful on its own, it functions as a clearing house for US government data that third-party developers can use to build interesting mash-ups like This We Know (now offline) and the National Obesity Comparison Tool.
Act on CO2 – Carbon Calculator (social change, UK)
What’s different about the Act on CO2 carbon calculator is that it’s actually persuasive. It’s simple to use and visually attractive, but the thing that got me was the specificity of the questions. I didn’t feel at all like I was being lumped into a general profile, and the plan it gave me was detailed and actionable.
NHS Choices (citizen participation, UK)
There is a lot to like about NHS Choices. The site offers a great deal of health advice and information, and even helps people to partially diagnose themsleves. But what’s super cool is the ability to be able to rate hospitals and GPs, Amazon-style. For example, nine patients have commented on the service at Great Ormond Street Hospital. The comments about what patients liked and disliked are painfully real and incredibly helpful when choosing a healthcare provider. I’d love to see this kind of thing rolled out at universities and other state-funded institutions.