Websites of municipalities often leave something to be desired. What is increasingly the calling card for the local government, turns out not to be an advertisement for local services. SEO companies can even make these websites really good that . But what could be better?
The advice comes from a book that is being presented today to European Commissioner Neelie Kroes, and the title is promising: The Secret of the Government Website. The authors want to help the readers on their way by means of ten fairly logical key messages.
Here are the top 10 tips.
- A bad website costs time, and money and is bad for your reputation;
- Take your visitor as a starting point for everything you publish;
- A good vision of web communication has the logic of the visitor as a starting point;
- A central web editor is a proven formula for quality;
- Less content is better: easier to maintain, cheaper, and above all more user-friendly;
- Clashing logic causes a lot of discussion and inaccessible websites;
- Building and maintaining a website is a process and not a project;
- Know what you want to test and especially why;
- You are never done with testing, it is a continuous process;
- Not all products are suitable for the internet service channel.
First, the worst website in the country. That of the municipality of Muiden, according to Overheid.nl. To understand the first message, it is advisable to take a good look at this. What do you want to know and can you find it?
Whether this is really the worst website, you can argue about that, but after a short exploration on the muiden site, it is clear that it will not greatly relieve the telephone traffic.
“Government websites score poorly on findability, accessibility, user-friendliness, and comprehensibility,” says René Notenbomer, who wrote the book in collaboration with Wiep Hamstra. “A website is still too often seen as a project, without a clear goal. This while a well-thought-out website yields a lot. Satisfied visitors and cost savings.”
The fact that it can be done better does not mean that all services must be done online, Notenbomer emphasizes. Not everyone is handy with computers. Some products or services are too complex for digital services. “Thus, the provision of services on government websites does not automatically create a demand for their use, which is in stark contrast to the great optimism among the management of many government organizations.”
These high expectations often lead to complicated and expensive websites. The advice to web professionals is to convert this optimism of the director into the preconditions for creating and managing a good website.
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According to Notenbomer and Hamstra, the content is leading. Logically, it often goes wrong. Why? The writers forget who their work is intended for, use difficult language, or make texts that are too long. With tools such as the Accessibility Reading Level Tool and Sounding Language, you quickly get an indication of the reading level of the visitors. “But this says nothing about the comprehensibility of the text.” Ask simple questions for the readers, is the advice. “For example, do you understand what this text is about.”
And also be wary of texts that have arisen from lengthy discussions about the content and have become a vague compromise for the readers.
Another recommendation is to invest in web management, which will not be a choice for all municipalities. A central editorial team in-house costs money. In times of austerity, this will happen everywhere. Anyway: “Less content is better,” says Notenbomer. This is easier to maintain, cheaper, and more user-friendly.
Web content is only usable or necessary if it complies with two rules of thumb:
- It aligns with an important organizational goal
- It supports the visitor in performing a task
With a website, you are never done. “Testing helps you to perfect your website and therefore to achieve your ambitions. And this is an ongoing process. The five quality criteria play an important role in this:
- Shelf life
First of all, make sure that your target group knows how to find your website, which is understandable advice. “What is an artist without an audience?” Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can help with this. “If you comply with the web guidelines, you have already filled in many basic conditions for SEO. And also see how your own search engine works.”