Try something for me. Follow this link, take a look, and then come back. (Trust me.)
Now ask youself: were you at a government website or were you at Bing?
This confusion is understandable. The State of Utah today just rolled out a new website which borrows beautifully from the leading trends on the web and is setting the bar high for modern government websites. The redesign — if you can call it that, seems like much more — features a trending topics and activity streams, mobile and tablet-friendly versions, and crowdsourced content.
Most notably is the streamlined, search-centric user interface. A citizen coming to Utah.gov isn’t given a sprawling tree of links they have to cut their way through. It’s just a search box. It’s just that simple. As the state government put in its release, “search is unmistakable.” In Britain, some innovators within the government have been experimenting with the interfaces for government websites; they too determined this search-centric model is ideal. Understandably so, I’d say, because it aligns with the motivations a user has in visiting a government website: namely, you have a question. You’re wondering what time that office is open till or where that other one is; which form do you need to fill out and how do you submit it. Government is just as much an information resource as a service provider. Smart web design, like we see on Utah.gov, helps it be both. (By the way, more complete reviews are available at GovFresh and GovLoop.)
At the beginning of our fellowship, we asked each fellow to stand up and present why they were excite to code for America. Each response was remarkable and moving. Today, however, one stands out: “I want government to be user-friendly, intuitive, and beautiful.” Utah.gov, for one, now is.