This very question was asked on reddit recently. Here is my reply to that question.

Most government websites designs are ok. Consistent and simple. The user interface or UI however is typically poor to today’s standards.

Have you ever clicked on a form input and whether it be for text, date or number they only use the one full keyboard layout for every field? Recently, when I was inserting a bank account number a government website form, I was asked to split the account into four different parts! This required me to research outside of the website to ascertain what they were asking. This over complicated government form would be much simpler in the commercial space albeit at the cost of a more complex code.

The best form would have one field for a bank account number and in the code it would break up the information into its constituent parts and then check to see if those parts make sense and without errors then, report any errors back to the user. Undoubtedly the most widely use form that millions of users use every minute is also the most simplest and that is Google search. One input field and one search button and we are done. No one can argue that Google’s programming is simple and is possibly one of the most complex and therefore the most guarded.

My theory why UI design is so poor in government websites is that designers for government agencies have to go through rigorous security screening processes before they can work for government. Once employed a designer is insulated from good practices of commercial website design exasperated by the mature designers of their practices. As these designers age they are more insulated but are more trusted by government agencies and so new designers are keyhole into doing what is done before or else threatened with expulsion. “Tow the line” attitude.

I use the word ‘designers’ loosely here. In the commercial space there is often a designer and a developer but not so in Government. The developers are the designers and typically developers make poor design choices as they often design for what is easy to program and maintain rather than what is easy for the user.

I have a degree in Computer Graphic Design and an elective in User Interface at the school of Computer Sciences but again this is just a theory.

See the question on Reddit here

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February 17, 2023 • 7:22AM


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