Website Review of USA.GOV
I was requested to review USA.gov, not by someone claiming
to be involved in the site, but to help with the design
of another public
site (wink, wink... "it's not for me, it's for a
OK, sounds good to me, and an approriately prominent
subject for what might be one of my last free reviews.
I'm not able to find enough free time to keep doing them
at the frequency requested; I'll post a fixed price for
this sort of review, and if possible I'll consider doing
free ones on some sort of periodic or promotional
Congratulations! This is one of our
last free usability reviews from UsabilityInstitute.com. "Usability" refers
to how easy and effective it is to use a Web site. Although
it involves how a site looks (graphic artwork), it is primarily
concerned with how a site works, what you click on, what happens,
and whether the site does its job. Perhaps
this review is all you need to improve your site. If that's
the case, great. Please mention UsabilityInstitute.com if
you talk with others who need help with their site.
Here's a larger picture condensed top-to-bottom:
The following three sections provide a general
analysis of your website from a relatively quick review. Although
Web design is still perceived as a highly creative endeavor,
there are many aspects of it that call for standardization
and compliance with widely established conventions. Implementing
even a few of the ideas below can really improve a site.
first section is intended for typical public web sites
(for products and corporate information), but also applies
for the most part to intranets and software applications
that run in a browser. We've been advocating many of
these ideas—in the context of general software—since
our 1997 book,
Computers Stink, but they've been beautifully
enumerated for WWW purposes in Steve Krug's book, "Don't
Make Me Think."
in top left, linked to home
||Mixed results. The
principle is there, but there might be too many exceptions.
For instance, once you get to the elaborate Search subsite,
the logo is "scoped" down to that site, which despite a
separate domain name is really part of the same site from
the user's perspective.
easy." (Interesting... fascinating actually, in that the
creators of the site convinced someone to put in a tagline.
I think it should be more customer-focused than to include
the word "government," but that's another matter.)
originally rated this item as "N/A" thinking everyone should
know where they've come to. But think of an apsiring immigrant...
they need at least a short sentence saying that this is
the official site, not a private or business attempt to
look like it. Ordinarily this should always be at the top,
but since I can't think of anything other than this one
sentence, it's fine at the bottom... and it's there! Nicely
||I thought these
three deserved extra credit considering that most
folks would consider government the ultimate language "obfuscators."
pages are distinguished by link color-coding
"visited" color is customized (from the standard purple)
but it works. They seem to have made it gray... almost
matching my long-term prediction that black will be come
the predominant color for underlined visited links (so
they match surrounding text).
|| "Utilities" are
easy to find
eye immediately went to the "Change Text Size" feature
but I didn't immediately notice the utilities below it;
they're the only thing without a "callout" box or icons.
It's a very busy page, which is understandable given
million stakeholders, so any see my good
example from a Microsoft page or even the White House
site. It mostly means adding icons. On some pages like
Search, it stands out.
on all pages, with box and button
Are Here" indicator
||When you drill down
from the top nav, the second level isn't always indicated.
It's hard to consider this a failure knowing what the likely
challenges are... the sub pages might serve many realms.
The left nav does indicate where you are.
but I noticed that when I click them, the left nav disappears.
Hmmmm... it's actually something else that causes the left
nav to appear and disappear... not sure.
If you've made it this far, I have
gift for the first 10 visitors who
reply. If you know anyone who's learning to
me and I'll send you a free copy of a kid's
book I wrote that has just been printed. Please
include "Poopy Phonics" in
the subject line so I have a chance of recovering
it if it goes to my spam folder. For smart
mouths everywhere, the book is PoopyPhonics(.com). No
strings attached, but if you like it, consider
posting a review to Amazon.com. —Thanks,
$2.00 back until October 31, 2007. No strings,
no small print.<<<
Just send me
the actual UPC code from the book.
— No spam,
no emails, no private info given out—
Do your hands ache after a day at the keyboard??? This review
sponsored by RSIRescue.com ...
Summation & Next Steps
Overall Rating: Strives
I'm sure anyone visiting this site with a distinct, real
need, could instantly come to the completely opposite conclusion
that I have. That's the nature of web usability and the likely
problem with such a huge site.
the site map of core pages and see if the primary and
secondary navigation could be stabilized and made uniform.
The fact that the site spawns so many independent sites shouldn't
prevent organizing the innate pages. For an example from
smaller government, I like http://www.tredyffrin.org/ which
is on my
Website State of the Art page.
- Move Site Map to the upper right.
- Add icons and a soft callout box to the page utilities.
- Continue to review real users' actual search activity
and tune the results accordingly.
I did not initially try to study or understand the site
as a whole. As one studies the site, it seems that it is
a collection of focused "index" or link pages in addition
to a strong set of utilities or "contact" techniques
numbers), compared to other sites. Perhaps the site index
could not just indicate but emphasize which links
are outside of USA.gov... maybe a two-sided tree whose visual
is to make the array of institutions the key value that the
site provides. The site is actually a big interactive map
to institutions, but the user doesn't see this... it becomes
a constant surprise. It's not a bad thing, it's a reality.
The question is, how can the site continue to provide its
basic search/browse value but grow into a bigger role...
showing off the most accomplished organization in the history
of civilization, the US Government?
Hope this helps and let
me know what you think,
Jack Bellis, UsabilityInstitute.com