Thanks to the Wellington Webgrrls for their comments about the problems of New Zealand government web sites. Whether you work on a government web site as an employee or a contractor, seems it can be a frustrating business. Here is a summary of what the Webgrrls said.
Budgets include little or nothing for site maintenance. Content management is decentralised, but no person or team is given responsibility for information architecture, adherence to style guide, quality writing for the web etc.
- Links rot, updating them is no one's job.
- Contacts are not updated so emails go unanswered.
- Links are appallingly out of date because it is no one's job to update the discussion papers, news releases, speeches etc.
No owner or weak owner
- Lack of a site sponsor/owner (either an individual or a functional team).
- Reluctant or passive owner.
- Little understanding of the web by owner (or wider management).
- Owner lacks access to budget and IT platform etc.
Mini-sites vs. main government agency sites
- It seems to be easier to fund a mini-site out of a project budget than to add the same content to the main agency site. Sometimes the result is fragmented and confusing.
- Sometimes a site falls into disrepair or gets abandoned when funding for the project ceases.
- A project website should have a 3-5 year plan for maintenance and wind-down. If you don't think a website is going to "last" 3-5 years, it probably shouldn't be built.
Unusable design, unreadable content
Some government websites try to look too savvy. They should not overestimate the intelligence or computer experience of their users, who will be a mixed bag.
Lack of a good internal search engine
- Some don't allow searching with likely phrases.
- Some appear to have an internal engine, but it searches the entire web.