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Achieving best practice in delivering government information and services online


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Paper presented by Cheryl Hardy, Manager eGovernment Research, Information Victoria, to Smart government Australia 2010 conference, 15 September 2010.

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Achieving best practice in delivering government information and services online

  1. 1. Achieving best practice in delivering government information and services online Smart Government Australia 15 September 2010 eServices Unit, Information Victoria Cheryl Hardy Manager eGovernment Research
  2. 2. About Me <ul><li>eServices Unit, Information Victoria, Dept of Innovation Industry and Regional Development </li></ul><ul><li>Working in the web since 1996 </li></ul><ul><li>Numerous government web projects for the Victorian government since 1997 </li></ul><ul><li>Manage the domain </li></ul><ul><li>Manage the eGovernment Resource Centre website – since its inception in 1998 </li></ul><ul><li>In 2008 the site was selected in the Final Top 10 Who Are Changing the World of Internet and Politics and received a special mention at the World eDemocracy Forum eDemocracy awards. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Overview <ul><li>Good/Bad </li></ul><ul><li>What is best practice? </li></ul><ul><li>Audience </li></ul><ul><li>Content </li></ul><ul><li>Accessibility </li></ul><ul><li>What about pdfs? </li></ul><ul><li>Discoverability </li></ul><ul><li>Resources </li></ul>
  4. 4. Good <ul><li>Citizens Information </li></ul><ul><li>Provided by Ireland’s Citizens Information Board </li></ul><ul><ul><li>supports the delivery of information through three channels: online, telephone and face-to-face. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Written in the language of its audience </li></ul><ul><li>Is easy to navigate </li></ul><ul><li>One stop shop with everything an Irish citizen needs to know </li></ul><ul><li>Social Media NewsRoom </li></ul>
  5. 5. Bad <ul><li>It has lots of javascript – turn it off and the navigational links do not work </li></ul><ul><li>The content is mainly pdf and word docs </li></ul><ul><li>It’s a just a container full of legislation </li></ul><ul><li>It assumes you know what you are looking for </li></ul><ul><li>It only works in Internet Explorer </li></ul><ul><li>It……is so bad…….! </li></ul>Victorian Legislation website –
  6. 6. What is best practice? <ul><li>Best practice starts with knowing first who your audience is – how they operate, what they need and what they want </li></ul>
  7. 7. Audience <ul><li>That means </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Research your audience </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Review their needs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Refine your offering </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Implement your offering </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Research….Review…. Refinement…. Ongoing </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Don’t just put something on the web without doing this first </li></ul><ul><li>Knowing your audience you can then provide them with </li></ul><ul><ul><li>what they need, want; and </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>what you need and want to tell them </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In a format they can understand and use </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Then you can….. <ul><li>Develop content suited to their needs </li></ul><ul><li>How do you do this? </li></ul><ul><li>Write useful stuff! </li></ul>
  9. 9. Content – Write Useful Stuff <ul><li>Use relevant language </li></ul><ul><li>Do Keyword Research </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Google AdWords </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Google Webmaster Tools </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Google Insights for Search </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Google Instant Search </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Content – Write Useful Stuff <ul><li>Write easy-to-read text </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>write sloppy text with many spelling mistakes and poor grammar </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>embed text in images for textual content (users may want to copy and paste the text and search engines can't read it) eg from </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Stay organized around the topic - Break content up into logical chunks helps your visitors find the content they want faster. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>dump large amounts of text on varying topics onto a page without paragraph, subheading, or layout separation </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Do: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Use headings, sub headings, bullet points </li></ul></ul></ul>alt=&quot;Victorian Government Climate Change White Paper - visit; Alt should say: Victoria’s Climate change Action Plan – climate change white paper – Climate Communities – Victoria the Place to Be
  11. 11. Content – Write Useful Stuff <ul><li>Create new, unique content - New content will not only keep your existing visitors coming back, but also bring in new visitors. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>rehash or copy existing content that will bring little extra value to your visitors </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>have duplicate or near-duplicate versions of your content across your site </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Create content for your visitors, not search engines </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Use lots of unnecessary keywords aimed at search engines but which are annoying or nonsensical to your visitors </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>have blocks of text like &quot;frequent misspellings used to reach this page&quot; that add little value for the readers of your content </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>hide text from visitors, but display it to search engines </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Do: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Put in a call to action – take your visitors to the next stage – make it easy to find the next piece of information </li></ul></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Content - Write Useful Stuff <ul><li>Victorian Government untangles planning red tape </li></ul><ul><li>The Victorian Government has acted to remove unnecessary planning permits for some residential and commercial work, including rain water tanks and sheds in regional areas of the state. </li></ul><ul><li>Acting Planning Minister, Richard Wynne , said the Cutting Red Tape in Planning exemptions are part of the Victorian Government’s commitment to cut planning red tape. </li></ul><ul><li>It is estimated that up to 2,000 planning applications will no longer be required as a result of these changes. Victorians are encouraged to contact their local council to confirm what permits are required before they start any work so they fully understand the changes. </li></ul><ul><li>The implementation of Cutting Red Tape in Planning coincides with a reduction in permit application numbers from 54,788 to 49,587 over four years despite strong activity in the building industry. </li></ul><ul><li>During 2006-7, applications for residential alteration and additions, specifically targeted by the cutting red tape initiatives, dropped by over ten per cent. However, in the same period there has been ongoing increase in the number of building permits now at slightly over 100,000 reflecting Victoria’s growth. </li></ul><ul><li>The new exemptions will mean that: </li></ul><ul><li>Rain water tanks in rural areas no longer need a planning permit regardless of size; </li></ul><ul><li>Rain water tanks in industrial areas on longer need a planning permit provided they meet site and height requirements; </li></ul><ul><li>Domestic sheds under 50 m2 no longer need a planning permit in farming zones ; and </li></ul><ul><li>Minor domestic building work such as a pergola, deck, swimming pool no longer need planning permit in most areas that are not in a flood prone, heritage or environmentally significant area. </li></ul><ul><li>Cutting Red Tape in Planning is the Victorian Government’s plan from which key improvement in planning have originated including: </li></ul><ul><li>Planning Applications Online ; </li></ul><ul><li>Making Local Policy Stronger </li></ul><ul><li>The Review of the Planning and Environment Act . </li></ul><ul><li>For more information visit the Planning section on the Department of Planning and Community Development website. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Accessibility <ul><li>20% of the Australian population have some form of disability </li></ul><ul><li>The Australian Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) makes disability discrimination unlawful and aims to promote equal opportunity and access for people with disabilities. </li></ul><ul><li>Australian Human Rights Commission enforces this act </li></ul>
  14. 14. Accessibility <ul><li>Worldwide Web Consortium – W3C has published accessibility guidelines for websites </li></ul><ul><li>These are commonly referred to as WCAG 1.0 and WCAG 2.0 </li></ul><ul><li>AHRC says all websites must be accessible under the DDA – at minimum this is currently WCAG 1.0 Level AA </li></ul>
  15. 15. Accessibility <ul><li>The Australian Government has endorsed the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.0 for all government websites. This requirement supersedes the previous mandate for compliance with WCAG 1.0. </li></ul><ul><li>Agencies must update all government websites to WCAG 2.0 conformance: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Level A (Single A) by 31 December 2012 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Level AA (Double A) by 31 December 2014 </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. What about PDFs? <ul><li>Disability Discrimination Commissioner says </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ I'm not telling government publishers that they can't use PDF, but I am telling them that they must provide the same content in other accessible formats alongside the PDFs on their websites,” said Commissioner Innes. “I’m also telling them that, if this doesn’t begin to improve, we will start to name and shame.” </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. What about PDFs? <ul><li>Are PDFs accessible? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Some say yes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Some say no </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Some say if you create a pdf using all the accessibility features provided by ADOBE, then they are accessible </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>…… ..???? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>At least please fill in the document properties information and use bookmarks etc. So we don’t have search results which look like this: </li></ul>
  18. 20. Discoverability <ul><li>Top 3 things to keep in mind </li></ul><ul><li>1. Optimise your html page titles <title> ………</title> </li></ul><ul><li>2. Optimise your meta descriptions <meta name=&quot;description&quot; content= “…” /> </li></ul><ul><li>3. Use one domain name and stick with it </li></ul>
  19. 21. <ul><li>Titles </li></ul><ul><ul><li>This tells both users and search engines what the topic of a particular page is about </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li><title>Geelong Australia - City of Greater Geelong </title> </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul>
  20. 22. <ul><li><title>VicRoads : VicRoads</title> </li></ul><ul><li>Word duplication in some instances - keyword stuffing - considered spam by Search Engines – in particular Google </li></ul><ul><li>Alternative: </li></ul><ul><ul><li><title>VicRoads</title> or </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li><title>VicRoads: Victoria’s Road Traffic Authority</title> </li></ul></ul>
  21. 23. <ul><li>Good practices for page title tags </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Accurately describe the page's content </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Create unique title tags for each page </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Use brief, but descriptive titles </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Don’t </li></ul><ul><ul><li>use the same title across all of your site's pages or a large group of pages </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>use extremely long titles that are unhelpful to your visitors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>stuff irrelevant words in your title tags </li></ul></ul>
  22. 24. <ul><li>Descriptions – meta tag </li></ul><ul><li>A page's description meta tag gives Google and other search engines a summary of what the page is about. </li></ul><ul><li>Usually a sentence or two or a short paragraph. </li></ul>
  23. 25. <ul><li>This is the full meta description from the home page of VicRoads </li></ul><ul><ul><li>VicRoads is the registered business name of the Roads Corporation, a statutory corporate within the Victorian Government Department of Transport portfolio. You can change your address, pay your registration, check your driver history and finance on a vehicle and you can get up to date traffic information, bicycle routes, road works, employment opportunities and more... </li></ul></ul><ul><li>This is what Google displays: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>VicRoads  is the registered business name of the Roads Corporation, a statutory corporate within the Victorian Government Department of Transport portfolio. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Issues </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Length </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>All the good stuff about what VicRoads does for you the visitor is not displayed </li></ul></ul><ul><li>So - </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Put the good stuff up the front of you description – this is what people will see </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>There is no official limit to how many the characters can be contained within the Description tag. However, Google will only display the first 150 to 155 characters, so pay close attention to this portion of your description. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Write a short succinct description for the content of all your website pages </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>And your pdfs, word docs, ppts etc which are on the web </li></ul></ul></ul>
  24. 26. <ul><li>Good Practices for writing meta descriptions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Accurately summarize the page's content </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Use unique descriptions for each page </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Don’t: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>write a description that has no relation to the content on the page </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>use generic descriptions like &quot;This is a webpage&quot; or &quot;Page about roads&quot; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>fill the description with only keywords </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>copy and paste the entire content of the document into the description meta tag </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>use a single description meta tag across all of your site's pages or a large group of pages </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Be as descriptive as you possibly can within your 150 characters </li></ul>
  25. 27. <ul><li>Domain Names </li></ul><ul><li>Best practice - Use One Domain Name! </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t Create a New Domain for Every Product/Service </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t take domain authority for granted </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>It does not magically extend to a new domain </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Working with an existing domain expedites the ranking process in search results </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Your website doesn't have to be exclusively dedicated to a particular topic to rank number one on Google, but it needs domain authority and breadth of coverage . </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Don’t have multiple domains for the one site without putting in 301 Redirects </li></ul>
  26. 28. City of Greater Geelong uses at least 3 domains: http://www. /common/Public/Documents/8cbc87d1d7fc42e-Council%20Agenda%20-%2010%20August%202010.pdf And http://www. /common/Public/Documents/8cbc87d1d7fc42e-Council%20Agenda%20-%2010%20August%202010.pdf And http://www. /common/Public/Documents/8cbc87d1d7fc42e-Council%20Agenda%20-%2010%20August%202010.pdf
  27. 29. <ul><li>Best practice </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Stick to one main domain name </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Use 301 redirects to point other domains to the main domain </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Only advertise the one domain name in search, in print, on radio, on tv etc. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>If you are government use a gov domain – then people know you are government </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Gov domains rank higher in Google than non gov domains – Google loves govt content! </li></ul></ul>
  28. 30. Summary <ul><li>In closing </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Research your audience </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Write for your audience </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Be accessible </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Pay attention to detail – titles, descriptions, etc </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Use one domain name and stick to it! </li></ul></ul>
  29. 31. Resources <ul><li>Victorian Government Web Standards </li></ul><ul><li>Accessibility Toolkit </li></ul><ul><li>Adobe Accessibility Center </li></ul><ul><li>COI usability toolkit </li></ul><ul><li>Google AdPlanner – Audience Research </li></ul><ul><li>Research-Based Web Design and Usability Guidelines </li></ul><ul><li>Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide </li></ul><ul><li>Subscribe to the eGov Resource Centre Newsletter – or send me an email. </li></ul><ul><li>Subscribe to the Government website manager’s digest </li></ul>
  30. 32. Further Information <ul><li>Email: [email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>Phone: 61 3 9938 0514 </li></ul><ul><li>Level 20, 80 Collins Street, Melbourne </li></ul>