My top 3 public sector sites

William Heath from the Ideal Government Project (external link) turned the tables on me a bit after my rant about the new DTI website, and asked:

What are your three top-rated public-service web sites? And is it just accessibility you focus on, or content and effectiveness?

To answer the second question first, I don't just focus on accessibility, but I do believe that it a high degree of accessibility is a fundamental characteristic of any quality website. It's a good general indicator - to be truly accessible a site must have a number of other inherent qualities, including valid, semantic mark-up, good information architecture and a usable interface.

I also like to see apparently minor features like clean, technology-neutral URLs, good 404 pages, robust error recovery, user-friendly functions like RSS feeds and mailing lists, and effective search. It's this attention to detail that separates a great site from an average site for me.

My three top-rated public service sites? It's a great question, and the answer is naturally very subjective. All of these sites have issues (as does every site I've ever worked on I hasten to add), but I'll go for:

  1. Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (external link)
  2. London Borough of Lambeth (external link)
  3. Lincolnshire County Council (external link)

Try as I might I couldn't come up with an exemplar from central government. I did consider the National Crime Squad (external link) since it's been standards-based for a long time now, but it's a defunct body and the site won't be there much longer.

So what are your top three public sector sites? What gems have I missed? They needn't be UK or english-language sites - it would be really interesting to hear of some top notch sites from elsewhere.

Comments

Well, my top three public service ones would all be independent ones like

www.theyworkforyou.com
www.writetothem.com
www.directionlessgov.com

because of true utility and immensely usable design. I'm also excited about www.patientopinion.org and hope that approach and style really takes off.

Posted by: William heath at May 20, 2006 3:47 PM

As part of the team who works on the Lincolnshire site it's great to hear positive feedback! If you've got time I'd love to hear what you think could be improved on it though. It's always good to get a second opinion.

Posted by: Robin at May 22, 2006 9:52 AM

Ah, now I see where you're coming from William. Those are all very worthy sites, displaying moderate technical competence, but my main interest is government sites. i.e. sites which are developed using tax-payers' money, and are subject to the very clear guidance issued by the eGovernment Unit.

@Robin - When I was redeveloping my Council site Lincolnshire was one of the exemplar sites I used, especially for visual style, so I have a soft spot for it. Things that could be improved? Rather than list them here I'll email you (and try to get you to return the favour).

Posted by: Dan at May 22, 2006 12:47 PM

Interesting angle this, my "good gov" bookmarks include:

www.northyorks.gov.uk
www.reigate-banstead.gov.uk
and some provincial website in Scotland called Clacksweb lol

Some nit-picking to be had I'm sure but better than most. If we can get our heads round Microsoft CMS successfully hopefully we can add our extranet to the list too ;)

Posted by: Karl at May 22, 2006 1:48 PM

I am responsible for the web site for Lincolnshire County Council.
Most interested to see your comment about our web site. It is good to be appreciated. We try really hard to get it right - not always easy or even possible.
Thanks

Peter

Posted by: peter Barton at May 22, 2006 1:48 PM

There are some government sites out there that aren't too shabby:
http://www.dclg.gov.uk/ (the new ODPM)
http://www.dfes.gov.uk/
and my fave
http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/

Have an interesting story on the DTI site. Will email you shortly...

Posted by: John Moriarty at June 1, 2006 12:29 PM

Thanks for those John. I'd seen the DCLG site but hadn't seen the new Home Office site - I agree it's a very good site. It's nice to see some quality central govt sites being developed.

Posted by: Dan at June 1, 2006 4:03 PM

Hello from New York. I came across your site via Web Standards Project page.

My top 3 New York State public sector sites that I considered them to be pretty impressive and, like John M. said, "aren't too shabby":

www.nyhealth.gov/
www.cs.state.ny.us/
www.otda.state.ny.us/default.asp

Posted by: Mike at June 28, 2006 1:19 PM

We are a multi-disciplinary team at www.rbkc.gov.uk (which includes developers, designer, editors) who work together to try and make the site accessible and usable.

It is good to know we are on the right track. But there is still a lot of work to do. Any suggestions for improvements are always welcome.

Posted by: Maureen Kerr at July 14, 2006 9:04 AM

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