Feature Rich and Easy on the Eyes: The 5 Best Government Websites in 2022

The best government websites are like the best governments; they serve the people, don't frustrate them, and reflect the identity of who they represent. The worst websites… you get the picture. Joking aside, government websites are slightly different from others. They are essential for specific reasons and have their own best practices. 

The best government websites are like the best governments; they serve the people, don't frustrate them, and reflect the identity of who they represent. The worst websites… you get the picture. Joking aside, government websites are slightly different from others. They are essential for specific reasons and have their own best practices. 

We have years of experience studying, designing, and building highly functional and attractive local government websites at Town Web. Continue this article to learn about the design practices all the top government websites share, complete with a list of sites that exemplify each.   

Your Website Is an Extension of Your Administration

A government website is a place where people go to do stuff; civic stuff. Instead of showing up at town hall or Capitol Hill, they click a mouse or tap a device to interact with their local, state, or federal authorities. With a well-functioning government website, citizens can quickly access information, make payments, and get important forms without making a phone call.

In many ways, top government websites are like their counterparts in any industry – they serve the user. But users have modern expectations when it comes to web design. Design matters if you want to reduce the hassle of walk-in traffic and time spent on phone calls. Meeting (or surpassing) their expectations will keep your citizens engaged and communication lines open.

All About Communicating, Addressing Needs, and Building Trust

Solid government website design is vital because it makes serving people easier. For instance, web functionality can keep residents safe with accurate, up-to-the-minute information in emergencies.  

Effective web design addresses the unique needs of your community. Whether your citizens want convenient access to documents and forms or you wish to offer online payment options, your website should make it all happen. Furthermore, it should do it with a convenient, responsive design that reaches everyone regardless of their preferred device.

National and city websites are also 2-way communication hubs. They can be places for residents to engage, meet their civic responsibilities, and make their voices heard. Therefore, government websites must have designs accessible to all users.   

Finally, if residents don’t recognize or trust your website, they won’t use it. According to the Nielsen Norman Group, design trends change, but design (as such) is one of 4 main factors that affect a website’s trustworthiness. So, you must build a consistent image and keep it current to make your governmental “brand” the trusted source of info for visitors.

4 Qualities All the Best Government Websites Share

Government websites can vary in design, depending on institution, agency, department, and jurisdiction. The best local government websites may adopt very different approaches from international bodies or single departments of a large organization. However, good design is good design. Here are 4 best design practices that unite good government websites of all sizes.

They Are Interactive

Government websites serve people. The best ones do it with an efficient user interface that helps citizens accomplish whatever they need. Links, buttons, and menus avoid superfluous animation and follow accessibility standards. Furthermore, part of accessibility is understandability, and the best government websites employ simple, direct, and active language.

They Are Easily Navigable

The best government websites can be huge but still point users to where they want to go. This ability requires a design with carefully linked elements - label text should match the target page's title, and dropdown menus must be well-formatted and easy to read. 

They Build an Aesthetically Pleasing Brand

Attractive websites have high engagement because they use coherent and appropriate imagery to steer visitors through whatever process they need to complete. Great websites are unique and custom-made with consistent branding and natural-looking images. Furthermore, they are responsive and just as easily recognizable on mobile as on desktop.

They Are Clean and Simple

Simple pages make fewer demands on the user’s attention. Moreover, a less crowded interface makes it likely that the visitor will decide where to go without hesitation or frustration. A webpage should have clear, simple, and consistently formatted hints about what each element does and how to use it - including navigation, forms, and document access.

How We Chose the Best Websites

We used the design qualities above to formulate the 4 specific criteria of our list. Then, we scoured the internet and chose the government website that best exemplifies each. In addition, we picked a single website that successfully blends all 4 criteria into a balance of form and function.

Our list highlights the best government websites for each of the following –

1. Overall Experience – A blend of all the criteria into a great website.

2. Interactivity and Accessibility – It’s a place people can go to get things done.

3. Navigability – No matter how complex, moving from place to place is a breeze.

4. Branding and Aesthetics – Recognizable, consistent, elegant – it inspires trust.

5. Clean and Simple Interface – Pages that are not cluttered and present bite-sized content.

The Town Web List of Best Government Websites

#1 – Overall Experience - coltsneck.org

 

Colts Neck, NJ, is a historic township within the New York metropolitan area. Unfortunately, the official website no longer served its purpose effectively, so the administration contracted a redesign.  

 

Features

The Colts Neck website is highly interactive and allows residents access to various services across all government departments. Everything from the town's history to payments to agendas and official documents is accessible on a fully ADA/508 compliant site. In addition, navigation has a consistent format, and a “I’d like to…” menu speeds them to their destination without requiring knowledge of administrative structure. 

Coltsneck.org sports the town's official logo, colors, and hi-def images of the bucolic landscape. Transitions flow easily from one element to the next with subtle variations of whites and pale greens. The overall design is uncluttered, and icons are intuitive and well-spaced. The overall effect is distinctive, clean, and memorable.

 

Takeaway

Colts Neck's new website is a shining example of how local government web design can serve the citizens. The designers seamlessly integrated all four qualities of the best government websites. The best local government websites – indeed, the best government websites, period – benefit when they pay equal attention to providing services with simple navigation on a clean, attractive website.

 

#2 – Interactivity and Accessibility - sba.gov

 

The Small Business Administration assists U.S.-based small business owners with resources, information, and education to help them start and grow their businesses.

Features

The SBA website has a ton of interactive modules, tools, and how-to guides formatted to be accessible to every user. As a result, it's easy to differentiate between the informational content and clickable interactives. Moreover, every page has a table of contents, and guides have their own navigational elements that work well with keyboard-only input.

Sba.gov includes many unique interactions like printable infographics, cost calculators, expandable sidebars to illustrate step-by-step examples, and locator tools for loan centers or other organizations that support small businesses 

Finally, the SBA site is an educational platform with over 200 video lessons covering every stage of the entrepreneurial process. Each lesson has guides and tools to help owners put them into real-world practice. 

Takeaway 

Business is complex. But sba.gov helps business owners learn, manage, and grow their companies using a single, intuitive platform. The diverse array of interactions is well-organized and provides an excellent example of how a government website can help citizens get stuff done using straightforward, accessible design practices.

 

#3 – Navigability - gov.uk

 

The U.K. government's main website is vast. It encompasses many public bodies and delivers news, information, and statistics on a staggering number of topics.  

Features

The main page of gov.uk is a navigation tool. The simple brilliance of the site is that the designers geared it exclusively toward user experience. Topics group logically from the public's point of view, with no regard to the government's administrative structure. Under the link for each topic is a concise description of what subtopics are available on the destination page. 

The navigational structure stays consistent as visitors browse, and a simple dropdown menu at the top links back to all the main topics. In addition, users always know which sub-topic they are viewing by the intuitive text near the top of the page. Finally, a sidebar illustrates where people are in the step-by-step process for procedures like applying for a driver's license.

 

Takeaway

Gov.uk is free of every conceivable barrier to navigation. Other top government websites focus similarly on navigation by ensuring they have logical sitemaps, simple presentation, and clear connections between navigational elements and their destinations.

#4 – Branding and Aesthetics - state.gov

 

The State Department enforces the foreign policy initiatives of the executive branch of the U.S. federal government. It manages diplomacy, negotiates treaties, and engages in counterterrorism practices.

 

Features

State.gov combines the best web and graphic design practices to build a unique yet adaptable digital identity for the U.S. State Department. The site employs a consistent color scheme, simple and distinctive icons, and formal typography to achieve a sophisticated, professional aesthetic.    

The interplay of font, color, and stylistic icons makes the site easy and compelling to read and navigate. Moving from one page to another feels natural and maintains the department's identity throughout. The responsive design is flawless, and the mobile aesthetic is identical, even with the department logo hidden to maximize screen space.

 

Takeaway

State.gov establishes its identity with classic, dignified color and typography. It remains consistent regardless of what content is on the screen, and the design is responsive to screen size and orientation. The best government websites build familiarity and trust using the same consistency and attention to the minute details of user experience.

#5 – Clean and Simple Interface - whitehouse.gov

 

The White House website gives information on the presidential administration and the executive branch. It is a repository of presidential remarks and initiatives and a source of press releases, fact sheets, and information about past administrations.

 

Features

Whitehouse.gov presents simple, well-organized text in a single column on a white background. This approach makes it easy to switch from one device to another and accommodates any size display. Moreover, headers are in all caps and easy to identify. A simple navigation bar at the top leads to personnel info, current administration priorities, and the Briefing Room – a page for official press releases and fact sheets.

The presentation of the entire site is sparse, with never too much on the screen at once. There are few graphics or pictures, but all are well-chosen and have unobtrusive, rounded corners. Furthermore, the colors offer low contrast, and transitions move from white to light yellow backgrounds. The effect is clean, simple, and direct – no distractions.      

 

Takeaway

The simple and clean design of whitehouse.gov does not distract users from finding the information they want. However, it also serves an aesthetic purpose, highlighting the quality of graphics and images when they appear. 

The official site of the administration is a sparkling example of how not to oversimplify design. Instead, top government websites avoid clutter and provide space so visitors can appreciate design choices without being overwhelmed.   

 

Ensure Your Local Government Website Makes Our List!

As a town or city administrator, you need a website that serves the people while making your job easier. Not only does it need to act as a reliable communication hub, but it must also represent the municipality's history, people, and "brand," just like the sites on our list. At Town Web, we are committed to building practical, user-friendly, and attractive websites for cities and towns of all sizes. Get in touch today!

Town Web services are approved for use with ARPA funds!