I’ve managed to get a sight of the proposed ‘new look’ for government’s one-site-to-rule-them-all, Directgov. I’m not sure how widely they’ve been circulated, so you’ll forgive me for not reposting what I’ve seen. But it’s not quite the ‘extreme makeover’ some have described it as.
Directgov, in its current form, makes a very brutal statement about accessibility. Big text, blocky boxes, next to nothing in the way of ‘character’. (The same goes for its Club partner, the Department of Health, incidentally.) But of course, it doesn’t have to be that way: it’s perfectly possible for a ‘pretty’ design to be ‘accessible’. The new screens seem to take that on board, which has to be a good thing. And by adding some extra colour, it (hopefully) kills off the petty criticisms about its arresting orange palette.
New and improved navigation devices are an inevitable part of any redesign exercise. But there’s something curious about the apparent desire to offer ‘new destination pages that are homepages in their own right and will compete with non public sector equivalents for attention’. Hang on – compete? What happened to the Mayo-Steinberg principles?
For what it’s worth, I’ve always liked the Irish approach. CitizensInformation (formerly known as Oasis) is similarly accessibility-first, but it follows through to the content too. There’s no attempt to make it especially pretty or friendly: very much ‘get what you want, and get out’. And I have to say, it really works. Multilingual and personalisable, even including ‘make your own stylesheet’, too.