Directgov: the future's not quite so orange

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.

One thought on “Directgov: the future's not quite so orange”

  1. hi
    couple of comments. ‘accessibility’ is not just the ‘disabled’ but your mum and all the rest who don’t have web skills. it’s a real dilemma, designing sites for everyone, when your audience is everyone, which for .gov websites it is.
    I think DirectGov was trying for that sort of approach but the orange was too in-your-face branding. it wasn’t a pleasure and – you’re right – for the more skilled web users that’s a real issue.
    isn’t there some other government funded project on devising simpler interfaces? I vaguely recall.
    with the route they’re going down it’s best I’d have thought to simplify the homepage even further, thinking of it as the front door. this means all the routes from there need to work for all though. I’m reluctant to be too critical not knowing the process – if it’s tested properly, who am I to criticise? Having said that some elements, like the branded go buttons, struck me as possible issues for some users.
    with the destinations, at least they’re marketing themselves better and promoting discovery. ‘competing’ is entirely the wrong attitude though – bit mad actually …
    paul canning

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