Building eGovernment Websites


WHAT information will you publish/exchange through your website?

An e-government website is primarily a communication tool designed to facilitate the exchange of information between the public agency and citizens, or other parts of a society. The aim of this exchange of information is usually to support decisions (e.g. helping a citizen or an organisation to decide whether to apply for a public grant, or convincing a donor that they should fund a government project), or to facilitate a transaction (e.g. enabling a citizen to request a permit or licence). In short, e-government websites are there to support actions on the part of their users, by supplying all the information needed to take decisions, or finalise transactions.

You should therefore ask yourself what will the typical user be trying to do when visiting my website? What actions is s/he likely to want to undertake, to which the website could be of support?

This will help you establishing the type of information you should supply through your site. By running through what could be the typical decision-making processes of your users, you will be able to identify the information they require in order to make their decisions, and evaluate whether this can be supplied through your website.

For example, if one of the goals of your website is to help citizens decide whether to apply for a grant, you would probably need to provide:

  1. a navigational system designed to direct users from the first page they consult to a page about the grant that would best fit their needs (i.e. not to other, less relevant grant programmes, or other parts of the site);
  2. general information about the aims and scope of the grant;
  3. information on the criteria of eligibility for the grant, both in terms of the applicant and the project to be funded;
  4. information on how to proceed with the request, and on the practical aspects of the application, of the awarding and of the transfer of funds (including deadlines and other time-sensitive information);
  5. the possibility to apply online, if this is feasible;
  6. if relevant, information on alternative funding possibilities if the criteria for eligibility are not met, or the grant does not fit the needs of the applicant.

In the very likely case that you have set up a number of different, prioritised goals for your site, and have identified a number of prioritised groups of users, you will also have to assign priorities to the types of information you will need to supply through the site.

Reflecting on what information you should provide through your website is particularly important if you consider that sourcing, editing and managing contents is perhaps the most time-consuming and human resource-intensive aspect of the realisation of a web project: while design and technical implementation normally require the input of a relatively limited number of people, the production of relevant, up to date contents usually depends on the involvement of staff from different offices and departments in your institution, and needs to be planned efficiently, and fit into people's workloads. It is therefore essential that you focus on what the key requirements are in terms of contents for your site, and this is where prioritising types of information, and the formats in which they are made available, will be useful.

It should also be noted that in some cases you may want to provide particular pieces of information which may appear as being of secondary importance if compared to the core goals of the site, but which may help you attracting a larger number of users, which you can then try and direct towards the core functionalities of the site (e.g. in order to attract young people to a site that contains information about birth control or HIV prevention, it may help to also publish information that is relevant to other aspects of their life, such as entertainment or sport, which may not be entirely relevant to the ultimate objective of the site, but which could exercise an important "pulling" power for young users).

Whatever you choose to publish on your site, you should make sure that you set some priorities for the different types of contents, and that you actually are in possession of the information needed, or of efficient ways to obtain it from your organisation. And you should always put yourself in the position to review contents and priorities in the future, if the perceived users' needs change (e.g. after carrying out an evaluation, or survey).

Page Author: Andrea Bardelli Danieli. Last updated on 19 October, 2008.
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