I’ve been looking at why people bother to visit government websites.
Interestingly, in the case of the federal government in Canada at least, one of the main reasons they visit is to obtain publications. This really appeals to the publisher in me — I used to manage publishing projects – the paper kind, and I still regularly advise on publishing and production. It also serves as a good reminder that web comms doesn’t exist in isolation. Yes there is life outside the interwebs — these days I sometimes forget…
I’ve mentioned this particular research before, and I’m turning to it again. It was a sweeping study released last spring that looks at Canadians’ internet use and expectactions for the GoC’s web presence. Here’s the bit from the phone survey that shows what users tend to do on GoC websites.
OK, so about 1/4 of telephone respondents recalled going to GoC sites to get a form or a publication – this was more common even than looking for government jobs.
I would have liked to see a bit more fine grained info here – “obtained a publication” could just as easily refer to downloading a PDF as it could to ordering a print copy. But the mechanics of posting PDFs for download is totally different than what’s involved with maintaining an order fulfillment webapp (not to mention bricks and mortar part – warehousing print pubs and doing the pick-and-pack and all that).
But in the online portion of the survey, even more respondents – like 3/4 of them – went to GoC sites to get forms or publications. I imagine that the online respondents would be more web savvy and interested in using their computers to get government info and transact their business with us, so it’s kinda cute that lots of them were interested in old-school content formats like pubs… or maybe that just points to how outmoded government thinking is when it comes to creating and distributing content.
Anyhow, what all this says to me is that government websites must make it easy for visitors to get at publications and forms. I might be biased, but I’d argue for making a “publications” link very prominent in your site’s nav template. And then make your catalogue easy to work with — will blog more about this next week.