Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Titles of Government Websites

While branding is important – and usability studies seem to show that having an agency’s name featured on the website lends credibility - I still think that the name of a site should reflect what the site is about – not who is sponsoring it. At HUD, we changed the name of the website from “U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development” to “Homes and Communities” very early on (I think it was 1996). It was a very conscious decision, reflecting the fact that HUD's website would NOT be about HUD - it would be about homes and communities. People expect the title of a book to reflect what the book will be about. We decided to call HUD’s website "homes and communities" because that's what the site is about. The Department's name is prominently placed right under the title. If the title of the page were "HUD," people would expect to find out only about HUD. We wanted to be broader - not about the agency, but about our mission: homes and communities.

If we want to communicate to citizens that they don't have to know the organizational structure of government in order to find what they need, isn't it a subtle - but important - message to title our websites with words depicting what we do, rather than our organization names?

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