Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Make the Words Work

Recently, my mom had to have gallbladder surgery. What did I do when I heard about it? I went to the web. What exactly was wrong with her, and what would surgery entail? I ran a Google search, and – being the loyal former government web manager that I am – I started with the government sites.

First one…too complicated. Second one…way more than I needed to know. Third one…written for practitioners – not me. Forth one…well, by this time, I gave up on government sites and went to the private sites. First site…bingo! Second site…bingo! Succinct. To the point. Clearly, the writers understood the audience precisely and wrote…precisely.

OK – so why can’t government web managers do that? Why can’t they edit their content so government sites provide succinct, audience-friendly information? Government web managers know that content is king. They know that less is more. They know what their audiences want (at least, they SHOULD know what their audiences want!).

You know what I think? I think at least some government web managers are so busy and distracted by design and usability (and yes – I know – “usability” also means content) and 508 and podcasts and RSS feeds and governance issues and budgets and all the other balls they have to juggle that they just can’t keep their focus on the most important thing they do: make the words work.

Please, government web managers. Step back. Look at how you’re spending your time. Make time - every week, every day - to get out your big ol’ red pen, and edit, edit, edit! Because if your words don’t work, nothing else matters. We aren’t going to choose your site.

Related links:

It’s all about the content

Who’s your customer?

Connect the dots

No comments: