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New Blueprint for Government Websites

29 July 2003

New guidance from the e-Envoy's Office has suggested that public sector staff or their families could be drafted in to test government websites as a cheap alternative to outsourcing the work to usability consultants.

The advice is given in the Quality Framework for UK Government Website Design, which was published by Cabinet Office last week in its final version.

The document's aim is to make government web managers aware of issues they need to address in incorporating user's needs in the design process. While stressing the 'crucial' role of user feedback, it acknowledges that website budgets vary greatly across government, advising managers of smaller sites that students, public sector personnel or family members of staff could be used to "approximate target audiences".  However it warns managers, "Bear in mind that students may be unrepresentative of the skills of your audience and people from your own organisation may be too familiar with your structure and terminology."

The Office of the e-Envoy commented: "
The framework offers practical guidance on accessibility issues and it is up to individual web managers to identify the most appropriate method for testing their services.

“The framework is clear that for the tests to be effective, any group brought together must be representative of the website’s target audiences. Testing on friends and employees is one method outlined which might be appropriate, depending on the scale of the project.

“It is standard practice for employees to test and analyse products and services before they are more widely used.”

The guidelines are available
here on the e-Envoy's website.

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