Building Trust & Effectiveness in Congress
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Award-Winning Characteristic #3: Usability

In the 3rd part of our 10-part series on building an award-winning congressional website, we cover the ease of using your website as an average user. A good website interface should allow visitors to move quickly and smoothly through the website's various pages utilizing well-designed navigation tools and menu options. While it may seem trivial or obvious, a poor interface can greatly frustrate your constituents and prevent them from finding the information or assistance they seek.

Characteristic #3: Usability

Questions to be answered:

  • Can users navigate the Member's website and find what interests them even if they have never used the site before?
  • Does the website have all of the traditional organizational and navigational features users have come to expect?
  • Is the website readable for all ages?
  • What impression does the look and feel of the site leave with the user?
  • Is the content up-to-date (see previous post on timeliness) or are the links broken or outdated?

The specifics we look for:

  • Overall consistency and clarity are crucial for any user-friendly site.
  • Navigation should be straightforward with pages that are easy to find and return to.
  • All fonts, font sizes, colors, etc. should make for a readable site.
  • The site's organization should be logical.
  • Tools that can contribute to a very usable website include, but are not limited to:
    • A functional search engine;
    • A site map;
    • Clear menus and sub-menus;
    • Scannable and hyperlinked content; and
    • "Breadcrumbs" that indicate what specific section of the site the user is in and how they got there.

Award-Winning Example: Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

10 Characteristics of an Award-Winning Member Website:

  1. Information on Issues
  2. Timeliness
  3. Usability
  4. Constituent Services and Casework
  5. Promoting Accountability to Constituents
  6. Legislative Process Information
  7. District/State Information
  8. Floor Proceedings
  9. Diversity of Communications Content
  10. Diversity of Communications Channels


Inside of Capitol Dome

CMF is a 501(c)(3) nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to helping Congress and its Members meet the evolving needs and expectations of an engaged and informed 21st century citizenry.

Our work focuses on improving congressional operations and enhancing citizen engagement through research, publications, training, and management services.

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