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  • Is the content up-to-date (see previous post on timeliness) or are the links broken or outdated?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
 
 
 

ABOUT CMF

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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.

Read more about CMF

PROJECTS

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Communicating with Congress The Internet forever changed how citizens and Congress interacts. The goal of this project is to facilitate a more meaningful democratic dialogue.

 

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Gold Mouse Project
Congress should effectively communicate with and serve citizens online. CMF assesses congressional websites to identify best and innovative practices that can be more widely adopted by the House and Senate.

 

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Inside the Hill
Produced by Founding Partner Fleishman-Hillard, this video series allows you to hear directly from Members and staff on how technology is changing the way Congress works.

 

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Life in Congress
This novel research project by CMF and the Society for Human Resource Management has two goals: identify the factors that motivate congressional staff and shed some light on Congress as a workplace.

 

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21st Century Town Hall Meetings CMF seeks to continue our innovative work in this area by conducting comparative research on in-person town halls, online town halls, and telephone town halls.