Federal Computer Week published an article encouraging government-related websites to quickly adopt six key features:

  1. Transparency
  2. Collaboration
  3. Searchability
  4. Engagement
  5. Archiving
  6. Better Services

Arguably, most websites out there — not just government focused sites — should demonstrate these characteristics. But I think that shift to meet these expectations will be slow, even with aggressive mandates from the Obama Administration.

I think engagement will require a particularly dramatic shift based on my experiences at a recent Open Government Innovations conference I attended. In one session, I found myself rather passionately defending user experience after someone challenged a panel of designers, saying, “Well, it might be prettier. But it’s not compliant, and we can’t have our sites not be compliant.”

“It” in this case was a design composition — a flat image — so it definitely wasn’t compliant at that point … it wasn’t even a website!  Of course, it’s imperative that sites be compliant, but technology today ensures that we can integrate improvements in information architecture and usability to visually represent data in a more engaging way while meeting existing 508 criteria.

And adhering to existing requirements while capitalizing on the engagement promoted by the technology advancements of today’s digital marketplace certainly is one way to bolster user involvement in government online.