Sep 1, 2009

4 Lessons for Dot-gov: What Makes a "Top" Website?

The number 4Last week, Time published its Top 50 Websites for 2009, and there was nary a government site on the list.

The closest dot-gov came was #39,'s NameVoyage, which uses Social Security Administration data to help parents find popular--and not so popular--names across the ages. But didn't make the list.

Looking at the sites that did "make it," Time's criteria for selecting Top Sites are clear. There are four main themes shared by Top Sites, and four lessons for government site owners who want to meet citizen and stakeholder needs.

1. Do something. Pretty much every Top Site had a task for people to complete. From searching for something on Google to selecting the best name for their baby to booking cheap travel on Kayak, Top Sites are where people go to accomplish something. Can people accomplish something on your site? Is your offer worth their time?

2. Focus. Most Top Sites have a clear single purpose. You use Netflix to find and rent movies. You go to OpenTable to make restaurant reservations. Fonolo helps you skip a corporate phone tree and get to a live person. Pretty direct. Many government sites, on the other hand, are multi-purpose. This makes search and navigation especially important to help people. How does your site help your visitors get someplace? Are you setting up a clear hierarchy with your users' top tasks up front?

3. Engage. This is a corollary to doing something. One of the somethings that Internet uses want to do is to participate. Many Top Sites, for example, Yelp and Amazon, let users have a say--rating movies, music, restaurants, services and products. Others, like Facebook and social networking sites, encourage friends to take silly polls and forward links. Once people have engaged, they are more likely to come back. Does your site allow feedback? Voting? Tagging? Can people see what others' have said? Do you make it easy for someone to send a link from your site? Do you talk back to them?

4. Share. Different from engaging, sharing lets site visitors collaborate in content creation. This can be Flickr (#1 on the List) which lets users upload photos for people to view, comment and reuse. Or Wikipedia, where you can share your expertise in a wildly popular public encyclopedia. Or buy joining a microfinance group via Kiva to invest in developing countries. Are you inviting people to share in their government? Are you inviting their creativity and smarts?

Whether you think Time's criteria is fair, the traffic behind many of these sites show that Internet users value them, too. Might be time to review what makes e-gov tick. Maybe we'll make the 2010 list.


  1. Cool tips... I must say..!! Really... if anyone goes for these tips.. will surely get a handsome visitors collection and a well reputation in the field of this internet popularity..!!

  2. It is a valuable bolg for me, thank you for sharing.


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