Reminder: Sites Don’t Have To Be Pig-Ugly

Reminder: Sites Don’t Have To Be Pig-Ugly

What’s worse than not being able to do something online? Doing something online using a site that appears to have been thrown together rather than designed.

Pig picture from Shutterstock

Speaking at the GovInnovate conference in Canberra, Dominic Campbell, founder of government IT consultancy FutureGov, noted that many sites in the government sector came across as bland and unhelpful. Often this was because they stick with the default settings, when a little customisation could make the experience much friendlier.

"It's important to design with people in mind -- something I never did when I was in government," Campbell said. "It doesn't have to look crap -- take SharePoint, for example -- just for the sake of it. Too much of technology is a missed opportunity -- it's lipstick on a pig."

Changing that mindset isn't easy, Campbell acknowledged. "How do we move beyond some of the less helpful enterprise IT doctrine we've all suffered for too long?" Nor does it help when funding for projects is cut. "You can't just cut [funds] and hope that when you push government off a cliff it will learn to swim when it hits the bottom."

Nonetheless, the lesson that designing a service to be useful rather than just sticking to the defaults is worth remembering -- and not just within government IT.


  • They stick with default settings, because they’ve realised heavy customisation takes them YEARS to upgrade to the next version as everything breaks when upgraded. Govt were pretty bad at heavily customising software for their own needs while failing to maintain documentation or personnel involved.

  • Some govt. sites are great, others not (of course). But the primary design object should be: what is this website for (what does it have to do), who is it for (and ‘for us to impress our boss’ is not the answer), and what do they want/to do?
    Honest answers to these questions might lead to some good if not great outcomes….and ‘good’ is good enought in many domains.

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