Government of India and Its Websites09 May 2011
I am just fed-up with how government functions. All the Pub Ad stuff is weird specially when it comes to implementation in India and by the Government. The efficiency of Government organisations are always questioned and the quality of the product they deliver is unacceptable. Even their websites are not untouched. For instance see the websites designed and hosted by National Informatics Centre (NIC). Every site it has hosted or designed has a disclaimer that the content is maintained by the respective department or organisation of the government. But the question is not about content. The design of the websites is not up to the standards accepted by the industry.
There is another division known as Information Systems Wing which host the website of Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) that conducts examinations and makes appointments to various Civil Services in India. The notifications on the home page in the main frame are not at all readable on the website. Do these people never visit the website is maintained by them. Leave people from that department; do the Chairman and members of UPSC never visit this site?
Whenever I raise this point with my friends, they say that India is a socialist country and cannot spend money on good design and maintenance of the site. This reasoning is flawed from the very assumption. The government websites are designed and maintained to share information with public so that it is easier to communicate with them. This helps in easy and quick dissemination of the information to the target audience. The websites should be simple but the design must follow basic UI principles and the industry-established standards.
NIC and Department of Administrative reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG) have developed the guidelines to address the entire lifecycle of a website, web portal/application right from its conceptualisation to design, development, maintenance and management. Why the websites cannot follow these basic guidelines?
But everything is not gloomy. There are websites that have changed for better. In January this year, Rohit Chauriha (a friend of mine) and I visited MP Police's website to gather some Cadre related information. The websites was badly designed. Even the content of the website was very stupid. See, the screen shot that I took in January 2011. But the website now has changed and is in better shape.
Similarly website of Agra was in pathetic state of affairs. But it has also improved. You can visit its website here.
Among Indian government websites best design is of National Portal of India. It is greatly designed and maintained effectively.
But most of the websites are worst. Even the internal pages of Agra's site doesn't follow the guidelines. Check this link:- http://agra.nic.in/lokvani/default.htm or http://tehsildivas.up.nic.in which are linked from the Agra's website. The former is of the same genre that of UPSC and it is one of the worst sites. The latter is not compatible with any browser other than Microsoft Internet Explorer. I really feel sorry for the developer(s) who is not able to think beyond MS IE.
I did the review of Agra's website as per the guidelines given at http://www.web.guidelines.gov.in/ and sent it to firstname.lastname@example.org as per the Contact Us page of the website. But didn't receive any response from them.
To improve the websites there is a need to implement some process. We can have a common template for all the websites and ask the developers to build the websites using them rather than asking them to use their brains. The website design should be thoroughly reviewed and also at each stage of development. Only when the reviews and testing are completely successful the sign-off should be given for releasing the website to production and hosted.
I wish that people working in IT department in various government organisation get some senses and work towards implementing what NIC and DARPG have developed.
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