Developer, Bowler, Media Guru

Commentary: U.S. Web Design Standards

During my evening decompression an article popped-up within my Google Now on my phone which piqued my interest: "Introducing: U.S.. Web Design Standards".  At first glance I was quite interested at what this article's content was going to provide.  In a culture where art and design is ever changing, how could the United States come up with any standard?  Well, here is my take on what the United States Digital Service has created.

The Issue

The article first presents the common issue that the government faces within its online face: a lack of a consistent identity.  Each website is unique unto itself, Student Loans is quite different from the VA web site.  The standards in terms of coding, design and implementation are vastly different from site to site.  This lack of cohesion leads to confusion and eventual disinterest.  I feel that this issue has been going on for quite some time and find it disheartening that it took this long to develop a proposal as well as a standard.  The internet has been a key focus of marketing and communication for quite some time.  The government should be at the front of providing usable tools that can be picked up by anyone, and sadly, they are not.  Many sites lack support for accessibility and usability, which limits the audience and reach.  Thereafter, the general flow and process cuts down the audience even more.  At the end of this "filtering" almost no one wants to even use the application.  What's the purpose at this point?

The Solution

Business Talk

The article goes on to providing a solution to the issue at hand, a standard template that all websites can follow.  It takes advantage of 508 compliance and is flexible and designed with the end user in mind.  The system uses common core design elements and is easy to use out of the box.  Let's be honest: It took this long to complete?  Web standards and best practices should happen at day one, rather than an afterthought that requires a team to develop.  I remember being thought best practices within my second class of web design at Joliet Junior College.  It should in no way have come this late.  Modern designers know what is required to make a website usable and responsive to the needs of the users.  It is an inherit trait of solid design and development practices.

Coding Talk

I dug into the project's GitHub page to learn a bit about how this system was developed.  Without going much into detail, the application is built with Ruby and uses SCSS within a HTML/JavaScript base.  I find it interesting that the developers didn't chose to build on a more common platform such as ASP.Net or PHP MySQL.  Ruby is becoming a well known and popular platform, but it still does not have the reach of the aforementioned languages.  The code within is compliant, clean HTML5 which has been well developed.  The general structure and source code has been well thought out and is quite usable.  I am interested to see how well accepted this become as government websites and applications get updated.  Will these sites need to convert to Ruby in order to be integrated?  I am quite interested to see what the future holds.

Quick Summary

We do need standards within websites and web applications.  These thoughts should not come after project completion or as an afterthought to development.  I really do hope that this project leads to sites getting updated and following a given standardized structure.  At the very least this is a step in the right direction for not only the government to follow, but the web design world as a whole.

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