Federal Web Design Standards

Does your web work have any ties to the federal government? It may have a connection without you realizing it. I learned this while working at a college that was receiving federal grants and that is also true of companies that have federal contracts. 

Recently (January 2020), there were some updates to the federal website design standards. I saw several posts about this including one at federalnewsnetwork.com and governmentciomedia.com. Even if your site is not required to adhere to these standards, they are worth looking at and considering for any website.

Here is a primer on the standards which requires that a website must be:

Accessible: be accessible to individuals with disabilities in accordance with Section 508
Consistent: have a consistent appearance
Authoritative: not overlap with or duplicate existing websites
Searchable: contain a search function
Secure: be provided through a secure connection
User-centered: be designed around user needs with data-driven analysis
Customizable: provide an option for a more customized digital experience
Mobile-friendly: be functional and usable on mobile devices

All government agencies are required to modernize their websites to ensure that public websites’ user experience meets if not exceeds the expectations of the people each agency serves. 

The General Services Administration (GSA) developed the U.S. Web Design System (USWDS) as a standardized platform for agencies to design modern websites. 


Websites and (Re)Design in a Pandemic

Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay

Everything has changed in the past three months because of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Besides all the changes in your day to day life, meetings and conferences disappeared, offices closed and in order to minimize contact with crowds, almost everyone has turned to online connections and work.

Many organizations have relied on their web teams to make changes to sites t handle new tasks, needs and perhaps greater traffic. Those changes vary greatly based on your business. I have spent most of my life in education and the rush to move learning online has been enormous. The local restaurant that had minimal or no online business (takeout, pickup, delivery) is suddenly needing all that in order to survive. The office that now has all its workers working from home needs more than email and chat.

Of course, surrounded by tragedy, every crisis provides opportunities for some. Not to focus on marketing and profit, I wonder what your web designers have been doing during this pandemic.

I have been working and teaching virtually part-time for 20 years and fully online for the past five years, so that hasn't changed lately. What has changed is the needs of clients. Just based on my own work and what I hear from others, I suspect these things have been happening for many designers.
  1. Upgrading (or creating) online stores.
  2. Greater need for video, conferencing, demos, presentations, and videoconferencing tools.
  3. Intranet for organizations to do chats, file-sharing, remote scheduling tools. 
  4. Lots of updates - hours of availability, alternative contacts...
  5. Changing marketing, ads, offers
  6. Monitoring your analytics for changes in patterns
  7. Offering updates via email newsletters, new pages, banners...
Of course, ideally, all this was in place BEFORE the pandemic and should be unavailable for everything from the employee who can't get to work for the day or a week, weather closings, natural disasters, etc. But clearly, that has not been the case for many organizations.

What have you been doing with your web presence to cope with the pandemic?  Post a comment.

This post also appears at RonkowitzLLC.com


Avoid Reading About Web Design Trends. Maybe.

Photo @edhoradic via unsplash.com
A post on Medium recently was about "Why You Should Avoid Graphic Design Trends." The same might be said about web design trends. There certainly is no lack of articles and videos with predictions about the current or the next hot design trends. I would say that predicting is a losing game 90% of the time. Noticing trends is more effective.

For example, one trend of the past few years that I noticed - very long scrolling pages - seems to be falling out of favor. I never liked this trend of a website on a page but it gained ground due to be it being pushed via templates in places like Wix and Squarespace. I suppose mobile also had something to do with its rise in use because scrolling on those devices down, down, down seems very natural.

Digital illustrations, Vibrant Colors, Geometric Patterns, Gradients and Duotones, and Bold Typography are all topics that I and others have been teaching to design students for decades. Nothing new here, in fact, some of those ideas are bringing back earlier trends. And that's not unusual in the style world. Think about how fashion design continually brings back past trends in a revival/update way.

I did see that Split Screen was listed there and in a few other places as a trend and that I would say that is new, though I haven't seen it used much yet.

An article I saw just a few months ago seems already either out of date or predictably wrong.

One trend there is "dark mode" which has become an option on mobile screens because people feel that the blue light on the screen interferes with your ability to fall asleep. I have seen conflicting research on that belief - and I never liked web pages that were dark with light text as a reader. It might be fine for pages of images or pages with minimal text.

Others noted:
  • Imperfections that add personality.- sounds like an excuse
  • Immersive 3D elements - often cause problems
  • Soft shadows, layers and floating elements - can look very nice
  • Mixing photography with graphics - hasn't that always been an option that was used.
  • Solid frames of white space - Ah, the perpetual white space design controversy continues
  • Glowing, luminous color schemes.- Ugh
  • Ultra minimalist navigation - simple is better - unless it involves lots of dropdowns and things that can only be found with a search
I will admit that I do look at sites, like Adobe's trends, but I follow very few trends myself. I also like to look back at trends that were listed the previous year to see if predictions were accurate and if anything thrown at screen stuck.

You might say that the broken grid and asymmetrical layouts have held on to a degree, as an example.

broken grid and asymmetrical layout