Psst … Are You Following Our Digital Standards and Guidelines?

April 25, 2017
Illustration of a road with a traffic cop and traffic signs.

When most people think of Digital Services Georgia, they think of websites — Georgia.gov, Drupal, themes, and content management. And while that is a large part of what we do, we’re also part of the Georgia Technology Authority — the technology agency for the state of Georgia who sets policies, standards, and guidelines for agencies to follow.

If you’ve been on this site a lot, you may have noticed our standards and guidelines. We set these in place about five years ago, and have updated some to reflect changing trends and priorities.

Why Do We Have Standards and Guidelines?

One word: consistency.

It’s important that when users comes to a State of Georgia website, they receive a user experience that is common not only to State websites, but also to all websites. Usability guru Jakob Nielsen says that people become accustomed to certain design standards and conventions, and when users arrive at your site, they assume it will work the same way as other sites. For instance, they now expect the logo in the upper left-hand corner to take them back to the homepage. Users expect breadcrumbs that tell them where they are in the website. If something doesn’t act how they expect it to, they become disoriented and may eventually lose trust in that site.

Nielsen lists seven reasons why standards are important to users:

  • They’ll know what features to expect;
  • They’ll know how these features will look in the interface;
  • They’ll know where to find these features on the site and on the page (e.g., logo is in the top left-hand corner and links to the homepage)
  • They’ll know how to operate each feature to achieve their goal;
  • They won't have to figure out the meaning of unknown design elements,
  • They won't miss important features because they overlooked a non-standard design element;
  • They won't get surprised when something doesn't work as expected.

What Are They?

We have only three standards that all State agencies must follow; they center on accessibility, domain names, and brand. The rest are simply guidelines — best practices for you to follow — but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important. They encompass uses for items such as video, mobile, content, information architecture, and social media. Your users expect all websites to function the same, and the guidelines are there to remind you of what are considered best practices in the industry.

If you haven’t looked over the standards and guidelines, they’re located under Digital Standards on our website. Check them out. You might find something useful and easy to implement that could benefit your users more than you think.

Peter Lee

About the Author

Peter Lee served as the account manager for Digital Services Georgia until July 2017.

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