Why are government websites so terribly designed?

By January 26, 2018Current

TL;DR – How to be smart nation?

So the other day I tried to buy a business profile from Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA). It’s a simple record from ACRA with some basic information about the business. You pay a small amount, they send you a link from which you can download the information. Sounds simple right?

Unfortunately not. The website to buy that business profile is really terribly designed. It’s not intuitive what you had to do. The first few steps are simple enough. You key in the Unique Entity Number (UEN) of the company that you want the business profile of. Then things get a bit… complicated.

After you keyed in the UEN, you get to this page:

How do I get the profile I want into my cart? The button is detached from the details of the company I wanted the business profile of. I had to scroll down to see the “Add to Cart” button. Ok. Fine. There are actually quite a few similar products related to this company. But then why are there are suggestions of a “Product Bundle” that I can add to my cart that contained two other companies which I know nothing of? So why suggest that bundle to me? Why complicate such a simple thing?

It gets worse. After adding the item to my cart, I am informed that there is 1 item(s) added to cart. Great! Now what do I do? Where’s the button for me to check out? To pay? It can’t be found. It’s not there.

To check out, you have to click on the little number “1” under the “Payment Cart”. It’s so obvious! How can anyone possibly miss it?

I’ve read somewhere that website and app designs are like jokes. If you have to explain it to someone for them to get it, then it’s bad design. And many government websites, like this ACRA one, has terrible designs. The designs aren’t intuitive. You can’t discover for yourself how to get things done easily.

It seems that the public service, when making their websites, isn’t that concerned about ensuring that users get a good experience using the website. Instead, it seems like the people making the decisions aren’t focussed on the end users. Instead, it seems like they are more interested in showing their bosses “Hey look here, we did something to make our agency look ‘techy’!”.

Becoming a Smart Nation is more than just using technology. It’s about understanding the pain and needs of people. It’s about  meeting those needs and alleviating those pain in a way that is simple and delightful to use. It’s not easy. But we really need to do this well if we are serious about becoming a Smart Nation.

(Cover image via)



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Author CRC

Working on a startup is a scary crazy process. To destress, I write random stuff.

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