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The Best Government Websites We’ve Seen in 2021

A few years ago, we scoured the internet from municipal and local government websites to state and federal agency websites to name our picks for the best government websites of 2019. In the two years since then, government agencies have met a series of hurdles. A global pandemic, an election year, and ongoing changes from the new administration (and the upcoming President’s Management Agenda) have altered government services and created new demands for how agencies are relaying information to the people they serve.

We’ve worked with enough national, state, and local government agencies to know that government website design doesn’t have to be bland and lifeless. If you exist to make the lives of your users more simple, then that effort starts on your website—specifically on your homepage. That alone is reason enough to make your website more user-friendly by improving your overall web presence and usability.

If you exist to make the lives of your users more simple, then that effort starts on your website—specifically on your homepage.

This time around, we considered web design, accessibility, user experience, and other elements to select our 2021 favorites. Here are the government websites that take .gov a step above:

Internal Revenue Service(IRS)

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Ok, ok—before you roll your eyes, hear us out! With tax season in the rear view mirror, you might not have expected to see these three letters again so soon. But, we have to say, irs.gov turns a necessary evil into something much simpler.

The main menu bar is sensibly sectioned, with direct links to information for filing, paying, refunds, credits & deductions, and other resources. The homepage provides easy access to some of their most sought-after forms, information, and instructions. Without doing any sort of deep dive, there are links for virtually every reason someone would need to visit the IRS online—from checking a refund status to getting coronavirus tax relief.

This website proves a point: that the best government website design doesn’t have to be flashy, just helpful.

IRS Website Homepage
By placing all relevant services on the first page and making them accessible, the IRS is able to provide services efficiently and without confusion.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Similar to our first website, usda.gov provides a breadth of information that quickly points the user to the services they need. We’re also a fan of their simple design elements that lend themselves to a great user experience.

The ability to provide timely information has never been more important. Front and center on the homepage, the USDA highlights a trending topics section immediately followed by a featured content section. Also notable on this government site is the use of imagery (especially in their “USDA in Action” blog section) that depicts real people affected by the services USDA provides. It’s a nice way to highlight the hero of their story, something mission-driven organizations should always keep in mind.

U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) Homepage
U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) Homepage with Featured Articles
The design provides the user with relevant information immediately, improving usability and emphasizing their mission to help people who utilize USDA’s services.

State of Maryland

Maryland.gov is a clear deviation from the standard in government web design. This state website incorporates the Maryland red throughout in a more modern design, a consistent and familiar nod for resident website visitors. Aside from the sheer amount of information neatly organized on the homepage, the responsive design adds a nice touch as you scroll through.

Of note is the “Maryland near me” feature, which appears as a stationary map with the scrolling overlaid. When you click to use the map feature, you’re able to filter your results by any combination of state agencies, parks, jobs, Motor Vehicle Administration offices, and COVID-19 vaccination sites. Also on the page are links to the municipal websites for all municipalities in Maryland as well as other kinds of maps for culture, recreation, state archives, and more.

State of Maryland's homeapage
State of Maryland Website with Map that shows the closest state agencies, parks, and jobs
state of maryland website map with a legend and list of locations
By utilizing a map on their homepage, the State of Maryland’s website provides a mass of information quickly, efficiently, and easily accessible to users.

State of Hawaii

Our last government website is another state website with successful web design elements. Hawaii.gov is very appealing visually (how could it not be?!), largely aided by variations in iconography, colorways, and typography. Each main section (government, business, residents, and visitors) has the section name in a different, script-like typeface written in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi, an important touch.

Where Hawaii.gov really shines is in the elements not immediately obvious. Accessibility and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are growing areas of focus due to legal ramifications for non-compliance. According to webaccessibility.com, Hawaii.gov has a 92% compliance score across all major accessibility standards with no violations. That’s a high but necessary bar to include the people living with disabilities who require accessibility compliance to interact with your website.

state of hawaii homepage that has a list of government programs
By prioritizing accessibility, Hawaii’s website ensures people living with a disability can get the information they need quickly and without confusion.

We hope you’re inspired to implement changes to your website to better serve your users! Sign up for Mighty Citizen’s newsletter and never miss our latest content or government agencies.

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