4 ways the federal government can improve plainlanguage.gov

Source: plainlanguage.gov
Source: plainlanguage.gov

Managed by the Federal Aviation Administration, plainlanguage.gov, the federal government website tasked with helping agencies write better for those it serves needs renewed attention. While momentum on better government digital services is in full-swing, it’s time to re-invent how plain language is presented.

Here are suggestions for making it better:

Move ownership from FAA to 18F

FAA should focus on planes, not plains.

18F is taking the lead on a more accessible content guide and is focused on providing scalable, up-to-date holistic information on service design. 18F is the appropriate home for plainlanguage.gov (also usability.gov, but that’s another day).

Present plain language clearer

First-time users to the homepage are met with random information that appears to be addressed to those that are familiar with the concept of plain language, when it should be targeting first-time user and those wanting to learn more.

The only way to understand what this site is actually about is by clicking a “What is Plain Language?” at the bottom of the page, and it’s fairly inaccessible beyond the homepage.

Without creating context and describing the intent upfront and universally, the opportunity to effectively convey its importance is lost.

Make a web version of the guide

While there are .pdf and .doc versions of the plain language guide, there is nothing truly web-accessible. This could be done in a day’s time by re-purposing 18F Guides Template and empowering someone to copy/paste this information into markdown or HMTL.

Given that the web is the primary mode of communications, those managing the plain language program should lead by example.

Re-design plainlanguage.gov

The website needs to be simplified with a more accessible color palette, navigation and content structure. Given that it appears not much has been does with it since 2011, it’s definitely time for a refresh.

About Luke Fretwell

Luke Fretwell is the founder of GovFresh, co-founder/CEO of ProudCity and co-host of the podcast, The Government We Need. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn or email at luke@govfresh.com.


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