Content Management

Introducing GovPress

GovPress

After several years of talking about and conceptualizing, and months of development, I’m proud to formally (and finally) announce the release GovPress, a simple, elegant WordPress theme for government.

Since we launched version 1.0 just a few months ago, it has been downloaded more than 30,000 times from WordPress.org by governments, nonprofits and educational institutions around the world.

For those who’ve been following our work on this project, the original iteration was called GovFresh WP, however, we renamed it GovPress for the formal release so that it met WordPress branding guidelines and could be included in the official WordPress theme gallery.

The entire process of bringing GovPress to market has been an amazing experience, getting feedback, questions and, especially, thank you notes from people all over the world. I’ve learned a ton about building a solid civic hacking project and will soon write more about this so that it may help others working through their own ideas.

Finally, I can’t thank Devin Price enough for all his support in making this happen.

So:

GovFresh WP: building a government WordPress theme

GovFresh WP

Despite the fact that millions of websites around the world today are powered by low- and no-cost open source content management systems, nearly all small city governments remain trapped in the 90s.

It’s not that they don’t want great websites to serve their citizens. They just don’t have the technical prowess to understand what their options are and how to deploy and manage them.

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You go gURL: GSA turns on URL shortener Go.USA.gov

GSA announced it has officially opened up its URL shortener Go.USA.gov to anyone with a .mil, .gov, .fed.us or .si.edu email address. The site lets users create trustworthy short .gov URLs on Twitter and other online services with character restrictions and was developed by the team behind USA.gov along with members of the Drupal community.

For Drupal geeks:

Go.USA.gov is open source, and was developed in Drupal using the theme base Blueprint, Drupal Core, Shorten, Short URL, and TLD restriction modules.

User activity will be monitored to better understand citizen interests and needs. According to GSA, more than 700 public servants across all levels of government have registered to use the service, and more than 3,000 URLs that have been clicked over 450,000 times.

How To Use Plain Language on a Government Website

HowCast created a How To Use Plain Language on a Government Website video.

From HowCast:

Too often, dense writing, confusing acronyms and fancy jargon bog down government websites. Here’s how to use plain language to help your customers find what they’re looking for, and save your agency time and money.

Perfect companion piece to The Elements of (Gov 2.0) Style.

(HT @AndrewPWilson)

The Elements of (Gov 2.0) Style

The Elements of Style I’m all for the “clarity in government” objective of PLAIN (Plain Language Action and Information Network), the folks who maintain plainlanguage.gov.

I fully understand and support the need for PLAIN’s lofty goal of “Improving Communication from the Federal Government to the Public,” but don’t quite understand the need to create an entire Website to achieve this.

While I may be simplifying this effort, it seems to me a better approach would be to make Strunk and White’s classic The Elements of Style required reading for all federal government employees.

I’m a big believer that great writing is fundamental to successful Websites (see Why Gov 2.0 means the U.S. Government must centralize its Web operations).

On June 1, 1998, President Bill Clinton issued a memorandum on Plain Language in Government Writing as part of its reinventing government efforts.

The directive states:

  • By October 1, 1998, use plain language in all new documents, other than regulations, that explain how to obtain a benefit or service or how to comply with a requirement you administer or enforce. For example, these documents may include letters, forms, notices, and instructions. By January 1, 2002, all such documents created prior to October 1, 1998, must also be in plain language.
  • By January 1, 1999, use plain language in all proposed and final rulemaking documents published in the Federal Register, unless you proposed the rule before that date. You should consider rewriting existing regulations in plain language when you have the opportunity and resources to do so.

PLAIN defines plain language as:

Plain language (also called Plain English) is communication your audience can understand the first time they read or hear it. Language that is plain to one set of readers may not be plain to others. Written material is in plain language if your audience can:

* Find what they need;
* Understand what they find; and
* Use what they find to meet their needs.

There are many writing techniques that can help you achieve this goal. Among the most common are:

* Logical organization with the reader in mind
* “You” and other pronouns
* Active voice
* Short sentences
* Common, everyday words
* Easy-to-read design features

No one technique defines plain language. Rather, plain language is defined by results—it is easy to read, understand, and use.

Questions:

  • Is the federal government living up to the mandate?
  • If no, what can we do about it?