Big brother gets a make-over

Anyone who ever used the old New Zealand government Web site will really appreciate this new-look site. Re-launched in September, the site is a vast improvement on the old one which not only didn't look that pretty, but wasn't user-friendly. (One of my workmates did a search on 'Jenny Shipley' and was told there were no matches.)

Anyone who ever used the old New Zealand government Web site will really appreciate this new-look site. Re-launched in September, the site is a vast improvement on the old one which not only didn’t look that pretty, but wasn’t user-friendly. (One of my workmates did a search on "Jenny Shipley" and was told there were no matches.) This new site knows who its users are and what information they want. Navigation is easy and the content is useful. The site design is clear, using tables rather than frames — which is a plus as many people might want to bookmark material on this site and frames can obviously make that difficult. The front page gets straight to the point, which shows the designers have thought about the users. A major part of site design should always involve thinking about who your visitors are and how they will use your site. People visiting a government Web site don’t need an entry page, often used on commercial sites to promote a branding message. They’re probably going to the site to find information on a specific topic and most likely, it’s going to be recent information. The front page caters well for this. You’ll find the latest News in Brief, items the government is currently consulting on, recently released papers, commonly requested information and current issues. If your query doesn’t come under any of these headings then you can use the navigation buttons at the top and bottom of the page to find what you’re looking for. Navigation around the site is very easy with buttons for each section on the left and for the entire site at the top and bottom of each page. There is also, as already mentioned, an excellent search mechanism. You are able to search both the NZGO site or the entire Web. The search seems to be very intuitive, which makes finding information a breeze. Other pages include an About New Zealand section with wide range of information including our history, employment, business and environment. Rather than trying to recreate information which is already on the Web, this section sensibly provides links to existing sites. For example, the New Zealand Profile page links to Statistics New Zealand page for statistical data on New Zealand, while the history page links to several history sites. The local government pages mainly serve to provide contact information and perhaps a brief blurb on the role of regional and territorial authorities could be useful here. The government services section has six different pages full of great information, although I’m not sure that I would have looked for all of them (such as information for New Zealanders working overseas or government tenders) under that heading. The site also has a mailing list so you can subscribe to the latest information on categories of your choice. The site was created by design company Base 2 with Macromedia Fireworks and Freehand and Adobe GoLive and Photoshop. NetLink worked on the back-end of the site. The site runs on two boxes — both Linux-based. The Web server is a Cobolt Networks box, while a PC runs an Ultra Seek search engine and a My SQL database. PHP3 is the server-side scripting language. -- Kirstin Mills New Zealand Government Online

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