Accessibility to all
By making information readily available and accessible to everyone, the internet has been a game-changer for transforming the ease at which the public can become involved in legislative matters.
In the past, before legislatures and governments had websites, it was much more difficult for citizens to get the information they wanted or see the processes involved in bringing a law into effect, which resulted in people feeling distanced from the legislative process.
To fully engage and inform the public, it’s crucial to have a website that connects the entire legislative landscape. With that in mind, it should be a priority to ensure that your legislative website serves its users well.
What's important when it comes to legislative websites?
The overarching focus of a legislative website must be on how well – and easily – it facilitates civic engagement with the legislature and promotes openness and transparency within the legislative process. Here are the top five considerations when it comes to creating a good legislative website.
It is rarely an issue that content is not available. Rather, it is a question of how accessible that information is for the user – in other words, the ease at which that information can be accessed, and the level of understanding users will need to be able to decode menu structures and terminology to access the information.
What is important with regards to content is the layers of value a state can add to its content. How can it be enriched with metadata and indexed to allow for better search and retrieval for users? How can it be enhanced with greater hyperlinking between related content – for example, can bill statuses be linked to both timestamps on a video and a journal page number?
The level of detail that is accessible to users is important – it is satisfying to see states providing the full gamut of legislative outputs to their constituents.
3. Features and functionality
However, certain features can have the opposite effect. For example, does the website offer the ability to create an account and personalize your use of the website by following measures, member activity, and committee meetings? Is video and audio content well integrated? How well-linked is the content? And what additional features, as opposed to just streaming sessions live, are on offer?
Now, more than ever, as the digital landscape evolves, it is crucial that transparency remains a key component of any legislative website. In essence, a good legislative website needs to make it easy for a constituent to engage with the legislature online – the concept of a virtual statehouse. How does a website do this well? By addressing the following key questions: how easy is the video to access, how easy is it to connect with your representative, how easy is it to view amendments and voting records, and how easy is it to navigate and use the website?