The U.S. government has new guidelines to make federal websites easier on the eyes, helping users navigate and find what they're looking for.

When accessing a federal website, it's of the utmost importance to have all the information clearly at hand. Many government websites are cumbersome, however, and the U.S. Chief Information Officer (CIO) Council wants to change that.

CIO released new design standards on Monday, September 28, providing a common resource for federal websites. Through the new standardization, federal sites should improve the accessibility of their information and eliminate the frustration of digging around for some piece of information that should've been easily found.

The newly issued set of guidelines and open-source components promote clean and flexible designs that look modern and are easily accessible.

The new standards are based on four principles to help users find what they need as swiftly and simply as possible:

  • Provide the best experience while ensuring that it's also the easiest; developers and designers should deliver high-quality content with simple tools
  • Ensure accessibility out of the box
  • Ensure flexibility (federal websites should work with different screen sizes and form factors) as well as consistency (the same standards should be in place across all .gov websites)
  • Reinforce the best practices — the CIO has reviewed patterns, designs and code from both government and private style guides to establish the best practices and bank on those for the best experience

"Built and maintained by U.S. Digital Service and 18F designers and developers, this resource follows industry-standard web accessibility guidelines and reuses the best practices of existing style libraries and modern web design," the CIO notes. "It provides a guide for creating beautiful and easy-to-use online experiences for the American people."

The CIO highlights the importance of using common user interface (UI) components, as well as 508-compliant typography and colors.

The new standards should help eliminate the inconsistency across various government websites, but it's up to each individual site to implement them. Some sites such as the U.S. Digital Services Playbook and already use the latest standards, but others have some catching up to do.

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