What are some necessary technology standards that guide how websites and digital services deliver what end users require?

In the past, that question is often left unanswered after a website or app is rolled out. As the years go by, user expectations might have changed. The key to higher standards is to constantly and consistently deliver a top-notch digital experience for users.

As the Singapore government rolls out more digital services and develops websites in the future, what we need is a consistent effort to test and measure in order to provide a complete user experience for users.

Standards like the Web Interface Standards (WIS), and an analytics solution like the Whole-of-Government Application Analytics (WOGAA) engine are some of the tools that enable us to do so.

Web Interface Standards (WIS)

The Web Interface Standards (WIS) is a set of standards covering five key areas, to ensure a consistent level of usability and accessibility in the Singapore Government’s digital services.  All public facing digital services of the Government (using the gov.sg domains) must meet the WIS.  In addition, the Government conducts mystery-shopping checks based on the WIS, to ensure that our digital services are implemented with the basic adequacy in terms of usability and accessibility.

1. Accessibility

Digital services must be usable to as many potential users as possible. We embrace the Web Content Accessibility Standards (WCAG) published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).  This is a globally adopted standard to ensure web content accessibility to different users.  This includes meeting a minimum contrast ratio and having descriptive text alternatives to images and videos.  The digital services must also be ready to adopt assistive technologies, such as speech readers, so that they can be more accessible by people with special needs.

2. Responsive Web Design
 
Digital services must be easy to browse, regardless of whether the user accesses it from a laptop or smart phone.  A responsive web design allows the digital services’ key content to optimally fit any of these devices.

3. Ease of Navigation
 
Digital services must be easy to use, by having a navigation menu or structure that allows easy finding and discovery of content.  This includes categorising content, presenting critical content with distinct visual styling, having an effective search function, and providing links to relevant content.
 
4. Well-designed Homepage

 Digital services must have a homepage that is designed to enhance the user’s digital interaction with the Government.  This includes presenting concise information and clear calls-to-action, prominently featuring the key services and placing important information (such as contact information and social media links) visibly.

5. Clear and Useful Content
 
Digital services must have useful, relevant and easy-to-understand content.  This includes writing the content concisely in simple language, designing the webpages to be uncluttered so that users can find content easily, having contextual help and useful information (such as an estimation on how long the process will take) to guide users, and providing error messages that are displayed intuitively and are easily understandable and actionable.