Have you ever read a sentence that was carefully crafted but told you absolutely nothing?

We see a lot of them on government websites.

Here’s an example of one that is on a prominent city’s website right now:

It is unlawful for the owner or person having care, custody or control of any animal to permit, either willfully or through failure to exercise due care or control of such animal, any animal to excrete any solid waste upon any sidewalk of any public street or public park, or to excrete any solid waste upon any real property under the control of or in the possession of any other person, or upon any place to which the public has normal access or right of ingress or egress, provided further, that no violation of this section shall occur if the owner of the offending animal promptly and voluntarily removes the animal waste.

If this were our client, we’d suggest something like this instead:

Clean up after your pet – it’s the law.

How Does This Happen?

That type of content shows every sign of enduring 3-6 layers of committee review, and emerging as more muddled and less useful after every round. Or, whoever was in charge of that page just copied and pasted a section of the city’s municipal code that addresses the same topic.

Here’s another example, from a different website:

The City Health Department’s Division of Aging is dedicated to improving the lives and well-being of (city)’s older adults. We coordinate services for older adults, adults with disabilities, and their families to maximize safety, health, and independence.

What types of services are being described here? Meal delivery? Health care? Transportation? The page gets to the specifics eventually, but why not lead with the information that visitors to this page are most likely to seek, like this?

(City)’s senior services include complimentary bus transportation, meals-on-wheels, and in-home medical services.

The easiest way to avoid unnecessary bloviating is to review your website content from the perspective of the user, and not from that of each department’s content auditor.

I’m sure many Public Works Commission chairmen would be proud to open their page and read this:

The City’s Department of Public Works is a full service operation, which executes a strong and thorough undertaking to provide a quality environment for our citizens.

That’s nice. But no one who accesses that webpage will have any use for that sentence.

Cut the clutter and get to the point. Anticipate the questions that visitors will have and, like Siri and Alexa, have your answers ready.

Find out how to pay a parking ticket online
Need a dog license? Here’s where to go

View the public transportation options near your location

That’s how public sector websites serve the public.

Every public sector website should be accessible to every member of your community. Our ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Review and Repair Program will assess the common pervasive issues on your website, and determine the best ways to fix them.  Get the details here

David Hofstede

Director of Content

From website content to press releases, blogs to whitepapers, If something has to be written, David writes it or approves it before it goes to our clients. He understands that good writing has a pu... Read more

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