(Meta) Refreshing Indian Government Websites – Occupy Movement Style
It’s 2012 – eight years since Flickr showed the world how to design a pleasing, aesthetic and easy-to-use website. The new design patterns (popularly known as Web 2.0) were embraced by entire legions of product designers. Whether you were surfing your favorite social networking site, a sports fan site, or even a boring corporate site, you couldn’t miss the ubiquitous slick UI. In the last few years, Web 2.0 sites are mushrooming even inside the venerable enterprise.
Everywhere except inside the bastion of the Indian Government. Utter the words “Indian Government Website” and most people will cringe. Forget Web 2.0, Indian government websites wouldn’t win any awards for usability even in the Web 1.0 era. The organizing I’m writing about describe Indian government websites as directionless, heartless and a pain for the users. I couldn’t agree more.
I can’t tell you how many times I visited a government website and left with disgust, 30-45 frustrated minutes later, none the wiser. The Govt category on TechSangam boasts the highest number of posts that are languishing in the “Drafts” folder. I think you get the drift.
Enter Bangalore-based HasGeek. Describing itself as a developer-led initiative un-organizing the conference scene since 2010, an attempt to solve the problem of insipid conferences organized around buzzwords by uninterested, soulless corporate entities who pitch them as company training events or as places for companies to pick up hot developers. The most interesting thing about HasGeek is that they are community-driven, using a crowd-sourced speaker-selection funnel where potential attendees vote up or down which talks they want to listen at the upcoming conference.
For their upcoming Meta Refresh conference on Apr 21, themed around excellent user interfaces for the web, they added a novel new dimension for one of their sessions. They’ve issued a 3-step “Take Charge” challenge to the geeks in Bangalore:
- Pick an Indian Government website of your choice.
- Redesign the homepage by introducing concepts of design, aesthetics, information architecture and usability.
- Awe the world.
For geeks who can’t be bothered finding a suitable site, they’ve listed a handful of government organizations who’ve expressed an interest in getting their sites “looked at” – partial short-list below.
- Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai
- Bangalore Electric Supply Company
- Census of India
- National Spatial Data Infrastructure
- Delhi Jal Board
- Delhi Government: Department of Trade and Taxes
HasGeek is careful in not setting unrealistic expectations. Here’s what they have to say regarding Take Charge’s Goals:
Getting the new designs deployed is not our goal. Our hope is that these designs will be catalysts for:
- A design rethink in Government organisations.
- A demand from the citizens for better solutions.
- Inspiring the country’s budding designers to pursue Government organisations by translating the full potential of the home page redesign to the entire site.
If you are a geek in Bangalore, chances are you already know about this event. If you are on the fence, have a second look at the schedule – you are bound to find a session that will “draw you in”. The speakers are from Cleartrip, Flipkart, Opera, C42, PayPal, Adobe, and HP UX Design studio, among others. Learn how they built beautiful, responsive web applications and what challenges they faced in scaling their applications. Watch the speakers at Meta Refresh introduce themselves and their sessions — in this Youtube playlist.
If you are NOT a geek but dabble in the social sector, the “Stories” track might be the one for you. And you definitely don’t want to miss the Take Charge demos from 4:45 to 5:30pm.
Thirteen months after I quit the corporate tech world, I’m headed to a tech conference. Boy! am I excited or what?
Get your tickets from http://metarefresh.doattend.com
Date: 21st April, 2012 (9am to 6pm)
Venue: Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram, Christ College Campus, Dairy Circle, Bangalore