Webinar Recap: Better, Faster, and More Flexible—U.S. Web Design Standards Update

The Road to Launch Version 1.0

You may have noticed a new, cleaner, and more modern look to some government websites over the last year—these are the web properties that were early adopters of the Draft U.S. Web Design Standards from 18F, the digital services agency which is part of the General Services Administration (GSA).

Screencapture of the UI (user interface) page on the Draft US Web Design Standards website.

The Standards are located at https://standards.usa.gov, with helpful links to the individual UI components, design principles, and page templates. You can also visit the GitHub repository for the Design Standards—for those not in the know, GitHub is a place where web developers can store their code and release notes in an open environment. Users can review and download the code and standards, and can also “fork” them—that is, modify for their own use.

At the end of January, the team from 18F held a DigitalGov University webinar to talk about their plans for the official 1.0 release of the Standards in February 2017. Will Sullivan from 18F started off by explaining the purpose of web standards, especially within the U.S. government.

Why do we need web standards?

Web standards help us provide a consistent experience across a complex system of websites that communicate important government information to the public. This consistent, modern, and useful experience simply makes government websites better and easier to use. What’s more, government websites are rife with legacy systems—that is older, more out of date technology. Using the new web standards will eventually help improve these legacy systems.

What does the 1.0 Launch mean?

A 1.0 version simply means that the standards are currently in production, and are stable and well-tested across multiple environments. The team at 18F realized that they were already there, with the Draft Standards in use across many government sites, and this is a way to make it official. You can see the Standards in use in various forms and “forks” on:

  • USAJobs.gov – an early adopter!
  • USA.gov – a homepage refresh using the new Standards
  • History.state.gov – the U.S. Office of the Historian, a great example of a content-heavy site using the Standards
  • EPA.gov – a recent refresh using the new Standards

What’s next for the U.S. Web Design Standards?

18F offers a host of services around the new Standards:

  1. Training—A week-long, intensive workshop to teach your team how to apply the Standards to your websites and applications.
  2. Assessment—Their team evaluates your current system and workflow challenges to determine the most cost-effective and effective path towards successful implementation of the Standards.
  3. Customization—Develop and implement a custom look and feel for your site or applications’ specific needs.

Additionally, they are mid-way through a product roadmap that includes showcasing the benefits of the Standards to agencies and users, and continuing the work of improving the Standards by improving performance, finding partners to work on more complex open source components, and releasing future versions as they grow.

And there’s one important note: while the U.S. Web Design Standards were designed for the needs of government agencies, they can be used, and modified for specific needs by anyone! Learn more by watching the webinar below.

All references to specific brands and/or companies are used only for illustrative purposes and do not imply endorsement by the U.S. federal government or any federal government agency.