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New Public Spaces 2: Practical Design Guidelines

Last post, I discussed how governments, especially state and local, should be thinking differently about the ways they engage online with the people they serve. A quick recap: governments have a relatively indefinite shelf-life; they have powers and likewise responsibilities that come along with being a monopoly; and given people live within and travel across multiple jurisdictions there’s a need and opportunity for reuse of technology and design.

I’m still focused on virtual spaces where there’s a requirement to be official or government run. We know, exemplified beautifully through open data initiatives, the notion that government has to be the central point for everything has changed and will continue to transform. Using and facilitating community or nongovernmental channels is another matter.

So, let’s say you’re just getting into this space. What to do? I’m not in a position to endorse or shun any specific technology or service—that needs to be a broader community discussion and in many cases will be scenario specific.

Instead, here’s a set of guidelines to help you think about your situation.

Develop a consistent identity.

Government can build or tear down its reputation at every interaction, every point of communication, no matter how small it might seem.

Online it’s even more important to design a space to clearly mark who owns, runs, and controls it. That’s our only indication of where we are and at whom to focus our trust or skepticism.

Take two examples.

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