Why are most government websites so terrible?

The recent debacle with the Affordable Care Act has made headlines but those of us in the development world are just seeing more of the same old thing. Government websites stink! Why is that? I can assure you that their cost structure is very similar to the outrageous cost of healthcare.gov. We have seen bids for local government sites in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. While they are complex, they aren’t that complex. Once major challenge is hooking up to all the old legacy systems local (aw heck, all) governments rely on. This presents challenges but the bids are still overblown – it’s kind of just “the thing to do” with government, huh?

But then, why do they still stink? If they cost so much, so be it, but at least be good, right?

They almost unanimously seem to lumber along, contain sparse information, disconnect and are chock full of broken links. Other websites are just as complex, take Amazon or Ebay for example and you’ll rarely see the kind of issues you find throughout government web projects. Maybe those are extreme examples but you would think that government web developers would at least be working with the latest in industry standards. There is nothing preventing a government site from being responsive or at least mobile friendly. Why do I see so many <font> tags? Is this 1998?

For all the trouble and money you would think the product would be just cutting edge. Nope. We relive  and suffer through the same old clunkers and just kind of shrug… it’s just the way it is.