Government: The FDA
The FDA‘s homepage is very, very sterile. It’s the stereotypical government site: a bland mix of blues and grays (and a hint of peach!), with a jumble of links spattered across it.
The audience for such a site is most likely comprised of doctors, pharmacists, and patients looking to find more information about their medications. It feels very clinical, the web version of linoleum and surgical scrubs.
Social elements are surprisingly (and impressively) integrated beyond the standard “follow us on Facebook”, with podcasts and embeddable widgets scattered across the site; these, however, are fairly hidden within the innards of the site.
To test its usability, I picked a term to find information on: Advil. I had no luck while hunting around on the site, but the prominent search bar in the upper right-hand corner pointed me to what I needed. The convenience of search gives it usability points, even if the layout isn’t super clear. The FDA covers a wide area of consumer goods, from drugs to cosmetics to pets to radiation admitting devices, and they have all of this available on the site. There is a lot to explore, making it a site better suited to discovery than targeted browsing.
To reiterate what I said with NASA, I imagine government entities don’t have the budget to invest in slick design, and because there is no competition for three of them (NASA, the FDA and the Seattle Public Library), they don’t need to woo their audience with fancy features.