US government launches design standards to improve its web presence

The US Digital Service has published an open-source set of guidelines that aim to provide consistency across all the US Government’s websites.

The vote.usa.gov website – built using the design principles
The vote.usa.gov website – built using the design principles

The US Government has published a set of design standards which it says aims to create “beautiful user experiences” across its websites.

The open-source guidelines have been published on Github and are available to download.

The standards have been created by the US Digital Service and 18F – a start-up within the US General Services Administration department that works with US government agencies on web projects.

Plug-and-play

The USDS describes the new standards as “a plug-and-play design and code” service.

The guidelines cover all aspects of web design, including typefaces, colours, grids, button styles and form and search set-up.

For the visual style, the guidelines are “designed to meet the highest standards of usability and accessibility, while setting a consistent visual voice of credibility, warmth and ease of use”.

Typefaces and colours

For typefaces, the guidelines specify using Source Sans Pro and the serif Merriweather and offer recommendations on typesetting.

The suggested colour scheme features a primary palette of blue, grey and white. The USDS says: “Blue is commonly associated with trust, confidence and sincerity.”

A set of blue and red tones is suggested as a palette of secondary colours which can be used “to provide additional lightness and style to pages looking for a more modern flair”.

The suggested structure is based around a 12-column responsive grid, while suggested button and label styles are available to download.

Key principles

The USDS says the new standards are designed around four key principles:

  • Make the best thing the easiest thing;
  • Design for flexibility;
  • Accessibility out of the box; and
  • Reuse, reuse, reuse.

The team says the standards “provide a guide for creating beautiful and easy-to-use online experiences for the American people” and that they will be reviewed and updated “as we learn what works best for the people we serve”.

The standards have already been used in a number of US government websites including vote.usa.gov, which encourages people to register to vote.

By making its standards freely available on Github, the US government is following the lead of the UK’s Government Digital Service, which published its design principles and the Gov.uk code in 2012.

Discover more:

• Gov.uk goes worldwide

Grid setup
Grid setup
Suggested colour palette
Suggested colour palette
Secondary colour palette
Secondary colour palette
Alerts
Alerts
Footer guidelines
Footer guidelines

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