Engaging Government Websites: Fostering A Connection With People

Author: Ben Hawkes

In today’s rapidly evolving digital age, a strong online presence is essential for a government to effectively communicate, engage, and resonate with their citizens.

As of January 2024, 66.2% of the global population are Internet users and that figure is increasing by 2% every year. Although 62.3% are daily social media users, a website’s digital real estate remains the primary source of digital communication for all entities, irrespective of whether they are a company, a brand, or a governmental body.

With technology continuing to develop, governments must adapt and prioritize digital engagement to meet citizens’ ever-changing needs and expectations. Additionally, they need to accommodate for the varied security risks that a governmental digital communication touchpoint can face.

As such it is key that government websites position themselves as a voice of national authority, addressing scepticism – often fuelled by polarising debates on authenticity – conspiracy theories and the rise in AI generated content. 

Whilst a significant undertaking, a well-designed government web presences enhances governmental transparency and accessibility whilst fostering a sense of community and trust among citizens (Increasing Trust Through Digital Experiences Adobe & GPSP, 2020, pg. 7)

The key principles when building a governmental website are:

  1. Transparency
  2. Accessibility
  3. Security
  4. Authenticity
  5. Purpose


One way of effectively driving confidence and deepening citizen trust, is through the government’s sense of accountability resonating throughout their website and digital ecosystem. 

Readily available essential public information such as contact details for governmental departments, key reports, financial statements, and policy updates will help to ensure this. This content needs to be up-to-date, clearly signposted, and easy to find to consolidate full transparency.


It is essential that websites provide a seamless and accessible experience for all. This is particularly true of a governmental website, where the audience encompasses the entirety of citizens. Content on the website must be provided in a clear, easily navigable, and informative way, to ensure a user-friendly experience, regardless of digital acuity, educational-level, socio-economic background or neurodivergence. 

This ‘accessible to all’ principle drives not only the design and usability of website, but also the structure of the content itself; the way the information it conveys is categorized and signposted, the different media formats used (text, video, images), as well as any accompanying user guidance in relation to forms, calculators, or interactive tools.

An excellent exponent of this is the UK government whose openly available Design system ensures all UK governmental websites follow consistent and well-defined principles of style and structure. This results in a universally accessible and simple to navigate digital ecosystem, centred on clear and relevant text-lead user journeys.


Alongside defence and global technology companies, governmental websites are prime targets for national and international bad actors so they must be secure by design. Governments need to consider the dual security risk, both to the site itself and its users. 

Effectively applying security measures, together with regular auditing and monitoring, is essential to ensure cybersecurity threats are unable to cause disruption by taking the website completely offline or overriding the authoring of the website and making unsanctioned changes, for example.

There must also be suitable protection for any sensitive information that is gathered and held regarding individual citizens, as exemplified by the regulations of the EU’s GDPR, and sufficient assurance of anonymity for users who are researching information they would prefer to keep private.


The website’s profile represents the organisation’s principals, ethics, and approach. For governments in particular, maintaining a valid sense of credibility, authenticity and honesty, the website should project a professional yet practical design and aesthetic, use appropriate images, speak with a clear tone of voice and present a clean look and feel.  These elements will be reinforced by the elevation of important topics and subjects across a wide variety of a national interest.


Every piece of content on the website should fulfil a user-focussed purpose which is clearly defined. This helps ensure that the information housed on the website encourages a positive citizen experience, increasing the uptake of further online government services.

Well-conceived and targeted content can provide an open platform for feedback and public discourse, making available opportunities for citizens to better understand and take part in decision-making processes. This fosters a connection between leaders and peoples’ interests, at the same time as establishing the website as a genuine source of relevant and authorised information that they can rely on and return to time and time again.

A government represents its country externally; and internally serves its people. By following the principles listed here, a governmental website can help meet these core requirements from a digital perspective, projecting the country’s profile to the rest of the world whilst informing and supporting citizens in a meaningful way.


Ben Hawkes is a Content strategy lead at Hogarth.