NIC or Gov dot in sites

Or the title should be “desperately needed – UI, UX, Graphics and web designers – contact E-GOV and TCS.”

Disclaimer: This one may come off “ranty”. At the same time, I do appreciate the increased usage of technology being by many departments.
I had the pleasure of going through one of the many e-gov websites yesterday.
http://passportindia.gov.in/AppOnlineProject/welcomeLink
The first impression in my mind was the flashing of a few other sites built for the government – “Oh, another one of these”. Is there a specification which states that the delivered website must conform to some well defined “ugliness standard alpha”? Most of them seem to have a common theme of marquees, blinking text and just unclean looking interfaces/color combinations/gradients. Is there a pointy haired (or is it the more traditional “topi wearing” in this case) boss who says, “Okay team, build this website. Designers, your reference word is – ‘vomit’. Good luck.”

Looking  at the passport seva website, is our friend the marquee there? Check. Do we have blinking text? Check. Can we make it “colorful“? Certainly.

Passport Seva website screenshot

Passport Seva website
Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India

On this particular website, look at the logos at the bottom – left: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and right: National e-Governance Plan. Those and the “Expanding Passport Services” images all have some really bad compression artifacts. That’s just tardy. Upon previously sharing this screenshot, one comment I received was, “they probably scaled them up from a 10×10 pixel source image”. My guess is that they took a mobile phone, pointed it at a newspaper ad (and not the glossy kind) which had the logos on them, clicked a photo and then uploaded that to the production website. One thing that I’m slightly impressed with is that they’re using a css sprite for the logos! This screenshot was taken in IE 9 as the “best viewed in” text asks. In Firefox 15.0.1, the menu items on top occlude part of the “Ministry of …” text.

I used to think they might be giving out these projects to school kids (the one’s who’s parents pushed them to take “computer subjects” in school without any interest of their own). Must be a program by the education department to give students some practical experience. Oh well, that’s how they’ll learn and then improve. Wait! what’s that written in the footer of the website – “Maintained By TATA CONSULTANCY SERVICES“.

I’m going to make a mental leap from that and assume it was also developed by the same company. TCS is supposed to be quite a reputed firm. I find it hard to believe they shipped this. A team of professionals released this?! Where’s the pride that professionals are expected to have? “I cannot let something like this be credited to me. This is not a showcase of what I can do. I’m expected to do better. I will fix it and deploy, even if I work a few hours extra this week.

I doubt there was a shortage of funds to get the team to deliver higher quality. I assume the government pays well for these projects. This is TCS (Rs.1411.95 on BSE as I write this), not a one person development shop (who learnt “HTML at NIIT(if you’re a fan, insert other generic school)” and was forced into taking this project) that’s low on funds to work harder to deliver higher quality.

This is just plain sad. I’m going to be optimistic and think that they will improve soon. At least the passport offices have the concept of giving an appointment rather than a bunch up at the entry point (another skill that we are great at) as was the case a few years ago. That’s an improvement.

Know of any similar “works of art”? Post away with links in the comments.

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4 Responses to NIC or Gov dot in sites

  1. With my personal experience as an intern in one of the gov institute IASRI (Indian Agricultural Statistic Research Institute) I can tell you how projects are dealt here. Even though projects are assigned sufficient amount of money by authorities, the project manager (here they call themselves as scientist as they are surrounded by many other actual ones) instead of using the available funds to hire good designers and developers, look for interns to get the work done for free (trying to save money, may be for there own pockets can’t say..). After few days of my joining, I learnt that the project (Expert System On Wheat Crop Management) on which I was working was in development from last 7 years in 2009 and is still being developed in 2012.

    I am shocked by seeing “Maintained By TATA CONSULTANCY SERVICES“!!! Are they following IASRI?

    Similar Links: http://pimsicar.iasri.res.in/
    http://hypm.iasri.res.in/
    http://agridaksh.iasri.res.in/agridaksh/
    http://www.iasri.res.in/ssrs/
    http://www.iasri.res.in/isde.htm
    http://customercare.mtnldelhi.in/

    • This is very disturbing. It’s the government’s brand really, even the offices look like this. My personal favorite is mtnldelhi, the damn thing was probably designed only for screens that are 600 pixels wide. Forget UX, These pages don’t even hold up properly when the browser window is widened.

  2. Few comparisons:

    http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/TravelAndTransport/Passports/Applyingforaneworrenewedchildpassport/DG_174107

    http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html

    The main reason for this comparison is the fact that majority of IT industries in the these countries are run by Indians.

    I will be one of those shameless people who just tell what should be the right way rather than actually doing anything about it. (Okay wait, since I am ashamed and scared by Khamba Blogger to find this post as a target subject, I will send the contact and register a complaint in an email)

    Letter To be Drafted to our ministry:

    Long Term Solution Proposed in Letter
    We need to cut the fat layer of inter process communication. Its hard to believe that government can’t hire their own designers and web developers. That
    a) Reduce the overhead of long communication chains
    b) Remove the blame game on one another
    c) Generate jobs
    d) Help people do a direct comparison with General Quota and SC / ST quota in case government decide to go on those lines
    e) Help us find the designer, project manager and QA team, kick his/her ass directly for bringing our country name to shame in case low quality products like these are published.

    Immediate Action Request in Letter:
    a) Contact Tata, give them 4 weeks notice to fix it or charge maximum penalty of whatever our law allows for per day delay (something which helped our dearest Delhi Metro to finish before schedule).

    Please let me know (contact@vaibhavpanchal.com) if anyone would like to sign the petition with the email I would draft (since that would help to remove the guilt of just standing and watching beautiful blinkers).

    If I remember correctly, you need somewhere around 100+ petitions to be listened.

  3. Pingback: Passport Seva Kendra Appointment System | Pranav's space

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