OhMyGov: Census website aims to reach every American, stumbles badly
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Decent idea, poor design
By Alex Pinto
Nov 23 2009, 10:59 AM
If the financial crisis, health care squabbles, and general celebrity deaths of the of the past few months have caused you to forget, next year is a census year. And a newly launched website, 2010census.gov, has been developed to make sure Americans are ready, and to conveniently address their questions, concerns, and paranoiac fears about being counted.
The site is part of the Census Bureau’s campaign to “reach every resident in America” and plays up the Census as a way for everyone to participate in democracy.
To accomplish that mission the site boats some big features. A huge Flash marquee takes over most of the front page—a landscape picture from the point of view of Lincoln surveying the reflecting pool and the Washington Monument.
“The heart of the new website is the animated marquee that represents a cross-section of America,” proclaims Dr. Robert M. Groves, Director of the U.S. Census Bureau, in a video on the site.
Mousing over the different people pops up frequently asked questions (text and audio) which are answered by a very calming man. But only if you keep your mouse perfectly still. Hover over the dot incorrectly and you’ll be thrust into a different question, which creates a jarring effect that’s somewhere between amusing and annoying. In either case, the message is lost, and users are left hoping for a simple FAQ list.
Then there’s the problem of loading the entire animated marquee for the soundbites to work, and it takes an unusually long time even by the standards of other Flash-heavy sites. If you don’t have broadband, you’ll be waiting a very long time indeed.
Memo to Census: if you want to reach every resident in America, don’t use Flash.