Democracy needs clear and transparent information for all. So we had to meet several challenges during the relaunch of the Austrian Parliament’s internet and intranet presence. 1) More than 1 million individual pages needed to be better structured. 2) The website has to be attractive for very different target audiences: The range goes from citizens who need information on the legislative process or the parliament building to government employees looking for a commission report. 3) The standards are extremely high, as far as content and form are concerned. 4) Despite the numerous functionalities, the website has to adhere to strict accessibility criteria. After all, this is where the laws on accessibility were passed.
Aim and General Considerations
The communication aim and therefore the mission of the Austrian Parliament is to convey an understanding of democracy, that is, transparency and consistency of the Austrian parliamentarianism, to create an interest, trust and appreciation for the institution, its representatives and their performance, as well as to ensure stability and security. All this should be expressed through a modern platform that furnishes all target audiences (teachers, all citizens, parlamentarians, lawyers, EU employees etc.) with the desired information quickly and comfortably.
We assisted the Parliamentary Administration in defining the requirements and are responsible for the concept, user experience & design, frontend development and the new editorial guidelines.
Information Architecture, Design
A wide-awake information architecture is always important to us. With over a million individual pages and and a very diverse target audience, this becomes especially challenging. Together with the excellent team of the Parliamentary Adminstration, we developed the structure for the website and the intranet platform. In a thorough concept, we planned the complete and still very clear documentation of all activities in Parliament, so that a detailed history of every subject being negotiated in the plenary session can be easily retrieved.
Regarding the user experience and the design, we adhered to the following principles:
Timely and innovative. But no experiments. Use of well-proven interaction and structure solutions , implemented in a timely and thoughtful way.
Official-looking and sustainable. But at the same time, transparent, open-minded and modern. Not zeitgeisty or chummy.
Focused and neutral. Apart from extensive information more and more dialog. Concentration on core tasks.
Strong focus on consistency in concept and design across all areas. To provide a better overview for the users and of course a more efficient development and maintenance.
Imparting the emotional core values (stability, openness, trust/reliability and dignity) through a consistent, logical structure, premium information design and flawless functionality.
Text Design and Editing Guide
In addition to the content that results directly from the parliamentary business, the Parliament’s website offers extensive information – from the history of democracy and the Parliament to the background of its members and to current activities . For the launch, we assisted the Parliamentary Adminstration in matters of text composition. To ensure a consistent quality level, we trained selected employees for the specific requirements of online texting, provided sample texts and developed extensive editorial guidelines.
More complexity would be hard to imagine: an especially large range of content and functionality and exceptionally high technical requirements. In addition, several entities of the Parliamentary Administration had to be involved, who provided their expertise. For the best possible communication and a sustainable design of the intranet and internet presence, we set up a series of 30 workshops, where the precise requirements were defined, the functionalities devised and the necessary release processes organized. The workshops were prepared and moderated by us. Not just the requirements were special, but also the setting where we were allowed to hold the workshops: the grand state-rooms of the Palais Epstein, which belongs to the Parliament.
For a website with over a million documents, not just an elaborate information architecture is needed but also a powerful search engine. We advised the Parliament during the selection process. In the end, Fast Search by Microsoft was chosen.
Steep Increase in Visits
The number of visits has more than doubled since the relaunch (from 163 931 per month in 2010 to 356 167 in 2014). A peak value was reached in March 2014 with more than 680 000 visitors.
More Transparency, Easier Access
Apart from the improvement of the usability, clarity and transparency was emphasized. Interested citizens can easily get an overview of the work of the National Council and the Federal Council as well as of the legislative process. At the same time, the service was broadened for experts.
A newly developed “traffic light system” provides for more transparency in parliamentary procedures. A traffic light beam tells the users visually how far the negotiations about a bill - for instance - have progressed in Parliament.
High Level of Satisfaction with the Intranet among Parliamentary Employees
Since the implementation in the Fall of 2010, the number of hits on the intranet has increased greatly. The high acceptance of the intranet service can be deduced from the number of internal messages of the Parliamentary Adminstration. The number of hits for these messages has multiplied since the relaunch. A further plus of the new intranet turned out to be the clear structure of the services and the personalization options. Apart from its role as an information platform, the intranet is now more and more used as a working tool.