Interesting piece of research on “how online experiences feed back into offline perceptions” in the case of the official europa.eu website which indeed has some potential for improvement regarding content, accessibility, participation and navigation. Some points are obvious, others quite surprising though:
- The hierarchical structure that relies on top-down decision processes often led to the Internet being used as a “bin” and even now, the institutions are still heavily reliant on this hierarchy, including many people at the top not recognising the value of online communication, or understanding the website as an archive and not a means for interaction. (…) Accordingly, higher-ranking officials do not usually attend usability workshops so that a top-down change in thinking cannot occur.
- While a willingness to change is apparent, the Internet strategy paper (2007) points out that the transformation has to occur in a “resource neutral scenario”, meaning that even though the importance of (online) communication is recognised, the budget is not increased.
- The majority of students found the site confusing or difficult to handle, independent of prior attitudes. While many students are positively surprised by the website – mostly in terms of language variety and amount of information – they all encountered problems.(…) While most of the German students held highly positive and uncritical views,the Danish students were the most critical and inquisitive, and the British students showed the greatest lack of interest and knowledge about the EU.
Read more about the findings here. Would be interesting to get hold of the recommendations…