About the Web Usability Standard
This overview is informative only and doesn't constitute part of the New Zealand Government Web Usability Standard. It's subject to change without notice.
Effective 01 July 2019, the NZ Government Web Usability Standard 1.3 (the Standard) replaces the Web Usability Standard 1.2.
The Standard sets minimum content and other requirements to help people use a site and its content. However, it does not cover general usability principles as they are typically understood. It’s recommended that, in addition to meeting the Standard, organisations perform user research and testing appropriate for the website and audience.
The major change in version 1.3 of the Web Usability Standard is that the requirements for links to non-HTML files and for printable web pages now apply to both public facing and internally facing websites. In the previous version of this Standard, those 2 requirements applied only to internally facing websites.
The keywords ‘must’, ‘should’ and ‘should not’ used in the Standard signify different types of requirements as defined by RFC 2119:
- ‘must’ signifies that the defined course of action is absolutely required
- ‘should’ defines a recommended course of action that may be ignored as long as the full implications of doing so are clearly understood and the organisation is prepared to accept them
- ‘should not’ defines a course of action that is not recommended, but for which there may be valid reasons to pursue, as long as the full implications of doing so are well understood.
Other terms used in the Standard, for example web page, archived web page, website, main content, also have specific meanings, all of which are defined in the Standard’s glossary.
The Standard contains 6 requirements. The first 4 apply to public facing websites only, while the last 2 apply to both public internally facing sites.
Requirements for public facing websites
1. Government entity
Each home page must include the name(s) and/or logo(s) of the NZ Government organisation(s) that are primarily responsible for the website. This requirement helps users clearly identify who has contributed to and is accountable for the website.
If the website is a partnership between 2 or more organisations, government or non-government, it’s recommended that each NZ Government organisation contributing to the website makes its participation clear by including its name and/or logo on the website’s home page.
Each home page must also include a visible link to www.govt.nz. It’s recommended that this link use a suitable all-of-government logo. Currently, organisations are encouraged to refer to the All-of-Government Brand Policy and Guidelines.
2. Contact information
To make it easy for visitors to contact the government organisation primarily responsible for the website, the site must include or link to relevant contact information. The link must be visible on the website's home page, and clearly indicate that it will take the user to the contact information for the site. The contact information must provide the following minimum information:
- the address of an email account that is regularly monitored by the website’s responsible organisation
- the telephone number for any call centre associated with any services provided by the website
- a regularly monitored postal address.
To enable even more points of contact with the organisation responsible for the website, the site’s contact information should also, but is not required to, include a telephone number and a physical address if the organisation has a physical location that is open to the public.
To support people who are deaf, hearing-impaired, deaf-blind or speech-impaired, it is recommended that a link to the New Zealand Relay Service (NZ Relay) be included.
Government organisations are encouraged to make information available easily, widely and equitably to the people of NZ (except where reasons preclude such availability as specified in legislation). They are equally encouraged to permit the use of material in which they own the copyright, subject to acknowledgement of source. Accordingly, each website must include or link to a general copyright statement.
The website’s general copyright statement must clearly indicate that it applies to the website in question, state that copyright material on the website is protected by copyright, and identify the licensing terms under which that material can be re-used by others.
The site’s home page must include a visible link to the general copyright statement. The link’s text must be something like ‘Copyright’ to clearly indicate that its target is the site’s copyright statement.
A website that contains third party copyright material must clearly state, either within the general copyright statement and/or within or near to each item of third party copyright material:
- the source and copyright status of such material in a way that avoids ambiguity as to which content items are subject to third party copyright
- that the website’s general re-use licence does not apply to material that is subject to third party copyright, and
- that permission to re-use third party copyright material cannot be given by the NZ Government organisation responsible for the website.
It’s recommended that the general copyright statement also state that its general licensing terms do not apply to any material on the website that is covered by the Flags, Emblems, and Names Protection Act 1981.
Agencies are encouraged to apply the New Zealand Government Open Access and Licensing framework (NZGOAL) when choosing the licensing terms for the copyright material on their websites.
For related guidance, see NZGOAL Guidance Note 1: Website copyright statements.
The privacy statement needs to include:
- a clear indication of the statement’s scope and that it applies to the website (for example, ‘This privacy notice applies to personal information collected on ministry.govt.nz website’)
- how and where on the site a visitor’s personal information is collected
- the organisations and/or third parties that keep the information
- if a user has a choice in whether or not such information is collected
- how collected personal information may be used by the organisation
- the circumstances under which the information may be disclosed to others
- what statistical information (including users’ IP addresses) is collected and how it is used
- if cookies are used, a statement that this is so, and a brief description of what the cookies are used for
- what rights users have to request access to or to correct the personal information that is being held by the organisation, and
- the contact details for making such requests.
Requirements for public and internally facing websites
Note that the following 2 requirements do not apply to archived web pages.
When a web page includes a link to a non-HTML file (for example, a video file), that link must be accompanied by information indicating the file’s format (for example, mp4, PDF, MS Word) and size. This helps users to know something about what will happen when they click the link.
Some users will print out web pages for various reasons. In the majority of those, it’s the page’s main content that is of interest, and not all of the surrounding menus and widgets. For this reason, it is required that each web page’s main content be printable on standard sheets of paper. Ideally, the content will print by default as black text on a white background, and won’t include the following items:
- primary content navigation
- secondary content navigation
- thematic or decorative banner
- search form.
Based on a 2003 mandate established by Cabinet (Cabinet Minute (03)41/2B), all Public Service departments and Non-Public Service departments in the State Services are directed to implement the Standard.
Other State sector organisations are not required to implement the Standard, but are strongly encouraged to do so. By virtue of the legislation (i.e. Human Rights Act 1993, Bill of Rights Act 1990) and NZ’s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that underlie the requirement for mandated organisations to produce accessible websites, there is a reasonable expectation that the websites of all Government organisations will be accessible to the widest range of NZers, including people with disabilities.
Of the 6 requirements in the New Zealand Government Web Usability Standard, 4 (Government identity, Contact information, Copyright, and Privacy) apply to public facing government websites that are produced or maintained, in part or in whole, by NZ Government organisations mandated to apply the Standard. The remaining 2 requirements (Links to Non-HTML files and Printable web pages) apply to both public facing and internally facing websites.
Public facing websites can be accessed by individuals who are not employed by a NZ Government organisation. This includes websites that require users to authenticate themselves through some kind of login, for example a government extranet that restricts access to specific non-government organisations.
Internally facing web pages can be accessed only by individuals who are employed by a NZ Government organisation. This includes web pages that are part of a government organisation’s intranet.
Internally facing web pages are subject to the Standard in order to help government organisations:
- employ and support staff with disabilities, and
- align with provisions generally accepted as necessary for the fair and proper treatment of employees, as identified in section 77A of the State Sector Act 1998.
Certain of the Standard’s requirements apply to a website as a whole, while others apply to specific web pages that are part of that website.
Note that the definition of web page used in this Standard includes what are typically referred to as web applications, but also resources such as MS Word and PDF documents.
The requirements regarding printable web pages and links to non-HTML files do not apply in the case of archived web pages. For the purposes of this Standard, an archived web page is one that remains available on a website for reference purposes, but whose main content is not maintained or updated. An archived web page’s main content must be clearly marked as archived, for instance, with a banner at the top. The page itself must include accessible instructions on how a user can request an accessible version of its content.
Website owners are strongly encouraged to audit their site’s content to identify those web pages that contain redundant, out-of-date or trivial content. In most cases, such pages should be either updated or removed from the website. However, in some instances there may be value in retaining them, but not in maintaining or updating them, in which case they could be marked as archived.
There is no process by which a mandated organisation can secure an exemption from the requirement to meet the Standard. Instead, each organisation is responsible for meeting the Standard, and accordingly accepts any risks associated with not doing so.
Assessment and reporting
Organisations must be prepared, when notified, to assess and report within a reasonable time frame on their conformance with the Standard. The assessment methodology and reporting mechanism will be communicated to organisations at the time of notification.
In the case that an organisation does not fully meet the Standard, it will be required to manage any risk associated with that lack of conformance by performing a risk assessment and submitting a plan to address, over time, those areas of non-conformance.