Government contractor website design failures

Designed to Fail – The Government Contractor Website

Imagine seeing someone walking down the street in a suit that you can tell is well made and created from quality materials. But, as you look more closely at the person, you realize that the suit simply doesn’t fit. The shoulders are saggy and droop oddly, the pants are too short and they bunch in the front. It is a really great suit, but it simply wasn’t built for this person.

This happens with websites as well. I often run across a perfectly nice website that just doesn’t “fit” the business well. It happens surprisingly often when I look at sites designed for Government Contractors. I know how this happens. For a web professional, it is tempting to think of government contractor sites as being similar to your average professional services website. After all, in both cases, you are marketing to a business to business audience. Both sites are going to tend toward being professional, and in both cases, they are created with lead development in mind. With all those similarities, aren’t government contractor websites a variant of your typical B2B professional services website. Can’t they be designed with the same templates, the same techniques, the same approach? NOPE!

The truth is, Government contractors have some fundamental differences in their business, the way they are hired, and the way they scale that require a different approach to website building.

Rapid Scale

There is no other industry of which I am aware that, as a matter of structure, must be able to scale as rapidly as government contractors. In the case of most government contractors, they start very small, perhaps even as a solo practitioner and can, quite literally, overnight, be a significantly larger organization. It goes without saying that growth such as that can wreak havoc on any system that the organization has in place. The website is one such area that can become obsolete rapidly. Often though, it is considered a lower priority. By the time the organization has a chance to really focus on their website, it often represents the company as being far smaller, and with fewer qualifications, than the actual organization.

Solution: Your website design should be created for scale from day one. The saying that comes to mind is “fake it ‘til you make it”. No, you aren’t overstating or misrepresenting your capabilities. Instead, you are using graphics, content, and language that can grow with you. In many cases, this means using stock imagery or broader language.

Recruiting Focus

That need to rapidly scale we spoke of above? That means the ability to hire quickly. For smaller government contracting firms, the excitement at winning a contract can be quickly followed by the terrifying realization that they must very quickly fill a sizable headcount on a project. While a “typical” small business might be hiring for two or three people at a time, a government contractor might be looking for scores.

Solution: Well designed government contractor websites are built with recruiting at the forefront. They prioritize the “hiring” page and provide detailed information about why a potential applicant should be interested in working with their organization. They detail benefits and “brag” about the organizational culture or other things that make them a great place to work. In addition, where relevant, they connect with their application management system.

Certifications and Designations

For smaller government contracting companies, the certifications and designations are hard to win and essential. Because government work is often set aside for small, disadvantaged or locationally specific businesses, these certifications and designations are essential for team selection. A prime contractor seeking to put together a team for a project might review hundreds of websites to find potential partners for a project. The website for government contractors can either facilitate this process or make it more difficult.

Solution: Well designed government contracting websites proudly display the organization’s certifications and designations. They are frequently displayed on the site footer and described more fully on the about page.

Contract Vehicles and Capabilities Sheets

Like certifications and designations, contract vehicles and capabilities sheets are uniquely important to government contractors and essential in the selection process for work. For a busy government agency procurement officer, this is the answer to the question, “is this firm worth talking to?” Just like certifications and designations, contract vehicles and capabilities sheets must be easily accessible and findable on a quick website visual scan.

Solution: Make sure your website allows visitors to see these essential items quickly, and from wherever they are on the website.

Website Accessibility 

In 2023, every organization should either have a website that is accessible to people with disabilities or should have a plan to make that happen. Not sure why I think this? Read our recent blog about website accessibility for small businesses. But, what is important to every organization is even more important to government contractors. That is because diligent government agencies are attentive to making sure that they hire companies who have addressed the needs of the one in five people in the United States that are living with some sort of disability.

Solution: If your site is accessible, great, you’re all set. If you aren’t sure, take our free accessibility audit. If your website isn’t designed with accessibility in mind, it is time to work with a web strategy firm on improving that.

With all those things to keep in mind, it is no wonder that so many companies specializing in government contracting get their websites wrong. But, worry not, we are here to help. Start by taking our free government contractor website specific audit. You will receive a comprehensive, actionable and easy to read report. With this in hand, you have a map to creating an attractive, compelling and successful website.