Government agency websites have to evolve, just like everyone else’s website.
However, government agencies have a greater responsibility when evolving their website than a small business or nonprofit may have. Specifically, government agency web sites are resources for the rest of the web, and often receive many more links to both content files, such as PDFs and spreadsheets, and to images, than “commercial” sites. These resources get linked. Those links send traffic to the proper resource.
Those links are not checked very often.
In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania we have not seen a great understanding of that fact at the state agency level over the past decade. In some departments there seems to be a regular process to redo various resource sites, both in design and in domain name. Unfortunately, sometimes forgotten in these redos are the external paths to all the files that are within site, and how the rest of the relating community to that agency will have to change their links to make them work if the domain or the file paths change.
So this is a request of state agency webmasters and site leaders – BUILD A CONSISTENT PATH FOR FILES AND KEEP IT AS BEST YOU CAN. If a PDF file is at www.www.com/files/PDFs/thisisthepdf.pdf on the old site, retain the /files/PDFs/ path on the new domain or redesign if you can. You make it much easier for webmasters of other sites to find the moved/repathed files, and much easier to globally change the paths within their entire site so that they work.
And those “outside” webmasters aren’t the only ones that benefit. The agency benefits, because the public finds the content. And the public benefits, because they find the content.
One last thing to those agencies who seem to think it’s a good idea to redomain content every few years: It almost always isn’t. If the content, or the department name, or the program name changes, then you probably don’t have a choice. But if you’re just doing it to “rebrand” for purposes of “rebranding” – well, that’s pretty questionable, with a work cost AND a traffic cost.