USA.gov: Users speak their minds. Now what?

A forum about USA.gov drew a lot of responses, but many of them were not relevant to the Web portal

The General Services Administration's Office of Citizen Services recently hosted “Your Voice Matters,” an online forum about the federal government’s USA.gov Web portal. As is often the case with such forums, some comments were more helpful than others.

GSA officials began by inviting the public to make general observations about the site and suggest ways to improve it. They also requested comments on specific functions, including the online dialogue tool itself. However, many of those who commented ignored the topic at hand and complained about illegal immigrants, the government's bailout of financial institutions and other hot-button issues. Here is a sampling of what people had to say, for better or worse.

What do you think of USA.gov?

Helpful:
"Turn the USA.gov staff into content leaders. Convene teams from across agencies, around the services citizens want most. Include agency Web managers and Web writers, but also subject-matter experts. Involve plain-language experts. And for Pete’s sake, get some usability experts involved from planning through execution and evaluation."
— Candi Harrison

Less helpful:
"You need more information on senior rights. We are getting pushed around, and our money we worked for that we put in [Social Security] is being stolen by Congress and the president. They never worked for this money, and they will never pay it back."
— Mike

Should USA.gov provide more government content and fewer off-site links?

Helpful:
"Certainly the 'index of all .gov sites' shouldn’t go away, but I bet there’s other clever ways of visualizing everything that’s out there besides a list of sites. For instance, on this page, there’s 'most viewed questions.' There’s no reason you couldn’t be analyzing these other sites for 'most popular/useful pages.' That way, even if the site has poor design or confusing navigation or missing data, you can still control how that site is represented."
— haszak

Less helpful:
"Who do we contact for consideration of receiving money back from the government towards penalties incurred when withdrawing money from 401K or IRA early? The government is bailing out major corporations and financial institutions…why not the individuals???"
— rrlaporta

Would you use a personal account on USA.gov?

Helpful:
"I like this idea a lot. I would only create an account with USA.gov if it would allow me to get highly personalized information. I would not use it to customize the kind of information presently available through USA.gov. It’s vastly easier for me to find information through search engines or learn about things relevant to me through the news or from my friends and family."
— jedsundwall

Less helpful:
"Yes! If I could readily access government services through a personal account, I would love it. I have grave financial concerns about sustaining my family under a crushing debt load [that] was promoted by the banks [that] received the lion's share of the TARP money. I personally have yet to get my bailout."
— kerripau

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Reader comments

Thu, Feb 4, 2010

Just because this one site is not set up to receive many of the queries from citizens does not mean that the comments from citizens are "out of line". A serious gov't response to such comments should be to both alert the appropriate agencies to the queries from citizens and/ or to steer those citizens to a portal that is set up for such queries. It would seem to be a serious mistake not to "mine" such queries for the feedback in order to both understand the concerns of our citizens as well as steer the goivernment towards the formation of portals able to respond to citizens' concerns.

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