User feedback counts

The federal government's best Web site was meticulously designed to meet the needs of its users, according to the site's manager, Glen Brown.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Web site was named the government's best in a survey by San Francisco State University released Aug. 21. "The site is filled with innovative content and services and with well-designed navigation and user help systems," wrote Genie Stowers, who conducted the survey.

That didn't happen by chance, said Brown, manager of Web services at USPTO.

The agency hired consultants and spent six months meeting with groups of Web users — some from outside the agency, some from inside. Officials also conducted usability studies on site prototypes and even "brought people in off the street" to see if they could easily navigate the site before it was launched for public use, Brown said.

"We tried to determine what people were looking for on our Web site, and we also tried to find out what our major business units were trying to convey" via the Web, he said.

The result is a site that offers users multiple ways to find information, supplies help on key subjects such as how to apply online for a patent and provides access to a number of searchable databases of patents and trademarks.

Stowers identified other outstanding government Web sites, including the Navy, FirstGov, and the departments of Health and Human Services, Education and Treasury.

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