GSA unveils USA.gov

Welcome to USA.gov—the new Web site of the federal government.

If it sounds familiar, well that is because the General Services Administration made similar announcements in 2000 and 2002, when it introduced FirstGov.gov and the redesigned FirstGov.gov.

The problem: FirstGov had little name recognition, according to GSA officials, so they are trying it again — with a new name.

“Only 4 percent of the people we polled knew what FirstGov was,” said Martha Dorris, deputy associate administrator in GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Communications, which runs USA.gov. “They said it was a bank, a credit union or even governor’s offices, but few knew it was the federal government’s portal.”

Additionally, 600,000 visitors to FirstGov a year try to find the federal government’s Web site by typing USA.gov into their browser.

So, armed with this data, GSA today re-launched FirstGov.gov as USA.gov to improve the way citizens and others find the federal government’s information.

“Renaming the site is our next step to make information more accessible to citizens,” Dorris said during a briefing in Washington. “Everything we do is in response to public feedback.”

Along with a new name, GSA added new features and technology, and re-launched Espanol.gov, its Spanish Web site, as GobiernoUSA.gov.

GSA’s call center now offers online chats from noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday to help solve problems, Dorris said. USA.gov collects agency news and pictures, and makes it searchable through site’s search engine. Dorris said GSA now has 50 million documents, up from 8 million last year, and 12 million images are available.

On the back end of the system, GSA now is using a content management system from Savvis Federal Systems Inc. of Herndon, Va.

“The system updates the Web servers whenever a page is updated,” said John Murphy, GSA’s director of technology for USA.gov. “The content management system gives us speed, and the site is always up.”

Murphy added that his office is looking at having blogs and adding video to the site, as well as improving the search function during times of emergency.

“We still have to do outreach and marketing, which will be my focus over the next year or two,” Dorris said. “Our goal is for a 5 percent increase in the number of users who enter USA.gov through the site instead of through another site.”

In addition to the new features, GSA will change the look and feel of the site in the spring, based on usability testing. Dorris also said her office is looking into offering USA.gov through cell phones, personal digital assistants and other mobile devices.

“I am excited about this site because it is focused on serving the citizens, our customers,” said Clay Johnson, the Office of Management and Budget’s deputy director for management. “We want all other e-government initiatives to have this type of accessibility. This is the service standard for all sites.”

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