What’s in a name? GSA hopes USA.gov says it all

When General Services Administration officials conducted a poll on its FirstGov portal, they found the site was rather lacking in name recognition.

“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.

“They said it was a bank, a credit union or even governors’ offices, but few knew it was the federal government’s portal,” she said at an event in Washington.
Not only that, but 600,000 visitors a year to FirstGov try to find the federal government’s Web site by typing USA.gov into their browser.

So last month, GSA gave the people what they seemed to want, re-launching 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 the 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.”

“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.”

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