Speak up: How can federal websites improve?

The Obama administration started a public online dialog on Sept. 19 to generate ideas on how to improve and streamline thousands of federal websites.

Members of the public, along with policy and technical experts, are invited to register and participate in the “National Dialogue on Improving Federal Websites” taking place on the Ideascale Web platform through Sept. 30.

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According to the General Services Administration, which is sponsoring the dialogue, the topics to be discussed include:

  • Policies and principles — What policies are needed to improve federal websites?
  • Content and readability — Which federal sites have  too much or too little content, redundant content?
  • Usability — Which federal sites are easy and intuitive to navigate; which are not?
  • Services and transactions--How can services and transactions be improved?
  • Mobile websites and applications — Which federal mobile sites meet (or don't meet) your needs? Where are the gaps and/or redundancies? What suggestions do you have for improvement?
  • Social media — How can agencies increase efficiency and reduce costs through social media?
  • Access for people with disabilities — What suggestions do you have for improving access for people with disabilities?
  • Privacy and security — What policy and/or technical changes are needed to improve privacy and security?
  • Search— What suggestions do you have for improving search of federal web content?
  • Multilingual content— What suggestions do you have for providing content in multiple languages?

The discussion debuted with 27 users and two ideas. Users are invited to publish original ideas, and to cast votes to approve or disapprove ideas, with the most popular ideas ranking near the top. The dialogue will continue through Sept. 30.

The reform effort  involves cleaning up .gov domains to reduce redundancy, streamline navigation and cut costs.

To support the dialog, the GSA released “Frequently Asked Questions” about the Web reform effort on the USA.gov website.

“There has been a proliferation of separate websites over many years,” the GSA said. “With thousands of unique federal .gov domains and websites, sometimes it can be difficult to find the content you need. This effort aims to get your input to help us address those problems.”

The White House in June called a halt to issuing new .gov domains and established a .gov Reform Task Force. Agencies must reduce or redirect 25 percent of federal executive branch .gov domains, and reduce or redirect 50 percent of .gov domains by July 12, 2012.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Tue, Sep 20, 2011

Too many agencies and departments have a web site, just so they can say they have a web site, and check off that box. Many are pretty much useless, and/or provide little or no value for the taxpayer dollars expended. This exercise needs to start on the requirements side, and look at what web sites the government actually needs, and which ones should be deleted or combined. Why do GSA and DoD both have buying portals? Why are there multiple Gov web sites for surplus real estate and personal property? Why are there multiple web sites for about any topic you can pick at random? And combining does NOT mean just adding a link to each other's sites, although that would be a step up in some cases. It means looking at the mission the site is trying to accomplish. Until the far-off day when the FedGov actually reorganizes to get rid of duplicative agencies and missions, they can at least have common web sites.

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