What practices, policies, and principles should guide the federal web in the next 5 years?

Policies and Principles

Make usability testing and 508 testing required PRIOR to launch

Launching sites without usability testing and 508 testing is a waste of time and money - it's always more expensive to fix these issues when left to the last minute. Rather, institutionalizing user testing (like GSA's First Fridays, for example) as well as 508 testing into the development cycle of government websites will result in better, more efficient and cheaper products .

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Policies and Principles

Needed: Web manager for **every** site

The problem of not knowing who is in charge of a website should not exist. Every site should have a web manager who has ultimate control over the content of that site, and who people should contact in terms of needing posts, edits, etc. It shouldn't be a mystery. While we're at it, it might not hurt to have content leads listed at the bottom of each page as well, as well as the date last updated.

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Policies and Principles

Find ways for agencies to work together

Create a central resource for all agency web teams to communicate, share code, establish conventions, and learn from one another. Then put a premium on making agency systems interoperable (probably through APIs because unification on a single platform is a pipe-dream). With agencies working together to establish conventions, the building and maintenance of federal websites would be far more efficient, enabling a reduction ...more »

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Policies and Principles

Add the ability to flag a web page for outdated, incorrectness.

Give the users the ability to flag a page for a broken link, missing content, outdated or incorrect content. This would actually help government keep their web pages updated instead of relying on link-checkers. These flags for outdated or incorrect content could be a metric that agencies use to measure quality. Additionally it could help agencies implement this Executive Order--Streamlining Service Delivery and Improving ...more »

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Policies and Principles

Keep the appointees out of the weeds.

Federal communications to the citizen should not be biased with political motives or agendas. While this is a near impossible endeavor, it is probably the single most valuable one to take on. (IMHO) Citizens should be able to TRUST the government agencies and what they have to say. Right now, the political appointees govern too much of what IS actually said, for political gain. We have all seen it (if you have worked ...more »

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Policies and Principles

Need coordinated teams of specialists vs. too few generalists

One thing I hate to see is agencies where the people managing the web don't have adequate teams and support, and may need training themselves but are spread so thin that they are forced to be generalists instead of specialists. The web should be staffed adequately, and employ modern technology (content management systems, anyone?), not be an afterthought in communication, PR and/or IT staffing needs. Sure, we need ...more »

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Policies and Principles

Make all US Bills, Regulations, and Court Decisions searchable

Make all US Bills, Regulations, and Court Decisions searchable from one location, using one search form, searchable on title, content, and tags. Currently it seems that each dept implements their own bizarre little incompatible data base, with its own bizarre incompatible search form and criteria. And the court system is the worse offenders of all!

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Policies and Principles

Establish a Customer Bill of Rights

I'd like to see the federal government - under the Customer Service Initiative - issue a "Customer Bill of Rights" or a "Promise to Customers" and use that as the core set of principles for improving websites, call centers, and other forms of service delivery. A good place to start is the 6 principles the Federal Web Managers Council laid out in its 2008 White Paper: Putting Citizens First - Transforming Online Government. ...more »

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Policies and Principles

Archive retired agency pages

There is a continuing need for access by scholars and other researchers to reports, policy documents, statistical data. In the past this material has been preserved in tangible formats

by Federal Depository Libraries. As government publishing has moved to the web the availability of this information for future generations becomes increasingly precarious.

Please preserve the materials.

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Policies and Principles

Make US data from US websites available for free to US citizens

As a public citizen I often find that information I would like to see is only available for free for people from colleges -- an Average Joe American like me has to pay real money -- and I mean I've paid $100+ to be allowed to see data that I've already paid for as a taxpayer -- and the same data can be seen for free by college students and professors. How is that fair? For example to private citizens NOAA only allows ...more »

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Policies and Principles

WordPress, open source, and cloud hosting

Back in California, we used to deploy websites with similar content and functionality as many of those that I see under the .gov domain. Using WordPress and cloud hosting, we could build an entire website for $100k +/- and turn it over to the organization's public affairs office to run. But, the way the Federal Government does things, they pay $1,000,000/year to have contractors cut and past content into proprietary ...more »

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Policies and Principles

Make every website usable by "Average Joe Americans"

Many of the publically available websites are designed for "insider wonks" not for "Average Joe Americans" -- example being the query sites to access government documents where you need a PhD and read a 1000 page "how to" document before you can figure out how to query for what you need. Another example being trying to figure out how to download historical weather data from NOAA -- which appears to be set up to meet ...more »

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Policies and Principles

Fix the Policy Mess

You've got: Legislative... Privacy Act Federal Records Act FISMA Federal Information Policy eGovernment Act Regulatory... OMB Circular A-130 NARA Circulars DHS Guidance (esp. on Privacy) Far too many GAO reports with bad conclusions ... (DHS IS NOT A MODEL FOR PRIVACY! Privacy Policies for every individual social media site in use by the agency? Are you kidding?) Implementing Guidance... OMB Memo M-03-18 OMB Memo M-03-22 ...more »

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Policies and Principles

Put users first, institutional priorities second

Government websites are too complex because they focus more on "We have audiences, how do we want them to use our website?" and less on "We have audiences, how do they want us to use our website?" -There's too much unnecessary content and not enough high-quality content. -Information structures are based on institutional silos, not on user needs. -Language is not plain or fun. -There's not enough non-text content. -Visually, ...more »

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Policies and Principles

Require a content review process

We have a boatload of govt info on govt websites. How often do you review it to make sure it's still current and accurate? How do you know it's still current and accurate? When I was at HUD, we started a quarterly certification program. In a nutshell, the Deputy Secretary required every principal staff member (asst secys) to certify - in writing - that all the content for which his/her organization was responsible ...more »

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Policies and Principles

Manage the usage of .ORG sites by the Federal Government

There are a large number of Federal Agencies that use .ORG sites for a number of reasons. I've heard people say "no one trusts the Federal Government so we have to use a .ORG", to something being a multi-Agency effort and using a non-Agency specific URL, to many other reasons.

As the review of .GOV websites continues perhaps there should also be a view into the Federally owned and managed .ORG websites.

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