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Created

January 22, 2009

Updating Obama’s Web Properties

I was asked by a reporter last week to offer considerations for the Obama administration with regards to updating publicly facing federal Web sites. Here’s what I told her:

1.) Assess Web sites based on audience orientation not agency orientation. Many Government agencies immediately provide information about the agency leader, recent press releases, organizational structure. As I’ve written here before, imagine if you went to Amazon.com and were greeted with a picture of Jeff Bezos, his press releases and links to marketing and finance departments. You wouldn’t buy books. In government, the audience likewise won’t pursue service. Think about modifying these sites to suit your audience needs.

2.) Look for opportunities to consolidate web entry points around services. People who want to use a government Web site want to solve a problem, they don’t want to learn the agency. A good example is Australia with their business to government Web site – http://business.gov.au/Business+Entry+Point/ – they consolidate the services a business needs into one system and effectively do more with less.

3.) Assess if a Web site is a static information source or designed to initiate an interaction. Many government agencies treat web sites like a bulletin board rather than a strategic communications channel and don’t attract traffic or ongoing interaction. But some create a dialogue with the audience. The former type of Web site is one to change. The latter, you don’t want to give up on the brand and existing audience – you can see great examples at NASA.gov – www.nasa.gov/50years & www.nasa.gov/externalflash/ISSRG/ – they are amazing.

4.) Assess if a Web site is inclusive of all technology users. Web sites that leverage Flash and PDF provide services to everyone because the technologies are platform independent and pervasive. They provide an opportunity for an agency to scale and extend services. Web sites that don’t are limiting their audience and not inclusive to all types of users. Agencies should ask themselves if anyone can use these services, or does it require my end user to have a certain computing platform or application on the other end. A good example can be found at www.SBA.gov and click ‘free online training’ on the left bar You’ll find they have training converted from Powerpoint training presentations to Flash which allows folks to view even if they don’t own Powerpoint software available to them.

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