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United States

Reconstitution of the USA.gov (US0053)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: United States Action Plan 2015-2017

Action Plan Cycle: 2015

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: General Services Administration

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

E-Government

IRM Review

IRM Report: United States End-of-Term IRM Report 2015-2017, United States Mid-Term Report 2015-2017

Starred: No

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: No

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

For a government to truly be open, the public must be able to find information about government activities and services. Established by the e-Government Act of 2002 as the official web portal of the U.S. Government, USA.gov has a long history of connecting millions of citizens to the government information and services they need. Recently re-launched to be more responsive to users, USA.gov has become a more efficient and adaptive publishing platform for Federal, state, and local governments. Going forward, the General Services Administration will implement additional user-centered enhancements, including delivering enhanced content, and will work with agencies to help the public identify and receive services they need based on their own goals rather than government structure.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

IRM End of Term Status Summary

Commitment 1. Reconstitute USA.gov

Commitment Text:

Reconstitute USA.gov as the Front Door to the U.S. Government

For a government to truly be open, the public must be able to find information about government activities and services. Established by the e-Government Act of 2002 as the official web portal of the U.S. Government, USA.gov has a long history of connecting millions of citizens to the government information and services they need. Recently re-launched to be more responsive to users, USA.gov has become a more efficient and adaptive publishing platform for Federal, state, and local governments. Going forward, the General Services Administration will implement additional user-centered enhancements, including delivering enhanced content, and will work with agencies to help the public identify and receive services they need based on their own goals rather than government structure.

Responsible Institution: General Services Administration

Supporting Institution: Not Specified

Start Date: Not Specified ....... End Date: Not Specified

Commitment Aim

This commitment aimed to transform USA.gov into a more user-friendly web portal by implementing “user-centered enhancements” and “enhanced content.” The government anticipated these improvements would make information about government activities and services easier for the public to access. At its core, the commitment sought to design USA.gov based on the public’s—rather than the government’s—needs.

Status

Midterm: Substantial

As described in the IRM progress report, the government had made substantial progress on this commitment at the midterm.

Specifically, in late 2015, the General Services Administration (GSA) initiated efforts to make USA.gov more user friendly. These efforts were known as the Federal Front Door initiative. [1] The initiative entailed interviews with 64 members of the public to better understand how they access information on government and the challenges they face when doing so. [2] The government summarized the findings from this initiative in a series of blog posts on blog.USA.gov [3] and in a final summary report. [4] Blog.USA.gov was created in late 2015 [5] to publicize updates to USA.gov.

During this same time period, the government launched vote.USA.gov [6] to facilitate access to voter registration information. In early 2016, the government created a new landing page for USA.gov with Spanish-language functionality. [7] In June 2016, the GSA announced in a blog post that the Business.USA.gov website would be merged into USA.gov to streamline access to information on establishing a business in the United States. [8] These activities are nevertheless tangential to the commitment’s goal of implementing user-centered enhancements to USA.gov.

At the midterm, Business.USA.gov had not yet been merged into the broader USA.gov website, and the commitment’s overarching aim of making USA.gov more user friendly remained incomplete.

End of term: Complete

This commitment is complete. In a blog post from 10 January 2017, [9] the General Services Administration (GSA) announced a redesign of the USA.gov and Gobierno.USA.gov homepages. The post does not reference the Federal Front Door initiative. However, it indicates that the redesign was informed by usability testing and aims to “make it easier for the public to get answers to . . . top government questions.” [10] Among other features, the redesigned website contains a What’s New section, intended to facilitate access to new features. It also contains more streamlined homepage content. [11]

In a blog post from 27 September 2016, the GSA similarly announced a redesign of vote.usa.gov. This redesign resulted in the implementation of full Spanish-language functionality for that site, a streamlined homepage, and a visual design aligned with US Web Design Standards (see Commitment 2). [12]

By the end of the action plan, Business.USA.gov had also been merged into the Small Business section of USA.gov, and no longer functions as a stand-alone website. [13] As described above and in the progress report, this transition was announced in a USA.gov blog post on 29 June 2016 and was executed in August 2017. [14]

Lastly, using publicly available information, the IRM researcher could not ascertain whether the USA.gov Contact Center regularly held monthly listening sessions for digital managers and designers. The government’s midterm self-assessment report described such sessions in the context of this commitment. [15] However, as these sessions are tangential to the core of the commitment, the IRM researcher did not consider them when assessing completion.

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Marginal

This commitment is complete. However, the improvements to USA.gov, Gobierno.USA.gov, and vote.USA.gov marginally opened government regarding access to information. They largely addressed cosmetic changes (e.g., homepage redesigns), as opposed to an increase in website content or a navigational redesign of the entire website. The IRM researcher could not assess whether the activities carried out under this commitment resulted in more user traffic to USA.gov. The IRM researcher also could not assess how many unique users consulted the USA.gov blog post announcing the redesign. This was due to the lack of available traffic data for USA.gov and Gobierno.USA.gov. Nonetheless, the minor web changes alone would not be expected to significantly increase traffic, just as they do not represent significant changes in government practice.

Carried Forward?

The fourth US action plan has not yet been published (as of early 2018). Some actions could justify this commitment being carried forward. The government could significantly increase the amount of information available and involve the public in the redesign beyond consultation through GitHub. It could also establish new channels of communication with the public. Otherwise, further improvements to USA.gov do not need to be included in the OGP action plan. The government should nevertheless continue to implement updates to USA.gov and Gobierno.USA.gov on an as-needed basis to facilitate the public’s ability to access information on government activities and services.

[1] Federal Front Door, https://labs.usa.gov/, consulted 2 October 2017.

[2] For confirmation of the number of interviews and details of the discovery process, see US General Services Administration, Expectations and Challenges: Informing the Future of the Federal Front Door, March 2016, https://labs.usa.gov/files/FFD_ResearchReport.pdf, consulted 2 October 2017. For interview numbers, see p. 6.

[3] See, for example, Colin MacArthur, Carolyn Dew, and Michelle Chronister, “Learning How to Build a Better ‘Front Door’ for the Federal Government,” Blog.USA.gov, 8 December 2015, https://blog.usa.gov/learning-how-to-build-a-better-front-door-for-the-federal-government, consulted 2 October 2017. For another such post, see Colin MacArthur, Carolyn Dew, Michelle Chronister, and John Yuda, “Informing the Future of the Federal Front Door,” Blog.USA.gov, 26 February 2016, https://blog.usa.gov/informing-the-future-of-the-federal-front-door, consulted 2 October 2017.

[4] US General Services Administration, Expectations and Challenges: Informing the Future of the Federal Front Door, March 2016, https://labs.usa.gov/files/FFD_ResearchReport.pdf, consulted 2 October 2017.

[5] Sarah Crane, “Introducing the USAGov Blog,” Blog.USA.gov, 20 October 2015, https://blog.usa.gov/introducing-the-usagov-blog, consulted 2 October 2017.

[6] Sarah Crane, “USA.gov Launches vote.USA.gov to Help Citizens Register to Vote,” Blog.USA.gov, 2 October 2015, https://blog.usa.gov/usa-gov-launches-vote-usa-gov-to-help-citizens-register-to-vote, consulted 2 October 2017.

[7] Please see the web archives for http://www.USA.gov/explore, available at http://bit.ly/2Eah2IS.

[8] Ryan Edelstein, “Joining Forces with BusinessUSA to Better Serve Our Nation's Businesses,” Blog.USA.gov, 29 June 2016, https://blog.usa.gov/joining-forces-with-businessusa-to-better-serve-our-nation-s-businesses, consulted 2 October 2017. See also United States of America, Midterm Self-Assessment Report for the Open Government Partnership: Third Open Government National Action Plan, 2015-2017, September 2016, 4, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/USA_NAP3_self-assessment-report_20160916.pdf, consulted 2 October 2017.

[9] Maria Marrero, “Introducing the New USA.gov and GobiernoUSA.gov Home Pages,” Blog.USA.gov, 10 January 2017, https://blog.usa.gov/introducing-the-new-usa-gov-and-gobiernousa-gov-home-pages, consulted 5 September 2017. The IRM researcher was unable to ascertain the precise implementation date using publicly available information.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Yoz Grahame, “The New Vote.gov: Leaner, Faster and Multi-Lingual,” USA.Gov Blog, 26 September 2016, https://blog.usa.gov/the-new-vote-gov-leaner%2C-faster-and-multi-lingual, consulted 5 September 2017.

[13] See https://bit.ly/2vZk9zu, consulted 5 September 2017.

[14] Ryan Edelstein, “Joining Forces with BusinessUSA to Better Serve Our Nation's Businesses,” USA.Gov Blog, 29 June 2016, https://blog.usa.gov/joining-forces-with-businessusa-to-better-serve-our-nation-s-businesses, consulted 5 September 2017. The web archives of Business.USA.gov from 1 August (available at http://bit.ly/2EeSQVq) and 31 August (available at http://bit.ly/2BQZWhs) show that the change was made in August 2017.

[15] United States of America, Midterm Self-Assessment Report for the Open Government Partnership: Third Open Government National Action Plan, 2015-2017, September 2016, 4, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/USA_NAP3_self-assessment-report_20160916.pdf, consulted 2 October 2017.


Commitments

Open Government Partnership